Much attention has deservedly been paid to the difficulties that girls have getting an education in developing countries, and to the importance to economic development of educating girls. And indeed we have seen in Kasiisi Project schools how relatively simple interventions, such as building special latrines and providing sanitary pads, can have a substantial impact on their attendance and academic performance.
In most local primary schools boys outperform girls but in Kasiisi Project Schools girls do as well as, and in some cases even better than, boys. While this is a clearly a good thing for girls, in the long-term equal educational opportunities for both sexes is our goal. Uneducated, unemployed men are bad news for any society.
Our data show that absenteeism is much higher in boys than girls, and rough data indicate that boys drop out of Kasiisi Project schools at a higher rate than girls. This is likely happening because boys can bring financial benefits to their families at a younger age than girls. Primary aged girls are useful as babysitters and for domestic work, but boys have real economic value, whether by watching cows or driving away vermin. Dr. Catrina Mackenzie from McGill University, has shown that the likelihood of boys completing 4th Grade, is substantially reduced in forest edge communities with high levels of crop-raiding by wild animals – boys are kept at home to guard the crops because local people say baboons, the most frequent crop raiding species around Kibale National Park, are not scared of girls or women . Boys as young as 10 are hired to work in the tea plantations, driving up drop-out rates in schools located close to commercial tea enterprises.
Economic need is a much harder challenge to address than lack of sanitary pads. Helping boys complete primary school at the same rate as their sisters will not be easy, and is compounded by the fact that, while finding money for girls’ programs is at least a possibility, there is virtually no funding to support boys.