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Girls in Iran missing out

More children than ever are going to school, in part because more girls are going to school: That’s the good news from UNICEF’s latest “Progress for Children” report, focusing on gender parity in primary school attendance.

However millions of girls are still denied a basic education. While the gender gap in primary school attendance is shrinking globally, in many parts of the world it still yawns wide. The barriers keeping girls out of school in the developing world not only rob them of future opportunity, but impact their very health and survival.

“Education is about more than just learning. In many countries it’s a life-saver, especially where girls are concerned,” said UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy. “A girl out of school is more likely to fall prey to HIV/AIDS and less able to raise a healthy family.”

In Iran, whilst enrolment at national level is very good, thousands of girls in remote areas drop out of school early.

“Low quality schooling and inexperienced teachers means retention, completion and transition for girls in some of Iran’s disparity provinces is very poor,” said UNICEF Representative Kari Egge. “More effort needs to be focused on providing the same opportunities for girls as boys to prevent future generations being condemned to ignorance, poverty and misery.”

In Iran’s disparity provinces, such as Sistan and Baluchistan, few teachers are willing to serve in sparsely populated rural and nomadic areas. This means that many of the teachers are men on military service – and are thus considered unsuitable by families living there. In addition, owing to the lack of not only school buildings but also teachers, some classes are multi grade, co-educational and take place outside.

Negative attitudes towards female education continue to exist in these areas too. Some families still view girls as better engaged in housekeeping and child care activities. Whilst they may allow their daughters to go to primary school nearby, they are reluctant to let them travel long distances to reach secondary school.

“Gender parity is a prerequisite if the world is to achieve universal primary education by 2015, the target date set by the UN for a key Millennium Development Goal”, added Ms Egge. “That’s why UNICEF focuses on helping Iran keep girls in the classroom, thus ensuring they have the same basic rights as boys. “

To help achieve gender parity in Iran, UNICEF is working in three of the disparity provinces namely Sistan and Baluchistan, Hormozgan and West Azerbaijan. The aim is to enhance school opportunities at village level by working on the quality of education, both in terms of service delivery and curriculum development. 

UNICEF, as one of the lead agencies in the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI), is committed to narrowing the gender gap in primary and secondary education by 2005 and to ensuring that by 2015, all children complete primary schooling. UNGEI is a partnership that embraces the UN system, governments, donor countries, non-governmental organizations, civil society, the private sector, and communities and families.



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