Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Parents attitude towards girls education

This article was spotted on the Post Courier Online. While it highlighted several issues in contemporary PNG society I think it should also be noted that there are also large numbers of strong and intelligent women in the country who are doing very well for themselves in their careers and also in doing what they can to provide and look after their families. The New Age Woman also does well in highlighting the success of PNG women.


Culturally, some societies perceive women as a utility asset to undertake all household chores ...

EDUCATION is considered a tribal investment in some parts of Papua New Guinea. The prime objective of an investment is to make a profit. If the investment is not viable in terms of profitability there is no guarantee for its continuity.
The principle of “invest less and gain more” is applied when choosing who goes to school, and in the process, a lot of girls miss out as they are considered to be unprofitable. They are valued at the instant market price. Many factors and cultural actors play certain decisive roles in denying girls’ the right to education.

Lack of role models

One reason why girls miss out on education is because there are not many female role models. Professional jobs such as doctors, teachers and so on are all male-occupied that people loose interest in the capacity of women getting a job. This leads to the wrong investment picture that females reflect.
In a patrilineal society, education has been meddled with the existing culture in undermining the realisation of females’ potentials. Most decisions in the cultural arena regarding social, religious and political matters are solely left to the men to make. A woman’s worth is measured by the number of pigs she can raise and the number of children she bears. Therefore, females are barred from going to schools.
This creates inequality in the choices made by the parents as to who should go to school and why. This is against the Universal Basic Education principle which proclaims ‘education for all’ where every person regardless of culture, sex, religion and race has rights to an education.

High bride price and low intellectual capabilities

Girls are a source of instant wealth, therefore, are retained at home for bride price. Research confirms that parents value most of their young girls like gold, coffee and other commodities to be traded at the immediate market value. They are only few and scarce that their value has soared recently. This is even worse around Ialibu area and some parts of Central Province. Some young girls can cost around K20 000.
Women are used as the medium to achieve human prosperity. They facilitate for the channelling of wealth like pigs, shell money, pearls, food, modern money and other goods from one person or tribe to another. Poor families with many girls have the fate of becoming rich one day from the wealth that the girl would acquire through bride price payment. Thus, girls are reserved for marriage by their siblings.
Some parents question the females’ intellectual capabilities and say they will not perform as well as the male students. They say that males are naturally intelligent and can solicit solutions for academic problems quite easily than females. In the cultural arena, opinions and advice from women are not entertained by men in all forms of decision making. All decisions are based entirely on the men’s instincts as to what they think is right. Women are merely seen as trailers or followers.

Investment in girls’ education lost to husbands at marriage

Some parents say that their investment in their girls’ education will be lost to the girl’s husband at marriage. In the parochial cultural system, most parents’ fear that their resources spent on their daughter’s education will be shifted to the husband at marriage as she will be subject to the husband. The woman is equivalent to any asset the man may have, with no human value. Her value and worth is measured by the number of pigs she rears and the number of children she bears. There is no guarantee for her to go back and share the benefits of her education with her parents. Therefore, parents restrict their girls from attending school as their investment will be wasted. Moreover, parents do all the arrangements for their daughters’ marriage and this could happen while the girl is still at school. They can withdraw their daughter from school at any time, sometimes, without her knowledge. Whether or not the girl is doing well academically, she has to comply as it is embedded in the cultural and tribal jurisdictions and she will be coerced to marry.

Girls, as pillars of local economy

Girls are the backbone of the local economy. Therefore, parents retain them at home. Culturally, some societies perceive women as a utility asset to undertake all household chores. They fear that educated women will not listen to the dictates of men. They view education as an instrument that alienates women from their environment and makes them less submissive to the dictates of men.
The continuation of men holding high positions in the traditional hierarchy is fading away as monetary value and those who work for money become more important because they gain respect in the society, irrespective of whether they are men or women. Men’s continuation of dominance in the society is facing a new threat by educated girls. Girls must be stopped from going to school and the existing cultural phenomena are potentially capable of barring girls from going to schools.

Distance and tribal fights

Parents fear for their girls’ safety and stop them from walking long distances to schools when there is a tribal fight. Most tribal fights are caused by land disputes, rape and payback killings and are fought on all frontiers without any truce to limit and control the scope of fighting. In such conditions, girls become vulnerable to being abused and injured when walking long distances to schools as some of the schools are situated in enemy territory. Walking through valleys, climbing gorges and mountains, crossing fast flowing rivers or walking along bush tracks to reach their schools places them at the mercy of enemy clans. The only alternative is to leave school because their continued safety is not guaranteed.
There is dire need for awareness to be carried out on the importance of equality and participation in education. Various stakeholders must fund a continuous intensive awareness program until people are fully aware on what to do to eradicate under-representation of girls in schools. Moreover, the educated elites must inform their parents not to stop girls from going to school. Parents must be told that girls are not commodities to be traded as currently, this is what is happening. Faith-based organisations should be supported to carry out awareness through their services and activities so that their congregations are informed of the disadvantages of denying girls their rights to education.
Finally, it is everyone’s responsibility to carry out awareness by asking, pleading and informing parents to send their girls to school.

Pes Wilson is a cadet researcher in the education studies division at the National Research Institute
SOURCE: Post Courier Friday 31/07/09

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