A lot more girls than boys leave school early, especially in rural Kenya. But school is actually good for girls. Getting an education means they are less likely to get married or pregnant, have older boyfriends, or get HIV.
School fees are a known reason for girls leaving school early: families tend to pay for the boys rather than the girls if money is tight.
But there must be other reasons; so scientists interviewed almost 80 girls in secondary school to figure out why they are more likely than boys to leave school.
The first reason the girls mentioned was their periods. They said they often didn’t have access to sanitary pads. That can cause embarrassing leakages, many trips to the latrines, or needing to go home to wash out stains. Because they used whatever replacement material they can get their hands on, like mattress pieces or cloth, they often got painful rashes and pain.
You are like in class and then… the blood went until to the cloth and desk, … then when I stood a fellow told me I have stained.
You can imagine that that’s something that can really leave you frazzled, especially if you are young and a bit uncomfortable about your period.
Money and sugar daddies
Beside the fees, the girls also mentioned not having enough money, either for uniforms or other necessities. For many families, educating the sons is most important, leaving the girls without money for their education.
To get money to afford going to school, many girls report having boyfriends who help them out with cash.
He can give you 200 shillings to buy your own things or maybe drink soda, so girls after getting this money feel that they are on top of the world.
Some schools seem to punish girls when these relationships come to light; on the other hand, parents will occasionally approve of them, to take the financial burden away from them.
Chores at home are another reason for drop outs. The work leaves the girls tired or unable to do their homework. Or makes them late. In which case, some of them rely on boda bodas to get to school. And, if they don’t have money, the boda drivers take advantage of them.
If you are not able to give money, it will force you to have sex with them.
These factors leave the girls vulnerable to another important cause of drop outs: unintended pregnancies. Many girls said that they got pregnant because they didn’t have enough knowledge about sex. Girls who are pregnant are often either expelled or don’t go back to school because they are embarrassed.
Related: Let's Talk About Sex Education
All of these factors can be the cause of absences and poor performance. And that often leads to the girls being teased by their peers, or punished by the teachers. Girls have to clean latrines or are caned as punishment. To avoid the humiliation, the girls just prefer to stay away from school. Makes sense, right?
So it seems it’s money that’s the big issue. Not having money creates awkward situations that ultimately lead to girls leaving school early.
What do you think could be done to leave girls less vulnerable and embarrassed, so that they stay in school longer? Leave a comment below or on Facebook and join the discussion.
Oruko, K., Nyothach, E., Zielinski-Gutierrez, E., Mason, L., Alexander, K., Vulule, J., Laserson, K.F. & Phillips-Howard, P.A. (2015). ‘He is the one who is providing you with everything so whatever he says is what you do’: A Qualitatitve Study on Factors Affecting Secondary Schoolgirls’ Dropout in Rural Western Kenya. PloS One 10(12).