While on the calendar we still have almost two more week of summer, the past two weeks officially marked “back to school” and the end of summer for my family and me. This is always a sad time for me, as I tearfully send my older children off to college and watch as my seventh grader develops his increasing independence from me. This year was no different, but I recognize that its an indulgence to be sad over a child’s parting for school when even the most basic education is not afforded to many children, especially girls, around the world.
“Right now, more than 62 million girls worldwide are not in school,” Michelle Obama declared after a recent trip to Liberia and Morocco to initiate “Let Girls Learn” when delivering a speech on the crisis of girls education.
“Sometimes the issue is resources: their families simply can’t afford the school fees; or the nearest school is hours away; or the school nearby doesn’t have adequate bathroom facilities for girls, so they’re forced to stay home during their menstrual cycles, and they wind up falling behind and dropping out.
But often the root of the problem is really about attitudes and beliefs: families and communities simply don’t think girls are worthy of an education, and they choose to marry them off as teenagers instead, often forcing them to start having children when they’re basically still children themselves.”
In her speech The First Lady detailed the program’s plans to support the Moroccan government to establish dormitories for girls so that the girls from the countryside may go to school. This is an important initiative, but as she states in her speech, “governments alone cannot solve this problem.”
That is why Kahina Giving Beauty proudly supports Education For All Morocco, a Non Government Organization which addresses the problem by building and running free and safe boarding homes for girls so they can continue their education beyond the age of 12. Education for All was founded in 2009 with a single boarding home. The program now boasts five boarding homes, housing approximately 250 girls. Now, 18 girls from the program are attending University, the first girls in their villages to do so. We have been supporters of the organization since its early days, sponsoring ten girls and helping to keep the houses running.
“EFA’s solution is to bring the girls to the schools, an approach which is beginning to change the lives of Berber girls in a way that could transform the region’s future. Their boarding houses, which are run solely by Berber women, provide accommodation, healthy food, support with homework and extra French and English lessons. On average, the pass rate for all academic years is 97%.” — The Guardian, June 2016
The following is excerpted from Michelle’s speech:
I had the privilege of meeting Ralphina and Rihab earlier this week when I traveled to Liberia and Morocco to highlight our global girls’ education crisis — the fact that right now, more than 62 million girls worldwide are not in school. This is such a heartbreaking loss, because these girls are so bright and so hungry to learn — and like Ralphina and Rihab, they have such big dreams for themselves. These girls are no less smart or deserving of an education than my own daughters — or any of our sons and daughters. The only thing that separates them from our children is geography and luck.
The girls I met in Morocco and Liberia want to be doctors, teachers, entrepreneurs, engineers. One of them wants to run for office so she can fight for women’s rights and combat climate change. Another hopes to open her own auto shop to teach women about cars so they can be more independent.
But we know that when we give these girls the chance to learn, they will seize it. They’ll walk for miles each day to school. They’ll study for hours every night by candlelight, determined to learn as much as they possibly can.
We also know that educating girls doesn’t just transform their life prospects — it transforms the prospects of their families, communities, and nations as well. Studies show that girls who are educated earn higher salaries — 10 to 20 percent more for each additional year of secondary school — and sending more girls to school and into the workforce can boost an entire country’s GDP. Educated girls also marry later, have lower rates of infant and maternal mortality, and are more likely to immunize their children and less likely to contract malaria and HIV.
In Morocco we’ll be working closely with the Moroccan government to help transform high schools across the country, and we’ll be supporting new school dormitories to allow girls from rural areas to attend school far from home.
Large scale efforts like these are critically important, and will affect the lives of countless girls, but they’re simply not enough. Governments alone cannot solve this problem — not when we’re talking about a number like 62 million.
While I will always be sad to see my children leave, I am so thankful for the opportunities afforded them by living in the society we do – and I think about the mothers in Morocco who are sending their young girls away from home to go on and live a life they could only dream of.