There has been quite a bit of disgruntled messages around, about the 1.5 points given to every girl to boost entry to public universities. 1.5 was a bonus in addition to the girl’s UACE individual examination scores, an affirmative action scheme that was started to increase the number of female undergraduate entrants into the university.
Recently, there have been calls to “urgently review the scheme or scrap it.” Some have decided since women graduates have gone a little above 50% (51.7% at 60th MUK graduation and 50.1% at 61st, this guest columnist quotes with concern)- never mind that women graduates were said to be at 20% (1983) before this 1.5 scheme- the program has achieved its objectives.
Because we have always cared about the boys, haven’t we? And the lives of the girls? Well, business as usual.
The recent report by International Center for Research and Women (ICRW), Girls are like Leaves on the Wind, based on studies in West Nile region, questions this business-as-usual attitude. The report examines the expectations on the girl and how that affects her education. Most times, we have read about school drop-outs being attributed to early pregnancy and child marriage, and more recently, menstrual issues. But what about housework?
Of the girls interviewed in the study, nearly 28 percent of those who dropped out said that chores severely interfered with their schooling.
If you are a girl/woman reading this and you didn’t have house help growing up, you know the drill. Wake up early in the morning to mop the house, cook breakfast and do the dishes before you shower and run off to school. When you return before you do your homework, there’s more cleaning and cooking. Eventually when you get to your homework, you’re tired and the light is out. Sometimes you will manage. Other times you will try to wake up even earlier the next day to be able to finish. Or you will brave the teacher the next day.
The problem with this is that we don’t see that there is a problem. It is business as usual. Those nearly 28 percent who said chores interfered, either the effect was enormous (like missing your End of Term exams) or they have brothers and they compared expectations. Whatever the drive, they are the minority.
In our in-depth interviews, while a number of girls described heavy domestic chores, they did not always recognize this as a form of gender inequality, but rather a natural state of affairs, illustrating the challenge of identifying and measuring the impact of deeply entrenched gender inequities on individual lives. [Girls are like Leaves on the Wind, ICRW Study]
So yes, we shall keep that 1.5 for university. It may be revised, to figure out the imbalance in Sciences courses, but it should not be removed. Not as long as girls across the country are waking up in the morning to live life as farmer, sibling guardian, cook, cleaner in addition to their “side gig” as a student who has homework to do, tests to read for and a class to be in on time.
How a girl is treated at home, and her own, internalized perceptions of what it means to be a girl, factor very significantly into whether or not she will stay in school. [Girls are like Leaves on the Wind, ICRW]