The benefits of educating a girl in Africa are many — learning to read, write and do simple math in primary (elementary) school are the first steps to better health, future employment and improved self esteem. Many African countries have made progress in closing the gap between girls and boys in school. In Kenya, almost half of the children enrolled in primary school were girls in 2010, according to UNESCO. But keeping girls in school through high school raises the bar — it increases the benefits for girls, their families and their communities.
A recent New York Times article by Elisabeth Rosenthal suggests that one of the greatest benefits of keeping girls in school through high school is that girls who complete high school have fewer children than those who do not. Girls not in school usually face early marriage, at 13 or younger, and younger brides have more children than older brides. In Niger, for instance, where three-quarters of girls marry before the age of 18, women have an average of seven children. Niger has one of the highest birthrates in the world.
The implications of not keeping girls in high school are staggering. In more than half of the countries in Sub Saharan Africa, more than 40 percent of the population is under the age of 15, according to the Population Reference Bureau. Girls who finish high school have more choices — economically, through work opportunities and personally, because they are better able to make their own marriage decisions. These girls tend to marry later and have smaller, healthier families.
Educating girls through high school is one of the goals of the Aid for Africa Girls Education Fund. The Fund is also focused on college and supporting students until they find employment.
Aid for Africa is a unique alliance of U.S.-based charities and their African partners dedicated to helping children, families and communities throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. Learn more at www.aidforafrica.org.