Every day our Ugandan women, like most poor Ugandans, must make heart wrenching choices about what to do with their meager resources. Eventually, this may involve deciding to send the eldest boy to secondary school while leaving the girls behind. While babies and toddlers may have similar upbringings, differences begin to surface as early as first grade.
What this means is that while girls may begin school in equal numbers with boys, they quickly begin to fall behind because they may more often be kept at home for household duties such as cooking, cleaning, carrying water and watching younger siblings. Soon, they drop in class rankings, eventually becoming “unsuccessful” in their school efforts. They become discouraged when this happens and begin to give up on whatever their goals might have been.
By the time they reach even third and fourth grade, the number of girls as a percentage starts to decline. By sixth grade, they may be half as much as the number of boys in the class. When the major national exam comes at the end of sixth grade, very few girls are left to take the exam. Because of this, especially in rural northern Uganda, few girls progress on to either secondary or vocational school.