SINCE independence in 1961, Tanzania has made considerable progress in advancing the education of the girl child based on the country’s education philosophy of building a society in which all members have equal rights and opportunities.
Mwalimu Julius Nyerere’s promise to push for the rights of women and girls has today become a reality with increased enrolment of girls at various levels of the education ladder.
The good news as we prepare to celebrate 59 years of independence is that more girls are enrolled in primary and secondary school than in 1961, and that more girls than ever are staying in school and graduating.
There is also good news in tertiary education as well: three times more women are studying at university in this generation than it was when we achieved independence. Today, unlike the yester years, girls perform just as well as boys in science subjects.
That’s the naked truth which needs no argument. However, as we celebrate these achievements, we should not forget that much needs to be done to improve the learning environment for girls. As a nation, we need to solve such challenges as some schools facing unsafe environments where verbal and sexual harassment, abuse, and violence prevail.
The scourge of high pregnancy rates very often keep girls out of school, perpetuating the cycle of poverty. It is heartening that the government has critically addressed the problem of the prevalence of early pregnancy among school girls aged 15-19.
It is also essential that comprehensive sexuality education is introduced in all schools to help students resist peer pressure to engage in or accept violence.
We in Tanzania deserve credit for removing barriers that hold girls back such as parents urging their daughters to select a less male-dominated subject like science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Such archaic stereotypes have no place in this 21st century and should be removed.
Indeed, female leaders can change social and gender norms through legislation and policies by acting as visible role models for girls. Education deserves a central position because girls continue to be more likely to face the worst forms of exclusion – especially as Covid-19 threatens to push inequalities to extremes.
It is important to celebrate the progress that has been made so far in Tanzania for the past 59 years. But we also need to remember how much remains to be done in order to achieve true gender equality in and through education.