Oxford researchers say African girls need just two things to stay in school. Quartz, December 21, 2016.
Social scientists and educators have experimented with many ways to incentivize girls from low-income backgrounds in developing countries to stay in school including providing lunch, bicycles, and toilets.
While there has been considerable improvement in getting girls to enroll in primary schools, it’s proven harder to keep school attendance up in higher grades. In Uganda, 91% girls are enrolled in primary schools, but that figure falls to 22% for secondary schools.
Now a new study led by Paul Montgomery, a professor of psychosocial intervention at Oxford University, shows that there’s a pretty simple way to boost secondary school attendance in girls in Africa: give them sanitary pads and lessons on puberty.
The new paper, published Dec. 21 in PLOS One, builds on a 2008 pilot study in Ghana, also carried out by Oxford researchers, which showed that the first instance of menstruation triggered a drop in school attendance for young girls. The researchers note that in several developing countries, there is a stigma attached to menstruation and that girls are seen as “dirty” while on their period—one of the main reasons they stay home from school at the time. It’s also often difficult for girls in rural areas to find sanitary pads; many rely on absorbent cloth, which can leak and stain school uniforms.
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