SEATTLE — With its small population, abundant oil reserves and a stable political environment, Gabon is one of the most secure nations in Africa. Despite this security and having one of the highest per capita incomes in sub-Saharan Africa, there still remains widespread poverty and income inequality in Gabon.
Education in Gabon
Over 40 percent of Gabonese live under the poverty line, and a bright spot amongst such daily struggles is education. In regard to general education, as well as girls’ education in Gabon, the nation compares favorably relative to other countries in the region; yet there is still room for improvement.
Beginning with literacy rates in Gabon, girls compare favorably with their male compatriots. According to a 2012 UNESCO study of literacy rates in Gabon, girls between the ages of 15 and 24 had a literacy rate of 89.43 percent compared with males at 87.39 percent. The female rate is above the global average for literacy.
Gender Equality and Areas to Improve
Even when taking a look at the more conventional areas of girls’ education in Gabon, there is still reason for optimism. According to statistics from the Education Policy and Data Center, primary school attendance rates are nearly even for boys and girls.
The same study by the Education Policy and Data Center explores school participation and efficiency within Gabon. One of the main ways the study measures such data is to look at the proportion of children of a certain age group who are out of school. Regarding the relationship between gender, the statistics show that the proportion of children who are out of school is actually higher for males than females.
For children aged 6-10, the study found that 5 percent of males were out of school, compared to only 3 percent of females. For children aged 10-17, the percentages differ only slightly, with 8 percent of males out of school, compared to 7 percent of females.
Wealth Levels and Enrollment
The most worrisome trend in these rates is the number of children out of school based on wealth. The amount of poor children aged 6-10 that are out of school is nearly double that of richer children, and for ages 11-17 the number is tripled.
Another trend with room for improvement is the enrollment rate of females in secondary education. Although the enrollment rate for girls is nearly equal to that of boys in primary school, the rate of female enrollment in lower and upper secondary school drops significantly when compared to males.
In lower secondary school, the women’s enrollment rate is 59 percent, compared to the men’s rate of 64 percent. In upper secondary school, the women’s enrollment rate was only 24 percent, compared to the men’s rate of 34 percent.
Women to Benefit a Nation
Such statistics illustrate a disparity between the number of women and men enrolling in secondary education, and point to the need and opportunity to introduce more women into secondary education.
If Gabonese educational policy could help encourage young girls in primary school to attend secondary education instead of more traditionally domestic tasks, the change would benefit both the nation as a whole as well as the women within its borders. Such a policy would help unleash the full potential of Gabon’s population.
Girls’ education in Gabon show signs of promise, but still remain behind countries with similar income. In order to combat the widespread poverty and unemployment that still proves endemic, Gabon must address the issues of girls education and make it a long-standing priority.
– Taylor Pace