From Edmond Gyebi, Tamale
The Headmistress of the Nuri-Islam Primary and Junior High School in the Karaga District of the Northern Region, Madam Sandah Illuminatu Fatima, has raised serious alarm about the future development of women in the district, as the majority of parents, especially, Muslims, are refusing to educate their female children.
According to Madam Fatima, most of the Muslim parents, in spite of the Capitation Grant, School Feeding and supply of free school uniforms and exercise books by the government, still prefer to send their children to the farms, or allow them to travel down south for menial jobs such as ‘Kayayei’, rather than send them to school.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with The Chronicle in her office in Karaga, the young Headmistress asserted that schools in the Karaga District continued to record low female enrollment every academic year, more especially, the Islamic schools.
Citing her school, which is also an Islamic school as an example, Madam Fatima described it as being “highly unacceptable” to see a school with a population of 700, with only 200 females.
Out of the 523 pupils at the primary level, only 160 are girls, and at Junior High 1 and 2, only 21 are females out of 134 pupils.
Regrettably, however, some of the few girls who get the opportunity to be enrolled sometimes drop out, which she said was another source of discouragement to most parents.
She explained that the poor enrolment among the girls in the district was also affecting development and the chances of other young ladies in the area, as out of about 10 female teachers in her school for instance, only two of them are natives of the district.
The situation, she noted, had also translated into the recruitment of females under the National Youth Employment Programme (NYEP), as the majority of the recruited persons come from other surrounding districts.
Madam Fatima told The Chronicle that even though the Karaga District Education Directorate and the District Assembly had over the years embarked on sensitisation campaigns to encourage parents and even traditional rulers to push their female wards to school, something positive was yet to come out it.
She indicated that the majority of the parents were of the view that the education of girls was irrelevant, since a woman would eventually end up in a man’s house as a wife, no matter the successes she achieves in education.
The Headmistress noted with dismay that most parents in the Karaga District preferred to force their daughters into early marriages, which she noted, had resulted in the large number of teenage pregnancies in the district.
“My brother, it is very common to see girls between the ages of 12 and 14 years, either pregnant or already nursing a baby and their parents see them as normal practice, because the men will bring them cows or money in return.”
Madam Fatima however, appealed to chiefs, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), opinion leaders and the District Assembly to step up their efforts to ensure that more females were enrolled in school, to enhance the development of women in the area.
Meanwhile, the District Chief Executive (DCE) for Karaga, Sulemana Hussein Issah, when contacted, admitted the problem, but declined further comments.