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close this bookReversing the Spiral - The Population, Agriculture, and Environment Nexus in Sub-Saharan Africa (WB, 1994, 320 p.)
close this folder7. Reducing population growth
View the documentPopulation policy
View the documentPrimary education
View the documentConclusion
View the documentNote

Primary education

In most countries of Sub-Saharan Africa, two important development objectives are (a) to improve the quality of primary education and (b) to expand primary school enrollment, especially of girls. Indeed, one of the most critical issues in the education sector in much of Sub-Saharan Africa is the urgency to increase primary school enrollment of girls. In some countries, girls account for less than 20 percent of primary school enrollment and even less in secondary and tertiary education. The lower rates of female school enrollment and the higher rates of female dropout at earlier grades are due in large measure to the high demand for girls to help with domestic work, such as caring for younger siblings, fetching water and fuelwood, etc. (e.g., Ventura-Dias 1985:183). Caring for younger siblings is particularly prevalent among girls aged 6 to 9—an age at which they should attend primary school. Once they have missed that, their chance to receive any schooling is almost inevitably lost forever. These girls are very likely to remain in the low education, lowincome, low-status, high-fertility hap.

The gender gap in education has a high cost Primary schooling beyond the first three years lowers women's fertility Female education also has a strong effect on family welfare: the mother's education may be the single most important determinant of child health and nutrition. Moreover, since the majority of agricultural subsistence producers are women, better education for women can be expected to improve agricultural productivity—as well as women's incomes, opportunities, and decisionmaking influence within the household.

A number of possibilities exist and have been successfully tried in various settings to increase primary and especially female school enrollment. One such possibility merits mention here, as it may be of particular relevance in the present context It concerns changing school schedules—daily hours as well as vacations—to fit better into rural systems and agricultural seasons. Children need to help with farm work, especially at peak periods, and if school is scheduled accordingly, attendance could be improved. Current vacation schedules are often still those established on the model and patterns of the former colonial powers. School breaks in Europe were scheduled to allow child labor in farming activities (planting, weeding, harvesting). The farming seasons in Sub-Saharan Africa are different. Regional school administrations should be given authority to adjust schedules to local realities.