International Day of Education 2024 – Learning for Lasting Peace

Education is For Girls Too

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world

                                -Nelson Mandela-

As the world celebrates International Day of Education, one novel comes to mind, Fahrenheit 451. The novel depicts a society that suppresses knowledge through book burning. This serves as a profound reminder of the implications of limiting intellectual freedom.

Fahrenheit 451 is set in a dystopian era and explores Guy Montag, a fireman who has been charged with the sole responsibility of burning outlawed books. All is fine until an encounter with his free-thinking neighbor, Clarisse. An encounter that makes him question his values, beliefs and life.

Stuck in a society that suppresses intellectual freedom, Montag struggles with personal crises including his wife’s overdose and the suicide of a woman who chooses to burn with her books.

As the story progresses, Montag steals a book which triggers a life-changing journey. He begins to challenge societal norms and seeks to find answers in literature and forms an alliance with exiled intellectuals to resist a conformist society.

The International Day of Education is a UN initiative that aims to highlight the importance of education in ensuring a peaceful and progressive world. It brings attention to the fact that about 250 million children and youth are out of school with 763 million being illiterate adults.

Just like Montag in Fahrenheit 451, I hope we all awaken to the transformative power of curiosity to challenge and question the so-called norms. On this day, it is my wish that education is not stifled but celebrated, especially for the girl child.

While it is universally agreed that education has the power to make the world better and achieve world peace, why do we still exclude the girl child? Is she not part of the 8 billion human race? In so many parts of the world, the female child does not have access to education.

One heart-wrenching moment was when the Taliban government in Afghanistan barred girls from the fundamental right to education. On this day of International Day of Education, we need to highlight the urgency to address gender disparities in educational opportunities, especially as it relates to creating a more peaceful world.

Investing in the education of girls has far-reaching benefits. Educating girls will ensure equal opportunities, making them gain skills and knowledge to participate in decision-making processes, which is a recipe for a balanced, more peaceful society.

I cannot overemphasize the empowerment that accompanies education. The girl child will be able to enter the workforce which will lead to financial independence, breaking the cycle of poverty. It will also reduce crime and the need to be subjugated into demeaning work like prostitution which exposes women to several risks like rape, violence, STDs, and even death. Educating the girl child uplifts the standard of living in societies and is beneficial to the economy of communities and nations of the world.

Education is recognized as a fundamental human right and a shared societal responsibility. Nelson Mandela once said “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” and truer words have never been said. This is why the UN strongly believes that education can help us achieve a more peaceful world. To mark this year’s World Education Day, the UN unveiled the theme as “learning for lasting peace” because about 2 billion people live in war zones and conflict-affected places.

A good number of that population are female and are many times denied access to education like in Afghanistan, for example. But that needs to change because education also helps end wars. When people learn more about other cultures and inculcate virtues like tolerance, empathy, and understanding, it makes them more accepting of people who do not look or think like them. The more we learn about other people’s differences and embrace the core things that make us the better the world will be. This can be achieved through education. Another way it provides peace is that education equips us with analytical skills for conflict resolution. It helps us to see that there are better ways to navigate disagreements with others and share our thoughts. We can also accommodate differing opinions.

Education is a major weapon against gender-based violence, child marriage rates and so many health challenges that confront the girl child. Take, for instance, Vaginal Fistula, a common occurrence in areas where child brides are prevalent. This is a major health risk that can cause abnormal connections resulting in infections and incontinence.

Growing up, I noticed gender-based differences in treatment, which left me with a barrage of questions about gender roles. As a woman, I have seen and also witnessed the Goliath that the girl child has to surmount. I decided to take action and through my outreach programs (such as ENGENDERS) I aim to teach girls; the next generation and help them to achieve their full potential.

In addition to ENGENDERS, I currently run a blog focused on issues surrounding the girl child and women. I share stories that aim to motivate and inspire women who overcame obstacles and got the chance to be at the zenith of their chosen path through the Amazons and Slayballer series.

If I may add, education extends beyond traditional settings. I am talking about the home as a learning point. Many times, education obtained from these informal settings leaves a long-lasting impression and can serve as the foundation a traditional setting can build. This is why the right kind of education is very important, especially for the girl child who in many parts of the world is tasked with nurturing future generations.

Parents need to challenge archaic norms that are stumbling blocks to progression. As a parent do you say to your daughter ‘Martha, do you think it’s all about studying? Of what use will your degree be if you can’t cook, clean, and keep a man?’ Do you also reinforce stereotypes about people of other tribes, religions, genders, or races?

We need to snap out of this backwardness and drop the bias. Encourage your children both male and female to explore diverse subjects, this will equip them with practical skills to break free from stereotypes. Remember, every society is a collection of ideas, customs, and traditions that start with the family.

Examining the global stats of female literacy rates, it is evident that Taiwan, Estonia, and Italy have made progress compared to other countries. However, a gloom still hangs as UNESCO estimates that 129 million females remain out of school, facing barriers.

Addressing social factors affecting female literacy rates is important, from seasonal workforce migration to restrictive societal norms, these challenges are a wake-up call to all of us. We need to advocate for policies that destroy gender-based barriers and provide educational opportunities.

Only when we fight the good fight can we ensure that every girl has the opportunity to unleash her potential and contribute her quota in ensuring a safer, more peaceful, and better world.

International Day of Education 2024 – Learning for Lasting Peace

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