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Obstacles loom large for girls’ education in Darfur

Mohamed Hilali
Girls in Darfur often drop out of school. How can access to education be improved?
11.06.2013  |  Khartoum
تلميذات بمعسكر كريندينق 2 للنازحين، شرق الجنينة، ينقلن المياه لمنازلهن. هذا يحدث أثناء الدوام المدرسي، 24 يناير.
تلميذات بمعسكر كريندينق 2 للنازحين، شرق الجنينة، ينقلن المياه لمنازلهن. هذا يحدث أثناء الدوام المدرسي، 24 يناير.

Schoolgirls from West Darfur State often hope for academic success, regardless of whether they live at camps for the internally displaced or in cities. However, they are frequently deterred from fulfilling their aspirations by family, society and the difficult conditions facing many in West Darfur.

A group of primary schoolgirls at Krinding Camp as school stationeries are handed out, July 2012. 
© The Niles | Mohamed Hilaly
Hard work at home, like lugging water for their families, forces many young girls to drop out of school.

The government has done little to improve their outlook, leaving it to international organisations to provide basics like school stationery and even school buildings.

Between five and six girls out of ten girls go to schools in West Darfur State. Around 40 percent of these reach high school and only 10 percent reach university, according to the State’s Ministry of Education statistics.

Despite their difficult day-to-day reality, girls at the internally displaced person camps fare better than their counterparts living in cities in West Darfur. Female enrolment in basic education is higher than average at many IDP camps, partly due to the support from aid organisations.

Girls, however, continue to suffer from a complex range of social and economic problems. They are often forced to marry while young and face hardship due to war and unemployment.

Meanwhile, all students, both boys and girls suffer from the poor government support of the education sector in West Darfur, for example, too few seats and scarce provision of books.

In the IDP Camp Krinding, more girls than boys attend the Maskani Basic Education School reflecting a drive to educate more girls. Head of the camp Women’s Union Najwa Ismael says a family always needs the girl to perform a number of duties, suggesting that girls carry out duties at homes more than men do”.

Girls carry out duties at home more than men do.”
Najwa Ismael
Girls’ education should be crucial and more important than boys’ education,” she said, indicating that girls often look after their younger brothers and sisters.

According to reports from the education ministry, there are only 50,000 basic education schoolgirls in West Darfur. The ministry’s Girls Education Director Amira Tenni believes that family and society are largely to blame for this poor track record, in particular early marriage and the many tasks and responsibilities imposed on girls at home”.

For example, she explains, girls carry water, help care for siblings, wash clothes, cook among other daily chores.

Najwa Ismael says both the government and organisations are neglectful in this regard. Yet, she underlines that responsibility falls on the family first.

No child managed to reach high school before coming to the camp.”
Ibrahima Shalari
The government and the organisations should help and provide support so that girls could continue their education until they reach university because reaching university is difficult due to harsh conditions of families, and without it employment is not possible”.

Organisations working in IDP camps, however, argue that they are taking big steps to improve girls’ chances of attending school. Director of Islamic Relief (IR) Ibrahima Shalari said: No child managed to reach high school before coming to the camp, but with international relief help, one hundred and seventeen students reached high school level in 2012 in Krinding Camp alone.”