Skip to main content

Cookies on the Irish Aid website

We use cookies to give the best experience on our site while also complying with Data Protection requirements. Continue without changing your settings, and you'll receive cookies, or change your cookie settings at any time.

Girls' Education

Increasing the education level of girls has many positive personal, social and economic benefits. We ensure that education policies and programmes take account of and respond to the needs of girls and young women.  

Schoolchildren performing a dance

Girls’ education matters

A child born to a mother who can read is 50% more likely to survive past the age of five. And each extra year of a mother’s schooling reduces the probability of infant mortality by 5% to 10%.

Children of educated mothers are more likely to vaccinated and less likely to be stunted because of malnourishment.

Education is one of the strongest antidotes to maternal risk. Women with higher levels of education are more likely to delay and space out pregnancies, and to seek health care and support.

And women with post-primary education are five times more likely than illiterate women to be educated on the topic of HIV and AIDS.

Girls education is lagging behind

Every girl has the right to education but there are 39 million 11-15-year-old girls out of school today (UNESCO 2012).

Primary school completion for girls and transition to secondary school lags behind that for boys, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.

The world has made great progress in increasing the enrolment of girls in primary school. But if the benefits of education are to be realised, girls’ attendance at school - not just their enrolment must improve.

Girls’ transition, from primary to secondary is also essential if girls are to achieve a level of education that will be of benefit.

In Zambia, for example, girls are far more likely to drop out of school. 27% of women in rural areas have no education compared to 18% of males. Pregnancy, early marriage and poverty are intrinsically linked and are the main challenges Zambian girls face in staying in school, particularly in rural areas.

The pressures on girls to stay at home, especially if they come from a poor rural household, are many. They may be required to care for a sick relative or to help out with household chores. Too often, girls are kept at home from secondary school because there are no proper toilets or they experience violence or abuse.

In addition, the reality of early pregnancies and early marriage also works against girls’ attendance at secondary school.

For children to learn at a particular standard, the school environment needs to safe and children need to be protected from harm. For many children, particularly girls, this is not the case and too often their experience of school includes exploitation and abuse.

Girls in their schoolroom

Our response

We support a range of initiatives aimed at not only getting more girls into school but, importantly, helping them to complete their primary schooling and progress to secondary level. 

Every girl has the right to education but there are 39 million 11-15-year-old girls out of school today (UNESCO 2012).

In doing so, we work closely with Ministries of Education, international partners, including the Global Partnership for Education and civil society and community organisations.

Making schools safe places for girls

In Zambia and Mozambique, we support initiatives that ensure that schools are girl-friendly, that appropriate sanitation facilities are available and that community awareness on safety at school is increased.  

We have partnered with the Campaign for Global Education (CAMFED) to secure a National Child Protection Policy for schools In Zambia.

Promoting role models for girls

Women teachers have an important role to play as role models for young female students.   We support the recruitment, training and deployment of female teachers especially to rural areas where the school attendance of girls is low.

The provision of scholarships

Through our civil society and government partners in Lesotho, Uganda and Zambia, we fund a number of scholarships for girls to attend secondary school.

Support for advocacy

Raising awareness about the benefits of girl’s attendance at school for the whole community is important if we are to reach our goal of universal primary education.

We provide support for civil society organisations such as Concern and Plan who work with communities to advocate for and hold their governments to account for the provision of girl-friendly and girl-safe schools in their area.

Learn more about our work in education

Read about how we support education programmes in our partner countries