Structurally excluded: gender, poverty and the education gap

Updated: Sep 16, 2020

In low-and-middle income countries around the world, female education takes a back seat to household needs.

When a younger sibling is sick or the mother needs to work outside the home, girls in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia are often pulled out of school, making their male counterparts 1.5 times more likely to finish their secondary education.

Why are fewer girls finishing their secondary school education in lower-to-middle-income countries?

There are many reasons, such as early marriage and financial constraints, combined with cultural expectations that see the schooling of boys as more important than the schooling of girls. In developing countries, girls often specialise in household tasks — so any shock to the household (such as child illness) that increases the need for care at home will negatively affect the older girls’ opportunity to attend school.

What’s wrong with girls staying home to help with the housework and young siblings?

Just like people have a limited amount of money, people have a limited amount of time. Time that girls clean, cook, fetch water and care for siblings is time that they are not at school.

What are some of the advantages of girls staying in school as long as they can?

There’s been a lot of research showing that girls that stay in school longer delay their sexual debut, reduce their risk for HIV and other STDs, improve the quality of their partner in the marriage market and have fewer, healthier children.

Closing the education gap

Some factors are beyond control of the student, such as where they were born and what their financial means are. But with the recent advancements in educational models, global education disparity can meaningfully be addressed and mitigated.

At Universities Without Borders, our mission is to close this education gap and help students who are structurally excluded from university education. This is why we provide free education resources to democratise the education that has historically only been accessible to the privileged few.