Source: Ventures Africa
The first lady of the United States of America, Michelle Obama, aka FLOTUS, arrived on the African continent three days ago with her mother and daughters, Malia and Sasha. Their trip includes stops in Liberia and Morocco, with the objectives of addressing issues that affect the girl child – under education, forced marriage, poverty and violence.
As part of her efforts to promote the education of female children in Africa, Obama met with the young women of Kakata, a leadership camp for girls in Liberia, on Monday. Here she admonished them to fight to remain in school in spite of barriers, particularly financial barriers.
Over a decade of civil war disrupted education in Liberia leaving dilapidated academic infrastructure and a substandard system of teaching and learning behind. Only a meagre 13 percent of Liberia’s school age population have access to adequate school facilities. Females account for less than half of that 13 percent; the daily observer reports that at the primary level, there is an estimated 1:1 ratio for boys and girls. But this ratio drops substantially to 3:1 as they head higher up, and eventually 3:0.
The reason for this is not far-fetched, besides financial issues, females bore the brunt of the war as they were subjected to extreme violence. Even when parents can afford to educate their daughters, an unsafe environment poses a problem. Michelle Obama’s visit is set to advance the efforts of the Liberian government in bridging this gap and improving the quality of education.
Yesterday, her visit to Marrakech, Morocco was for the same purpose. Accompanied by Meryl Streep, Isha Sesay, and Frieda Pinto, FLOTUS launched a $100 million aid package to promote female education. She also urged young Moroccan women to participate in the ongoing conversation on female education around the world.
The education system in the Northern African country faces significant challenges; high drop-out rates, and like in Liberia, an imbalanced boy-girl education ratio. In Morocco, half of the girls over 15 are illiterate. According to Global Giving Foundation, an estimated 2.5 million girls of primary-school age live in the countryside, where less than half attend school. And when they do, over 80 percent drop out before finishing primary school.
This consequently translates to a poor female labour force participation, which the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), a US government aid agency, says is one of the lowest in the world. Yesterday at Marrakech, the MCC also announced a $100-million fund for female education in Morocco. While the USAID pledged $400,000 through an NGO.
These funds are geared towards providing internships, new female dormitories, girl-friendly bathrooms and training for teachers. “I hope these funds help these girls succeed in the workforce and fulfil their boundless promise,” said Michelle Obama. Obama’s trip to these countries is part of her ‘Let Girls Learn’ initiative, aimed at helping adolescent girls around the world, 62 million of which are out of school, gain an education.