Friday, December 05, 2008

Educating girls

The news about the conviction of Shannon Matthews's mum -- although a foregone conclusion to many, it seemed -- left me quite sick in the stomach.

Actually I WAS sick in the stomach. Having gone to the hospital on Monday for an X-ray it appeared that I picked up a bug. I was sick Tuesday evening and could not hold my food down for the day.

Recovered sufficiently well on Wednesday I thought but there is still a constant discomfort in my stomach. There! Set the record straight.

I revisited this blog and was a bit amused to then find this report: 'Educate girls to stop population soaring' . Basically it tells us that "the longer girls stay at school, the fewer children they have" and reducing the population is critical to the sustainability of the earth.

And on Women's Hour this morning -- only because I was too ill to get to do what I normally do this time of day -- I learned that the cervical cancer rate is highest amongst women who come from the lower social classes and more deprived areas.

What can I say?

A few weeks ago I met a boy brought to our toddler group by his grandmother. I found myself describing this boy to my co-workers as "a boy who does not know how to play".

He went to the table with the Duplo pieces and started sweeping everything off the table until some mothers stopped him.

Then he saw the jigsaws. All he wanted to do was remove the pieces from the board and throw them on the floor.

I took a few pieces of Duplo and approached him, showing him how to play with them. His grandmother quickly told me, "He knows. He has those at home."

Later on I asked, "Has he got brothers and sisters?"

"Yes!" grandmother said, "Five," and then continued, "Five brothers and five sisters." In fact the mother has just had another baby.

We do not probe when they come to us. But they look like they have come from the Horn of Africa where there is still the practice of large families.

The poor boy ended being held on to by the grandmother for the rest of the session to keep him out of trouble. I said she must bring him back again so that he could learn to play. Unfortunately I've not seen them again.

Some people think that educating girls is a waste of money. I know many families who stinge and save to put their sons in private schools. The girls? Well, any state school would do. (Of course they do tell me that it is a good state school. But somehow not good enough for the brother/s.)

My late father used to say with great pride that he held no such prejudice and made sure we all had ample basic schooling. Thank God for that.

Others think that my doing a PhD was a waste as I am not using it for any financial gain.

I am blessed to have had a good education. Yet I believe that just because I am well educated it does not mean that I must make some grand sums of money from that fact.

Rather, having an education has given me the choice. I could have chosen to return to a lucrative career. It is a choice that this mother of eleven or the Sharon Matthews's of the world probably do not have.

Much (not all) of this world's ills could be alleviated if only women, and especially young women, could be empowered. And the best way to empower them -- whether or not they then choose to be full-time mothers or career women -- is to educate them so that they could have a choice.

If all else fails, their children could expect to have some better parenting input.

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