Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Invest In Our Women On The Continent by Akindele Akinyemi

Oprah Winfrey did the right thing by going to South Africa to open a school for girls. I would have done the same thing.

Blacks criticized her here in the United States for not opening a school here for girls. She is a billionaire. Her vision is not stuck here in places like Chicago and Detroit.

In fact, part of my vision for global education is to open a school on the continent. Investing more in the education of girls can make a significant contribution to the reduction of poverty in Africa.

The adequate participation of girls in the education system in Africa can bring gains in terms of economic development, improved community health and national welfare.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, the social return on girls' education is estimated at 24.3% for basic education and 18.2% for secondary education, the highest rates in the world, according to Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE).

A conference of African ministers of Education met in March of this year in Harare, Zimbabwe stated only 32% of African women, as opposed to 63% of the men, participate in the formal labor force in Sub- Saharan Africa due to a lack of education.

The majority of these tend to cluster in lower rungs of work as unskilled and semi-skilled workers, clerks, copy typists, secretaries and nurses. Education is critical for economic growth and poverty reduction.

Primary and lower secondary education helps reduce poverty by increasing the productivity of the poor, by reducing fertility and improving health, and by equipping people with the skills they need to participate fully in the economy and in society.

Girls also are denied access to education because of discrimination. Discriminatory policies, cultural suppression and family conditions deny girls an opportunity to fully realize their potential.

In turn, girls grow up to become women who lack the skills and education to push out of a cycle of poverty. Economically, women are still located in subsistence farming and other informal activities which bring low economic returns.

There is some movement on our end in the United States. President Bush has announced $400 million for the continuation of the Africa Education Initiative (AEI) over four years to improve the quality and accessibility of basic education for millions of children in sub-Saharan Africa.

This includes:

Training for 500,000 teachers and administrators;

300,000 scholarships under the Ambassador's Girls Scholarship Program with an emphasis on educational opportunities for females.

Development and distribution of 10-million textbooks and related learning and teaching materials.

Improved access for marginalized students and teachers to learning, education materials, and training.

Improved access to education and training for out-of-school youth, orphans, and other vulnerable children.

Improved access to productivity-increasing job skills training and development.

While the President has made inroads on this initiative Blacks here generate over $800 billion as consumers annually. So how come we cannot take care of our people overseas?

China has invested in Africa and the Caribbean. When will we begin to invest in Africa?

If we begin to reinvent charter schools by designing them to compete internationally we will begin to rebuild what is lost in our foundation that will help us rebuild economically.

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