The safety and security of girls attending school, and making their way to and from school, is one of the key issues being tackled at a continuing forum of the Girls’ Education Movement on African education, organised by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), in the Ugandan capital, Kampala. The agency cited one study in Uganda showing that the perpetrators of such are most often relatives, neighbours and teachers. “With the HIV/AIDS pandemic, the safety and security of girls in and outside school is threatening a generation of youth in Africa,” UNICEF warned. UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy, who is among those participating in the three-day forum, has long championed the importance of using educational systems to combat the deadly pandemic, according to a UN press statement. “UNICEF is challenging governments, local leaders, teachers and young people to help transform schools into hubs of activity and enterprise in the battle against HIV/AIDS - centred not only on reading and writing, but on preventing the spread of the disease while supporting those affected by it,” it quoted Bellamy as saying.
At the forum, for the first time ever, girls from across Africa on Wednesday began a debate with the continent’s education ministers on barriers that prevent young women from receiving adequate schooling. Among those participating, in addition to Bellamy, are President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Penina Mlama, executive director of the Forum for African Women Educationalists, and education ministers from across the continent. One of the key topics under discussion is gender in the curriculum, according to UNICEF, who described the forum as major effort to transform schools and educational systems into environments where girls can achieve and have equal opportunities. “Girls are treated like second-class citizens in education systems, with the perpetuation of stereotyping and gender discrimination rampant in and out of school,” the agency stated. Moreover, it said, “girls bear domestic responsibilities in school and at home - burdens that compete for the time and energy that should be devoted to studies.”
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