The education of girls came into sharp focus on Monday when Minister of Education Priya Manickchand participated in the Global Partnership for Education’s (GPE) Global Education Summit 2021 on Girls’ Education Day.
A special virtual side event was organised to discuss “Getting girls into and back to school,” with the Education Minister presenting the topic based on the Guyanese context.
During her presentation, Minister Manickchand said that Guyana is committed to improving the experiences of girls in education by devising strategies for improving the quality of education offered across all levels of the system in Guyana. She said that work would continue to ascertain and address any gender-specific issues impacting their educational experiences.
She spoke about the global recognition that an investment in the education of girls goes well beyond merely correcting the gender equality imbalance and has significant national developmental benefits.
She said Guyana has embraced the fact that girls’ education impacts the age of initial childbirth and the number of children conceived, the value of education passed on to future generations, the earning capacity of women, and their degree of social participation other significant benefits.
Minister Manickchand explained to her fellow panel members and participants that similar to territories in the Caribbean, Guyana’s experience regarding girls’ education differs from other parts of the world where girls are denied access and marginalized in their educational pursuits.
She said that the reality in Guyana is that the number of girls enrolled in education exceeding that of the boys on many levels, including tertiary.
“Beyond that, the performance of females has outstripped that of their male counterparts for a considerable period and is expected to continue. This has led to investigations into the phenomenon called ‘the feminization of education’ within our jurisdictions,” Minister Manickchand explained.
Further, she said that taken on the surface, this reality might suggest that the experiences of girls in Guyana’s society are devoid of issues and challenges.
“The existing reality, however, is that we have had to delve well beyond the superficial appearances to develop a deeper understanding of where socio-cultural, socio-economic, political and other issues create structural barriers to the effective education of girls.”
Some of the factors that have been identified that are considered significant to girls’ educational experiences are traditionalism and the urban/rural divide, social ills such as teenage pregnancy and gender-based violence, menstruation and its related contextual realities socio-economic and geographic factors.
Responding to these challenges in light of the current COVID-19 pandemic, several interventions were conducted to facilitate girls’ continued education and the reintegration of adolescent mothers, the Education Minister noted.
According to the Education Minister, among the interventions included the Health and Family Life Education Skills for Life training and distribution of care packages for adolescent mothers adversely affected by COVID in the hinterland regions.
As it relates to the issue of menstruation, she said that a national campaign is being devised for the free distribution of sanitary napkins. Also, worksheets and study materials were distributed for students at all levels of the education system while pedagogical and curricular approaches were introduced aimed at addressing learning loss at all levels.