Nowadays 96% of South African children aged 7–13 are doing a primary education. But this was not always the case. There was a time when it was unusual there to be able to go to school. Many guys but mainly girls had a hard time trying to get a decent education. The government schools struggle with many challenges including a poor quality of education, low teacher morale, the impact of HIV and AIDS, poor infrastructure, not enough water, a low public health and poor technics for inclusive education particularly for children with disabilities. Many learners from poor families go to school hungry. Girls and young women still report high levels of sexual abuse, intimidation, exploitation and murder in their schools. Girls are socialised to become home keepers and child-bearers, so they place less value on their educational. When girls perform well in subjects such as maths or science, they are not encouraged and they mostly don’t have the confidence to pursue careers that rely on these skills. Many schools are not child or girl friendly. Some are situated far from homes, exposing girls to danger when they walk to and from school. Girls are at risk of being sexually harassed and exploited in schools by teachers and fellow students. And almost a million children under the age of 15 have lost their parents or caregivers to AIDS. Girls often drop out of school to look after sick family members and younger siblings. Many teachers there also have HIV and AIDS.
In 2003, the South African Minister of Education set up the Girls’ Education Movement (GEM). GEM is an African movement where children and young people in schools and communities in South Africa work to bring positive changes in the lives of African girls and boys. GEM aims to:
- Give girls equal access to education
- Improve the quality of education, especially in disadvantaged schools
- Make the school program and school books gender responsive
- Create schools that are safe and secure for children, especially girls
- Work with boys as strategic partners
- decrease gender-based violence
- Abolish harmful cultural practices such as early marriage GEM has had a lot of success and they helped many schools, they are supported by UNICEF. They made the life a big amount of girls a lot better. There are a lot of other organisations that try to get more fair rights for the girls in South Africa.
Women´s rights in South Africa during the wars
The Boer Wars were two wars fought during 1880–1881 and 1899–1902 by the British Empire against two independent Boer republics, the Orange Free State and the Transvaal Republic. ( ‘Boer’ is the Dutch and African word for farmer. ) Boer women, children and men that weren’t fit enough to work for the British were put together in concentration camps during Boer War 2. The first two of these camps were established to house the families of cities who had surrendered voluntarily, but very soon, families that were a burden for the British were driven forcibly into camps that were established all over the country, the camps first stayed refugee camps but they later became concentration camps. The horrible conditions in these camps caused the death of 4 177 women, 22 074 children under sixteen and 1 676 men, mainly those too old to be on commando. The white and the black people were put in different camps. All women and children were put in concentration camps rightaway, they were treated very badly. The white camps had it much better than the black camps. Field-Marshal Lord Roberts had another motive to put Blacks into camps, namely to make them work, either to grow crops for the troops or to dig trenches, be wagon drivers or work as miners. They did not receive food, hardly any medical support or shelter and were expected to grow their own crops. The strong-bodied who could work, could exchange labour for food or buy a meal for a cheap price. In 1901, 22 of January, At the Boschhoek concentration camp for Blacks, about 1 700 black, hold a protest meeting. They state that when they have been brought into the camps they have been promised that they will be paid for all their stock taken by the British, for all grain destroyed and that they will be fed and looked after. They are also unhappy because “… they receive no food while the Boers who are the cause of the war are fed for free in the refugee camps…” While the war lasts, more and more concentration camps are set up for women and children, and more and more deaths were recorded.