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Individual countries

Ivory Coast
Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe


GORDON, Rosemary (1994) 'Education policy and gender in Zimbabwe', Gender and Education, 6 (2), 131-139.

This article examines the changes and continuities in education policy with reference to gender during the colonial and post-colonial periods. Despite the government's stated commitment to gender equality, there has been little change to reduce sexual inequalities in education during the years following Independence. Gordon suggests that "gender neutral" policies may allow a particular state to perpetuate discrimination against women.

At Independence in 1980, the position of women in Zimbabwe was "the outcome of a century of patriarchal racist settler colonialism impacting upon indigenous pre-industrial patriarchal societies", (p131). Black girls had very little access to education. The post-colonial government gave black women majority status in law for the first time and created the Ministry of Cooperative and Community Development and Women's Affairs (MCCDWA). As is often the case when governments set up a separate ministry for women's affairs, in Zimbabwe says Gordon, the MCCDWA's projects were neglected and under-resourced. The establishment of the MCCDWA resulted in the neglect of gender issues in other state organs, including the Ministry of Education. She shows how girls and boys have not benefited equally from the expansion in educational opportunities. At primary level fewer girls enrol and drop-out is higher for girls than for boys; fewer girls make the transition to secondary education and again their attrition rate is higher. The data at all levels of the educational system, says Gordon, suggests that "despite the state's verbal commitment to gender equity, during the period of post-colonial socialist reconstruction, [it] has, through its education policies and practices, continued its gendering and male protecting role", (p135). In other words, gender neutral policies have masked "a strong bias against women", (p136).

Economic structural adjustment since 1989 has made the situation worse. Although macro-economic policies appear to be gender neutral, their impact is gender differentiated. Austerity programmes affect women negatively because of the reduction in their access to employment, the limiting of access to services, and the increase in the demands on their time and labour to compensate for the gaps created by the cuts in services. These developments lead to more constraints on their daughters' access to education.


BERNAL, Victoria (1994) 'Gender, Culture and Capitalism: Women and the remaking of Islamic "Tradition" in a Sudanese village', Comparative Studies in Society and History, 36 (1), 36-67.

The negative view of observers of North African and Middle Eastern societies who generally identify Islam as "the primary determinant of women's status and the obstacle to social and economic changes which might benefit women", (p. 36-37) is described by Bernal as "Islamic determinism", (ibid). She sees this perspective as a misapprehension of Islam and in her in-depth and thought-provoking analysis examines gender and religion in the Muslim world by identifying the links between "religious transformation, gender relations, and the integration of Muslim communities into the capitalist world system", (p. 37). Bernal argues that contemporary Islamic fundamentalism should be seen as a modem development connected to socio-economic transformations rather than as a return to tradition. Her analysis is illustrated by data from fieldwork in a northern Sudanese village, Wad al Abbas, 1980-1982 and in 1988.

Experiences in Wad al Abbas would seem to indicate that economic changes such as in agriculture & labour migration (mainly to Saudi Arabia), have had unplanned outcomes resulting in new gender relationships and that these relationships are being institutionalised by new religious sensibilities and traditions in the form of Islamic Fundamentalism. Bernal concludes-

"the intensification of social restrictions on women and the emergence of new secular and religious notions of gender difference are direct results of the community's growing integration into the world economy", (p61).


WYND, Shona (1995) Factors affecting girls' access to schooling in Niger, Final Report to ODA Education Division, Ministry of Overseas Development, London.

This study, based on fieldwork in Niger, sets out to develop "a more rigorous understanding of the relationship between education, the role that it plays within the community, and its potential influence on fertility", (p.i). Niger has a fertility rate of 7.4 and a literacy rate of 14% (9% for females). The overall primary school enrolment rate is 28.5% and only 36% of that figure are girls; in rural areas female enrolment can be as low as 10%. Wynd found that the school system is valued-

"not for the basic skills it aims to provide for its students, but for the jobs that students, and their extended families, anticipate upon their graduation from university or professional school", (ibid).

As far as girls are concerned there is a widespread fear that schools teach them ways which run counter to local behavioural norms and that girls may become pregnant as a result:

"Ironically, rather than looking upon education as means of ensuring healthier families, the local belief is that school could actually contribute to increasing fertility", (p. ii).

The causes of low enrolment figures in rural areas are examined including the inefficiency of recruitment methods and the avoidance techniques of parents who do not wish to send their children to school. The concept of "success" also affects recruitment: success means securing a position with the civil service after graduation. Children who do not manage to do this are considered to have "failed", and as most children will "fail", it is not considered worthwhile to send them to school, especially if they are daughters. It is also believed that "passes" are given to the children of government employees rather that to those who have earned them. Girls have few educated role models in the villages and in any case Hausa girls are likely to marry at about 12 years of age. It is often the mother who discourage girls from continuing at school, often because of the fear of the risk of pregnancy, and girls sometimes deliberately fail the primary leaving examination because of pressure at home. The question of a girl's education or lack of it is also a factor in the marriage market, and in the loss of labour in the home. All the factors discussed ape supported by verbatim evidence from the interviews conducted in the villages. Wynd concludes:

"The potential gains that a primary school education may currently offer in terms of increased levels of hygiene, or the much sought after government job simply do not outweigh the potential social risks or the loss of labour. While studies suggest that increasing levels of education may lead to lower levels of fertility, that issue cannot begin to be explored until the education system itself is viewed as useful enough to attract girls and their parents......
.........Clearly the system must be changed from one which produces either civil servants or failures, to one which teaches skills and awareness that are valued within the local community", (p. 19-20).


CSAPO, Marg (1981) 'Religious, Social and Economic Factors hindering the education of girls in Northern Nigeria; Comparative Education, 17, (3) 311-319. and

AKANDE, Bolanle E. (1987) 'Rural-urban comparison of female educational aspirations in South-Western Nigeria', Comparative Education, 23 (1), 75-83.

Csapo's article on girls' education in Northern Nigeria only just comes within the date parameters of this Bibliography: published in 1981, it is based on figures from the 1970's. It is however useful in that it examines in some detail the factor of religion as it affects girls' education among the mainly Muslim Hausa of Northern Nigeria. Many of the West African countries normally classified as "Sub-Saharan" do in fact reach towards the Sahara on their northern boundaries and their northern regions have a great deal in common with north Africa because of Islamic influence. Csapo also points out however that these northern regions are not only Islamic as compared with the Christianized southern areas but also have less favourable agricultural conditions: the economic factor is also important one as far as the education of girls is concerned. Niles' article on parental attitudes to girls' education (1989, q.v) is a later study in the same area which emphasises the urban/rural dichotomy.

Akande's article on girls' educational aspirations in Oyo State, Southern Western Nigeria, also examines the differences between girls from urban & rural backgrounds. Her research found a significant relationship between girls' family locations and their educational aspirations. Urban girls were far more likely to aspire to University (63%) than rural ones (26.3%). Rural girls' highest ambitions tended to be to train as a nurse or a teacher, an interesting result of the role models available in rural areas and of the high status accorded to nurses and teachers in the villages. Akande also found a significant relationship between family location and girls' scholastic performance. Rural girls perform less well overall than urban ones. More rural girls complained of interruption to their homework from household chores and errands. It is not only the quality of education in rural areas which may affect attainment but the demands of rural life.

Ivory Coast

GRISAY, Aletta (1984) 'Analyse des inégalités de rendement liées au sexe de l'élève dans l'enseignement primaire ivoirien', International Review of Education, Vol. 30, p. 25-39.

Research by the Laboratoire de Pédagoge Experimentale at the University of Liege into primary education in the Ivory Coast found significant differences in achievement between boys and girls across the curriculum. From the first years boys do better & by the fourth year they have a strong advantage; this advantage lies not only in mathematics, often considered a boys' area, but also in learning French (the medium of instruction in the Ivory Coast). This situation differs from that of industrialised countries where the performance of girls is generally superior to that of boys in subjects linked to language learning. The author suggests that boys in the Ivory Coast (and in certain other developing countries too) may do better than girls in the speaking, reading and writing skills for a variety of reasons:

· because the cultural image of male and female roles engenders different behaviour expectations of girls in school and because there is less pressure on girls to do well, there is a negative influence on girls' motivation the teaching personnel is largely male

· boys have more chance to use French outside school

· girls gain less from classroom experience because they interact less, ask fewer questions. Cultural patterns demand reserved behaviour from a girl: "il est malséant pour une fille... de trop parler ou de se faire remarquer; on la considérait comme une effrontée", say Ivory Coast teachers. (p. 35)

The author feel that it is the last point - patterns of behaviour in the classroom, which most affects girls' results in the Ivory Coast. Direct participation in the teaching/learning process in the classroom, and frequent opportunities to answer, talk and interact are essential in the acquisition of French which is itself a prerequisite for success in the other disciplines.

Attitudes towards the education of girls among the largely male teaching personnel appear to be equivocal, judging by a sample surveyed. Although 80 - 90% of the teachers agreed with statements about the necessity for girls to go to school, to stay there longer & even to have the right to go on to University, traditional views surfaced in responses to the following statements (p. 36):

C'est auprès de sa mère et non à l'école qu'une fille reçoît le meilleur de son éducation (54% agree)

Quel que soit son degré d'instruction, une femme ne doit pas se croire l'égale de l'homme . (70% agree)

The author concludes ruefully that if teachers try to develop less passive behaviour in girl pupils, they may be reproached by parents for making girls "effrontée" or "insolente". The teachers themselves may not really be convinced about encouraging girls to talk more: they may feel that since girls are by nature chatty - "loin de leur apprendre à ouvrir la bouche, c'est à se taire qu'on devrait les inviter", (p. 37).

Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe

SWAINSON, Nicola (1995) Redressing gender inequalities in education: a review of constraints and priorities in Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe, ODA, London

Dr Swainson describes this report as "primarily a desk study": she has gathered together, as indicated in her Bibliography, not only the usual sources but an enormous number of reports, papers and lectures, often in mimeograph and not easily accessible, to put together this up-to-date and very useful survey.

In the first part of the report she examines the international evidence concerning the benefits of female education and then reviews the literature that outlines the nature and extent of gender disparities in education in Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe. This chapter contains a wealth of information and statistics (so far as they are available) on educational expenditure patterns, enrolments and wastage, performance and attainment, and literacy rates. The first part ends with a chapter which examines factors shaping gender inequalities in education and stresses that-

"inequalities stem from gender relations in society at large and these are reflected in and played out in the school system itself," (p 16).

Factors covered include economic restraints, the effect of woman's opportunities (or lack of them) in the labour market, the contribution of girls to household tasks, the socio-economic status of families, parental attitudes and influence, initiation practices and early marriage, and sexuality and sexual harassment. Swainson then examines school-based factors such as the school environment, teachers' expectations and attitudes, and single-sex education.

The second part of the report focuses on strategies to promote the education of both girls and women. It examines the policy options such as expanding educational provision and reducing the direct and indirect costs of schooling, improving girls' health and nutrition and recruiting more female teachers. There is a survey of efforts made to reduce direct costs through various scholarship programmes. Chapter 7 examines various types of government and donor intervention and their outcomes.

The final chapter is a succinct and useful list of recommendations. Swainson first suggests research priorities: clearly focussed empirical research is needed so that efforts to improve girls' educational opportunities can be based on evidence. She suggests twelve areas where research is needed such as the impact of female teachers, patterns of attendance, etc. Policy recommendations are divided into two areas: those which are school-based and those which are community based. Both researchers and policy-makers (whether government or NGO) will find useful suggestions on these lists.