Girls have come a long way, but they still have miles to go- and hopefully with a bike they will get there faster! This month we are taking a look at education in rural El Salvador. Last time we told you of challenges boys face within their families when it comes to education. But what about girls?
First, schools are tackling stereotypes when it comes to educating girls by limiting labeling courses as 'just for boys'. Teachers are also focused on helping boys and girls succeed in the classroom. But one hurdle they still need to jump is one imposed by the girls themselves. In America several decades ago it was not uncommon to hear a little girl say, "anything a boy can do, a girl can do better". In El Salvador today, one may still hear a girl say "como soy nina no lo hago" meaning since she is a girl she doesn't have to...
Breaking this cycle is a priority for educators because they see the potential girls have in the classroom. Girls tend to pay attention more in class, keep up with the schoolwork even when they miss lessons, and make a bigger effort to study and do homework when not at school. This is in part because of what we mentioned last time about boys working long hours in the field and being late and tired in class. In the end, added up, girls tend to get better grades.
But there's a bit of a gender-ation gap when dealing with dads and daughters and education. First, in rural El Salvador girls get married and have families. Fathers don't always grasp the importance of an education when focusing on the end result of someone else taking care of their little girls. For them sending girls to school doesn't add up to a good investment.
And while education shifts to STEM based curricula and engineering and technology based projects, some families are rooted in the past. All this technology talk scares some over protective fathers.
While some communities don't have water or electricity, most families do own a cell phone. And as concerning as social media is here in the United States, it's more so to a rural father trying to protect the innocence of his young daughter. Some go so far as to forbid learning computer science at all, closing off a huge opportunity to an aspiring girl.
The up side to living in a small community, is teachers have a very hands on approach when educating their students. If a student misses class, they will often make a trip home to see why and if they can help. And in the case of changing attitudes about computers and technology, these teachers are on it.
When CESTA recently donated 23 bikes to the students of Las Brisas de Mandinga they also focused on equality. Half the bikes were distributed to girls. Some of them had never owned a bicycle before and many of them expressed feeling unsafe walking so long alone to school.
Xenia loves school, especially learning to read and write. She was afraid to walk to school, but now that she has a bike she can't wait to go! Ingrid used to walk to school with classmates, but when she had to walk alone, her parents had to take off work to make sure she got there safely. Now, on her bike, she gets there in a quarter of the time and no one worries.
In this case the first 'step' to education equality could be a bike ride.