Why do fewer young Nabdam women apply for YWF college scholarship programs?
Why do girls in the Nabdam district get lower scores than boys on country-wide achievement exams?
Despite roughly equal enrollment of males and females at all levels of schooling, why are females far less successful?
With new attendance data from the Deputy District Director for Nabdam education, we are beginning to understand why females struggle with educational achievement. The data shows that while girls and boys are enrolled at similar rates, attendance at school is far from equal. In more than half of the primary (elementary) schools, females miss a remarkable ⅓ of the school days. Male absences are negligible.
There are many articles to substantiate the effect of truancy on education, even studies specifically in Ghana. As it turns out, truancy is the primary predictor for poor outcomes in education in Ghana. The second predictor is low scores in math. Indeed, math scores for Nabdam female junior high students are discouragingly low compared to Nabdam males.
This information provokes another question: Why do female students miss school?
Many possibilities come to mind, such as lack of uniform or shoes, shortage of desks and textbooks at school (maybe preference is given to male students?), lack of latrines and concerns about privacy, attitude of teachers toward female pupils, fatigue resulting from the many household tasks performed by females (gathering wood, cooking meals, drying and threshing grains, carrying water, household laundry all done by hand, no time for homework assignments, farming work – planting/weeding/harvest, caring for younger children in the household, and even untreated common health conditions, i.e. malaria, typhoid, and intestinal parasites.
YWF hopes to gain knowledge that will help girls to attend school more regularly. We are fortunate to have volunteer Julie A., a recently retired Portland teacher, traveling with us this trip. She will both work with David to present a math workshop to teachers with techniques to improve instruction and, importantly, to gather information regarding why female student attendance lags far behind.
During the January 2020 trip, we are firmly committed to improving education. In addition to funding lunch programs at three schools and conducting the workshop in math instruction, YWF has a Rotary Club grant for building desks, currently there are 2 desk seats for every 3 students in Nabdam schools. As we help to build more classrooms and desks, money from donors is set aside to also build latrines at those schools. Latrines definitely help in the prevention of typhoid and intestinal parasites, and they might contribute to better attendance for girls. The college scholarship program continues with a focus on finding qualified female students.