|Girls and boys line up for registration|
Although boys still tend to do better academically, and girls are still taken from their studies to do household tasks, at registration each year we see huge numbers of bright and eager girls brought by their parents who hope that they will gain entry to our Primary department.
It is a very different matter in some of our other Primary schools, in particular Turkahan, Hasra and Mujehra. In these schools the combination of rural isolation, very conservative communities and widespread illiteracy has produced a marked inequality between the prospects of boys and girls. However hard we try, it seems, by the end of Primary school girls are lagging behind their brothers academically, and although there are individual girls who do very well, far fewer of them pass the entrance exam into Middle school. What can be going wrong? Surely once they enter our Primary schools all girls should be able to take advantage of the opportunities offered by education and shine equally with the boys? We know very well that they are born with equal capacities, so what is happening in their early years that renders so many of them already at the age of six lacking in the ability to learn and flourish?
|Children and parents gather on registration day|
When we draw up the lists there are usually plenty of boys who were marked A or B at interview and it is fairly easy to fill half the class. Sadly almost no girls figure in the top academic band, and very few even in the second. In order to have enough girls in the class we have to choose the majority from those who do not appear, at interview, to show the requisite ability to cope with an accelerated primary curriculum.
Once they start at school, many of these girls fall very quickly behind the rest of the class. Although we give them extra help and remedial teaching, they lack confidence and are slow to grasp those basics of Hindi and maths needed to move ahead with the rest of the class. It seems as if they have not been given the same start in life as the boys and lack some of the basic building blocks with which to create new learning. And indeed, there is a marked difference in the upbringing of little boys and girls in the traditional rural village. If there is an errand to be run a boy is more likely to be chosen. Male infants accompany their fathers to market and are shown off, their skills praised, questions asked and answered. They see a wider slice of life, are encouraged to be curious and adventurous. Girls are kept mostly at home, engaged in domestic tasks and childcare. Their mothers, aunts and grandmothers often have no experience of life outside the village and are unable to answer questions about the world and it seems possible that many little girls don't receive anything like the same stimulation and encouragement as their brothers.
It was with this possibility in mind that we came up with the idea of starting a pre-school group, for girls only.
To be continued.............................