The Hard Road to Acquiring Human Capital

The BBC has a poignant photoessay on the difficulties girls often face in Tanzania in acquiring an education.  Of course the same is true around the world in developing countries, but it was a good reminder that the obstacles to education are often much more severe than we think.

The photoessay follows 8-year old Sylvia, who lives in rural Tanzania, on her 1.5 hour trek to school each morning.  Here are a list of just some of the difficulties that she faces:

1. She only has flip flops, which aren’t well suited to the terrain and she gets cuts and scratches on her feet and legs.  When the flip flops wear out though, she will have to go barefoot.

2. Her family can only afford one school uniform and she isn’t allowed to attend class if it is dirty.

3. She must watch for snakes in the deep brush.

4.  Walking on the railroad tracks is easier in terms of terrain but also more dangerous because of the trains.

5.  She almost always walks alone and there is a real threat of kidnapping and sexual abuse.

6.  The roads are incredibly dusty in the dry season and covered in deep mud in the rainy season.

7. Her stepfather may decide it isn’t worth it to send her to secondary school, which is not free in Tanzania.  According to the article, only 32% of girls who graduate from primary school move on to secondary school studies in the country.

This isn’t from the photoessay, but here is a photo of schoolgirls waiting for class to begin in Tanzania.




h/t @RachelStrohm

Water and girls’ education

Gayle Tzemach Lemmon has a nice post called Water Hauling and Girls’ Education.  In it, she discusses interesting new research showing a negative and significant relationship between girls’ education and the length of time it takes them to haul water back to their homes (most often considered women’s work in the developing world).

For instance, a new World Bank working paper Water Hauling and Girls’ School Attendance Some New Evidence From Ghana by Céline Nauges and Jon Strand shows that “a halving of water fetching time increases girls’ school attendance by 2.4 percentage points on average, with stronger impacts in rural communities” and that “the results seem to be the first definitive documentation of such a relationship in Africa.”

Similarly, Gayatri Koolwal and Dominique van de Walle, in a paper forthcoming in Economic Development and Cultural Change called Access to Water, Women’s Work and Child Outcomes find that, “a one hour reduction in the time spent to walk to the water source increases girls’ school enrollment rates by about 10 percentage points in Yemen, and by about 12 percentage points in Pakistan.”

While this has long been suspected based on anecdotal evidence, it is good to see researchers documenting the phenomena empirically.

h/t Tom Murphy