A bottom-up approach in girls’ education needs to be adopted if the country is to consolidate its current gains in achieving gender parity.
Speaking at an outreach programme aimed at drumming up support for girls’ education in Kigali, yesterday, retired Anglican Bishop John Rucyahana said to do this, there has to be a radical change in the way society perceives girls’ education.
“We must maintain and sustain what we have achieved as a nation as far as gender parity is concerned,” said Rucyahana, who is president of the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission (NURC).
NURC facilitated the session.
“To maintain the impressive numbers of women we have in Parliament, we have to go down to the grassroots, in the villages and in homesteads. We should make sure that from this level, we give girls as much attention as we do boys. We can’t afford to continue treating girls the way we currently do.”
The programme is an outreach engagement of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), in partnership with the University of Rwanda’s College of Education.
It is part of the USAID/Higher Education for Development Women’s Leadership Programme in Rwanda.
Its purpose is to raise awareness on the importance of girls’ education through a series of outreach forums targeting community, religious and national leaders by encouraging them to be proactive in advocating female empowerment in their communities.
The initiative is in light of the current inequality in opportunities between women and men in attaining higher education.
Dr Alfred Otara, the WLP project director, underscored the need to emphasise empowerment and sensitisation with regards to girls’ education.
“There is need to develop in them (girls) the capacity to seek and yearn for top positions that currently are the preserve of men, because they too have the capacity,” Dr Otara said.
He challenged local leaders to take the lead in this role.
“We all have a responsibility to fulfill and support government initiatives by encouraging girls to take up the roles they deserve in society,” he said, decrying the low ratio of female enrolment in higher learning institutions compared to their male counterparts.
“At the University of Rwanda, the ratio of male to female students is 67:33. The situation is even worse when it comes to teaching staff,” Otara said.
Bishop Rucyahana added that education of girls transcends the benefits that accrue to the individual.
“It’s not just about the girl, but the nation, because women are the mothers of the nation. So it’s about her ability to lead, to do business, and to nurture her family. A woman should be the master of the family’s destiny, and be able to bless the family. And women in Rwanda have already proved capable of leadership.”
Rucyahana cited sexual violence and exploitation, illegal trafficking of girls, and unwanted pregnancies as some of the impediments to education of girls.
The Mayor of the City of Kigali, Fidele Ndayisaba, called on participants to reflect deeply on the importance of educating a woman.
“What we are sharing and witnessing here in the capital should eventually roll out to cover the whole country. The issue of girl-child education should be everyone’s top priority, just like the government has taken a lead in fostering gender parity.”
Participants concurred that women’s exclusion from academia starts at primary school level, where in most cases teachers have no clue on gender issues, and therefore transmit very little to pupils in that regard.
Yesterday’s was the last such meeting of the three-year programme, which ends in June. The other meetings were held in Nyabihu and Kayonza districts, in March.