Poverty is a tremendous barrier that restrains education for young girls. For example, in the U.S., schools are administered funds based on a grading curve and rank. The rank is determined by standardized tests taken in mid-year but the grading curve is measured by student poverty, state wages, economies of scale (which means the number of students in each school district effects the cost associated with each individual student), and the exchange of the population density by this economies of scale.
Because of how money is distributed between schools with varying poverty rates, an issue presents itself; of 51 states, 20 states have a “regressive funding system” meaning high poverty school districts are given less state and local funds than their wealthier school district counterparts. 14 states have flat systems, acknowledging no difference in funding high or low poverty districts. That is a total of 34 states that are not meeting the needs of children that are affected by poverty. About 90% of funding for the United States 16,000 school districts comes from their local and state government. Young girls are progressively effected by this system is a dramatic way.
Schools are encouraged to require high student to teacher ratios but this inconsistency makes it difficult for teacher’s to manage their classes. Young girls are subject to get lost in the school systems with these ratios. The issues girls’ face like pregnancy, STI’s, poverty, and violence increase with less teacher supervision.
Though there has been a 42% decline in teen pregnancy since 1990 due to improved contraceptive use, still 68 pregnancies occur per 1000 girls 15-19. Today, teen mothers are more likely to complete a high school degree or obtain a GED but fewer than 2% obtain a college degree by 30. Higher education means independence and better opportunities afforded to take care of their families. Many teen pregnancies result in girls becoming single mothers. Having a college education can break through stigmas associated with being a young, single mother. I know because I am a young single mother who since obtaining a degree feels the breakthrough!
Another issue that hinders education is bullying. In the U.S. there are almost 300,000 incidents of physical attacks in secondary school alone and about 160,000 children miss school daily due to bullying. 1 in 10 students drop out of school permanently because of it. Girls are inclined to be more sensitive to rumors and occurrences that harm their reputation. Due to societal standards of girl acceptable behaviors verse boys, girls face peer pressure in a different way. Besides bullying and identity pressure, they face beauty, self esteem, and a menstrual cycle dilemmas. Society also places great emphasis on a girl’s appearance and position in family rather than on education which can be stressful.
Television, radio, and internet media influences young girls and women to be more sexual in the United States. Marking her as a beautiful ‘object’, one prepared to bare children or fulfill the desires of a man. It misses out on self love, respect, and the epiphany of being worth more than an outward show.
In regions where women sensuality is frowned upon, girls are punished for being girls. Female genitalia cutting, forced childhood marriages, honor rapes, and even being locked away for having a menstrual cycle are more affluent where poverty rates are high and education funding is low. Unfortunately where there is little legislation regarding education, girls can be ostracized for wanting to obtain it.
Also where poverty and oppression exists young girls and women are subject to higher cases of neglect and abuse. The World Health Organization estimates that every year there are 155,000 deaths around the world of children aged 15 or younger due to abuse and neglect. When girls are educated they are empowered and less likely to believe they are deserving of the behaviors harmful to their being. Young girls that witness their mom financially dependent on another human being and enduring domestic violence because she cannot leave are subject to become part of the cycle of violence and oppression too. Education gives girls the freedom and power to take back their lives regardless of what they have experienced or witnessed.
Providing girls with opportunity to excel academically leads to safer environments. Accessibility to sex education programs, better books, more teachers, and exposure to unique study actives, heightens the overall educational experience. The impact on the community is tremendous when society invests in the education of their children. Poverty is a huge challenge but the side effects of poverty related to girls must be addressed as relevant. Girls need teachers, leaders, and family members to acknowledge their worth; setting high expectations on their abilities, educational capacity, and showing they believe in them!Girls Transform the World 2013