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Education for all

Five bloggers, five countries, one dialogue

Educated women are more ‘expensive’

Women can face particular hardship in getting an education in Kenya

Last week on one of the television stations there was a report about school children who have to travel 10 hours to attend one hour of school. Hard to believe in this day and age! It’s because there are no schools nearby, and the transport system in that remote part of the country is almost non-existent.

In reflecting on gender and education – I thought to myself: In some parts of this world access to education irrespective of gender is a distant dream. Also, if access irrespective of gender is already a problem, how much more hard is it for girls in societies where the expectations for girls and women do not include getting an education?

Having said that though, I must say that the situation has improved remarkably from what it used to be in my parents’ times. In my grandmother’s era, in the early 1900s, education was not as we know it now. My grandmother never saw the inside of a classroom.

Aunts and grandmothers were the teachers of that time. They taught the virtues and values of society, the roles of women and men in society and general knowledge on subjects like animal husbandry or planting and farming. In some communities, sex education was also incorporated into the “curriculum.” So if you asked whether my grandmother went to school: yes, she did!

When the colonial rulers of back then introduced formal education to Kenya, it was the boys who were given priority in attending school. Girls were being raised to take care of the home and bear children, and most parents didn’t see it as important to invest in their daughters’ education. As time went by and the socioeconomic dynamics changed, so did society. My parents had the chance to go to school. My father even went to school in the UK. Not to be left out, my mother graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 2008 and enrolled for a master’s in 2009. She is currently writing her research thesis.

She is not alone. There are hundreds of older people who have gone back to get a bachelor’s degree many years after being out of school. Many of these students are women. This has a direct effect on their families and the societies they come from. It sets a precedent and a good example in every home or society to which these women belong. The girls stand a better chance of having quality education if their mothers have had a taste of the fruits of education.

Education can raise a woman's 'value' - sometimes to men's dismay

In my culture, where the tradition of bride prices – money paid by a groom family to his future wife’s family – still exists, and a girl who has been educated is highly ‘priced.’ I know that this sounds like women and girls are equated to commodities, but it is seen as a way of showing appreciation to the girls’ parents for not only taking care of their daughter but also for giving their precious daughter away. I do not entirely agree with the practice, but it still happens!

Young men looking for wives have to part with a hefty amount of money if the girl is well educated and even has a job. Many young men face this pressure. Additionally, most men will not easily accept a woman who has more education or earns more money than he does. This is usually seen as a recipe for disaster. But this is all from my perspective – as a woman. I asked some men in Kenya what they think:

Men in Kenya on women and education

Communities should be made to understand that girls getting an education is not only a human right but it will also benefit them and the generations to come.

What’s your personal view on the subject?


May 18, 2012 | 12:55 pm