Education in the United States is equal for both males and females. They go to the same schools, learn the same material, have the same tests, and have the same teachers. But other countries are not as fortunate. Some African women have to fight to even get a mediocre education. Males are favored because they have to support the family while the females are at home keeping house, getting food, and birthing children. Why is it that America has evolved so much and pushes for women to be educated and do the same thing that men do, but in Africa, nothing has changed? There are a few countries that allow women the same privilege as men to get a decent education. Those are also the countries that get a lot of tourism. Although there are many reason why it is not possible for all people to get an education, whether it be economic or cultural, this is something all people should strive for. All women need an education. It's a necessity to grow as a person and to take care of oneself and a family.
Keywords: Africa, United States, Education, Women, Men
Education in America has evolved greatly since the nineteenth century. In 1918, following the American revolution, a law was made that there would be universal education for everyone (Chesapeake.edu, 2000). Schools were segregated. There were schools for whites, blacks, girls, boys, etc. Children learned to read, write, do arithmetic, and develop social skills. In today's society, anyone can go to any school (with the exception of boarding schools that can be all male or all female). Young people can learn about almost any subject they want to learn about including psychology, history, humanities, calculus, etc.
Although education developments in Africa have not reached the extent of America's, there has been major progress. Many countries in Africa differ in education. The Aka tribe, also known as Pygmies, from the tropical forests of the Southern Central African Republic and northern Congo, have never had formal schools. They begin to learn about hunting and gathering at infancy. At the age of 8-12 months, they learn how to use small digging sticks, throw small spears, use miniature axes, and carry small baskets. At one or two years of age, they use knives, axes, and digging sticks. At three to four years, they are able to cook a meal using fire. And at the age of ten, they are able to live alone in the forest (Worldmark Encyclopedia of Cultures and Daily Life: Volume 1 Africa, 1998). Other countries in Africa have had educational systems for quite some time.
The importance of women's education in North America used to be considered unnecessary. But today, it is extremely important for women to get the same education as men. Women's education in Africa is poor in comparison to education in America as well as Europe and Asia. There is unequal opportunity in Africa and equal opportunity in North America for women to obtain an education. Women's education is important for both maternal reasons and for individual reasons. The purpose of this paper is to explain the difference between educational opportunities women receive in African countries and North America.
Women in Africa are the most undereducated women in the world and have been barred from getting the same opportunities in education that men do. There are cultural, political, and economic barriers. Two-thirds of the world's illiterates and two-thirds of students who drop out of high school before completing four years are female (Unequal Access, Unequal Participation: Some Spatial and Socio-economic Dimensions of the Gender Gap in Education in Africa With Special Reference to Ghana, Zimbabwe and Kenya, 2004).
In North America, women get the same educational opportunities as men. Both females and males are required to stay in school until the age of sixteen. Women are able to attend the same schools, universities, and colleges that men attend. The United States implemented the "No Child Left Behind" act. This act was made in 2001 by President George W. Bush three days after taking office. He said "These reforms express my deep belief in our public schools and their mission to build the mind and character of every child, from every background, in every part of America" (ED.gov). With this act, every child gets the same education and the same opportunities no matter their class, cultural background, etc. Nowadays, there are certain states that have a higher rate of women graduating with a degree of some sort from different colleges and universities. One example would be in Minnesota where women earned fifty-seven percent of the degrees granted, including associate, bachelor, master, doctoral, and professional (USATODAY.com, 2008)
Certain countries in Africa have more educational opportunities for women than others. Countries that have high tourism rates such as Egypt, Kenya, and South Africa are a few examples. With more tourism, they are able to provide better education for a higher amount of people because they have more money coming in. They might also fear that they will be compared to "better" countries and nations in a negative way. Before the nineteenth century, schooling in Egypt was mainly religious and was for males only. In 1952, ninety percent of females over the age of ten were illiterate. Since 1981, all children (including females) must complete the first nine years of school. Women in Egypt have the opportunity to get a long education because it is free. Females in other parts of Africa, such as the Central African Republic, are not able to go to school because their parents have to pay for their education. Schooling in Kenya is for both boys and girls. It is very similar to the educational system in the United States. There are eight years of elementary school, four years of secondary school, and four years at the university level. South America is different from other African countries because it is Dutch, compared to other parts of Africa that are French. In South Africa, there are many boarding schools that are affiliated with churches. There is an adult literacy rate of fifty-nine percent but that percent should go up because more children are in school. Women in other countries, such as Ethiopia and the Central African Republic do not have equal access to education. Education in Ethiopia is traditionally for males. But, females are fighting to be educated in the larger cities. Over time, more opportunities are opening up for women, but there is still a lot to be done to make their rights to education equal as men's. In the Central African Republic, very few women have gone beyond primary school. One-eighth move on to high school and only one-tenth of those are able to finish high school. (Worldmark Encyclopedia of Cultures and Daily Life: Volume 1 Africa, 1998). There is still gender disparity in seventy-five percent of the countries in Africa. Nearly 40 million African children, both male and female, are not attending school (africagrantmaker.org, 2010).
Every single state in America has the same education. There is pre-school or alternative kindergarten, six years of elementary education, three years of middle school, and four years of high school. An individual can complete certain majors in college in just two years. Other majors can take up to eight years to complete. The American government is able to supplement funds for those who want to go on to the university level. There are grants, loans, and scholarships that are given to people who need them. Funding from the government is a big reason that so many people are able to attend college. The average amount of time a person attends a college or university is four years. Although there are many positive aspects of education in America, there are also some problems. Many people, male and female, drop out of high school. Whether it be because of pregnancy, family reasons, or different reasons, too many people are dropping out. Many Americans are not appreciative of the educational opportunities that they are given.
Having teachers is a main factor in whether a child will receive an education or not. Africa loses about 20,000 skilled teachers a year because they move to developed countries (africagrantmakers.org, 2010). It is more difficult to find people in Africa that are educated enough to teach. In order to have a good education, you have to have a good teacher. This is another reason why Africa is lagging behind when it comes to education. HIV/AIDS is likely to claim the lives of ten percent of teachers in Africa within the next five years and twenty percent of school-age children will be AIDS orphans which means they will not have parents to pay for their education (africagrantmakers.org, 2010). In the United States, there are plenty of teachers. Men and women are able to earn a teaching degree with only four years of college or university education. These people can teach any subject they want. They can teach at the elementary, middle, or high school level. There are a wide range of subjects available.
It is extremely important that females in Africa get an education for maternal reasons. Children born to educated women are less likely to be malnourished and they are more likely to receive immunizations when necessary. There is a lower mortality rate when children are born to educated women. Each year of schooling that a woman gets leads up to ten percent reduction of mortality of children under five years of age because more educated mothers have a better understanding of health, sanitation, and nutrition (New Internationalist, 1999). Nations that have more women enrolled in school show higher levels of economic productivity, lower fertility, longer life expectancy, lower infant mortality, and lower maternal mortality (Unequal Access, Unequal Participation: Some Spatial and Socio-economic Dimensions of the Gender Gap in Education in Africa With Special Reference to Ghana, Zimbabwe and Kenya, 2004).
In the United States, women get an education for many reasons. One reason is that a woman has to be able to support herself. No woman should have to rely on a man for money. Yes, there are cases when a woman stays at home with the children while her husband is at work, but there are also times when a man stays at home while the woman is working. This is another example of how women and men have equal opportunity. Another reason women get an education is because they have the desire to work professionally. American culture has evolved in that women and men are able to hold the same jobs, whether it be at the top or the bottom. A woman can be the owner of a company or have the same degree to be a doctor that a man can.
Possible goals for the future of women's education in Africa include equal opportunity for women and men, free education, teachers to come in from developed countries, and the chance to go to universities and be financially independent. Women are fighting harder for an education and little by little, they are getting what they want. The literacy rate for women in Africa is going up for both men and women.
Goals that the American education system needs to achieve include higher testing scores. Students testing scores are getting lower and lower. It needs to be the system that it once was. In the past, everyone looked up to America because of it's educational system. Both students and teachers used to care so much more than they seem like they do now. America needs to raise their standards so that they can compete in the global market. Currently, we are in the twenties for best education. With the amount of opportunities that are given, America should be able to be at a lower number than that. Another goal is for men and women to remain equal in education so that one gender does not have to support the other. Everyone in America should be able to support themselves with the educational opportunities that are given.