Statistically, Anna Daniel stood little chance of completing her master’s degree at the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) last year.
While she beat the odds and graduated as the one in her family with the highest education, the general rule is that many Tanzanian girls make it to secondary school, fewer to university and even less to postgraduate school.
According to Tanzania’s Vice President Samia Suluhu, girls in the country are, now more than ever, able to reach their goals after the introduction of the 11-year free education programme. Although studies show that there have been an increase in primary school enrolments between 2012 and 2016, in 2016 there was still a 76 per cent difference between enrolment of girls into Standard 1 and into Form One.
Not only is Anna then in a minority group of young women who get a chance to enrol into university, she also chose a male dominated field of study
“Most people think only men can do math, but I wanted to show that women can do it too. My fellow secondary students, some relatives and even a friend told me to study something else. But we women have an equal chance now – so why not?” 28-year-old Anna asks.
Anna’s master’s degree is rare. In 2014, just over 2 per cent of Tanzanian women had completed a tertiary education, and only 0.8 per cent had a university degree, according to the NBS report Women and Men in Tanzania
Between 2015-2016, about 7,000 women signed up for college or university while over 12,000 men did the same.
The trend continued last year, where about twice as many men as women enrolled in a tertiary education, according to World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2017. So, what restricts young women from pursuing further studies?
Director of the Gender Centre at University of Dar es Salaam Professor Eugenia Kafanabo highlights two reasons.
“In primary school we almost have gender parity, but as the girls grow, other things happen. Some fall out because of pregnancy and some get married. It is like a push, and it is often themselves who want to get married, because their friends are doing it too. There is a lot of peer pressure,” she says.
According to the 2017 Global Gender Gap Report, Tanzanian primary schools now house equal numbers of girls and boys and at secondary level, there are slightly more boys than girls. In 2016, 901,059 girls were enrolled in secondary school, along with 905,896 boys, data from the Pre-Primary, Primary and Secondary Education Statistics in Brief by the Tanzanian government shows.
But after secondary school, women replace classroom lessons with homely chores and it is often difficult to return to books and assignments, Professor Kafanabo argues.
This brings the question of education down to a matter of financial resources, and without higher education women are less likely to obtain a well-paid job. The tool GenderGap.Africa shows that Tanzanian men generally earn 39 per cent more than women. According to Professor Kafanabo, there is a risk that the low level of education will have implications for the next generation.
“If the woman in a family is not well educated, it becomes very hard for her to push for her children. Then it creates a vicious circle,” she explains.
“They didn’t expect me to manage”
For Anna Daniel, pregnancy almost put an end to her studies. When she applied for a graduate course in Mathematical Sciences at AIMS, she was seven months pregnant. She didn’t expect to be selected for the programme, but she had to try,
“Four days after I delivered my baby, I got an email from AIMS saying that I could start the course. I didn’t know what to do. The baby was very young, and a master’s degree is very busy,” she recalls.
She found out that she could start the course three months later, and with the help of her husband she rented a room near the institute and hired a nanny. For the coming months, she would shuttle between school and breastfeeding.
“I said; this chance only comes once. And I managed. They didn’t expect me to manage,” she says.
But not everyone can afford to combine maternity with studies. 31-year old Jackie Leonard Bomboma’s pregnancy at 15 put everything to a full stop.
“When I got pregnant it was the end of everything according to my family and friends. They didn’t want to help me, and with no support I just survived from day to day,” she remembers.
Today she is the founder of the organization Young Strong Mothers Foundation that helps other mothers out of the predicament she found herself in. She believes there is a need for a collective push and support of girls’ education.
“All the girls know, is that they should wake up in the morning to go to school, but they don’t have a clear goal. It is not only about doing well in school, it is about having a plan for the future. The only way you can make it as a young woman is through education,” Ms. Bomboma says.
– The Citizen