Although Yasmin Mohamed Ahmed is confident that she will do well in this year’s Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examination, whatever happens, she has already achieved more than most girls in Garissa County.
Many of the girls who started Standard One at the same time as her dropped out of school and got married a long time ago.
In last year’s KCSE examination, girls constituted 29 per cent and boys 71 per cent of the candidates in Garissa. The share of girls sitting the examination improved by one per cent over the previous year in the county that tied in second place from the rear with Mandera, a Nation Newsplex review of education data reveals.
"Sometimes bright girls end up performing dismally in school just because they are bullied by boys."
“When your classmate is married off, it destroys your morale for studying,” said the 18-year-old student at Umu Salama Girls Secondary School in Garissa.
The former Children Assembly speaker said lack of basic needs also force girls to stay at home.
The head of the Parents Teachers Association Garissa branch Ibrahim Mohamed Omar agrees with her. “Girls are faced with a lot of challenges and teachers are required to give special consideration for them to perform in the national examinations,” he said.
Omar said political leaders are partly to blame for the poor state of education in the county since they had not made any effort to build boarding facilities for girls so that they can be retained in schools allowing them more studying time.
Mr Hassan Farah, a head teacher at Masalani Primary School in Ijara Sub-county, said many girls in the area skip school to do house chores such as fetching water, firewood and taking care of younger.
Farah, who is also Ijara Sub-county Kenya Primary School Head Association (KEPSHA) Chairman, said the Somali culture values the education of boys more than girls.
He said another factor that makes boys perform better than girls in national examinations is that boys interact more with teachers than girls who are expected to be submissive and shy.
“Sometimes bright girls end up performing dismally in school just because they are bullied by boys and in the process they feel unprotected and demoralised in their study,” said Farah.
He said that another major issue that leads to girls dropping out of school in Northeastern counties is early marriage.
Last year girls made up 28 per cent and boys 72 per cent of KCSE candidates in Wajir, the county that recorded the widest gender gap. The share of girls sitting the examination in Wajir dropped by one per cent compared to 2014, according to the Newsplex analysis.