28 May, 2022


What Does The Girl Child Day Mean For Sri Lanka?

By Sujata Gamage

Dr. Sujata Gamage

The Girl Child Day was designated in 2012 to bring attention to disparities in education, nutrition, health and legal rights for young girls. Innovation in Education is the Theme for Girl Child Day for 2013.

For most developing countries, including other countries in the Indian sub-continent, innovations in education are needed indeed to get girls into schools and keep them there. Malala’s case amplifies the extreme of not even being to get to school and the need transform society as a whole to ensure the well-being of the girl child.

In contrast, girls in Sri Lanka are doing ok, if you use conventional measures.  Enrollment rates in primary education are almost 100% irrespective of gender.  Of those who enrolled in universities, say in 2012, 58% were female. True, girls make up almost 75% of enrollments in Arts stream with dismal numbers enrolled in, say, engineering, yet, the bottom line is that our girls can ace exams.

The problem lies in what we do not measure –i.e. the life skills of our young women. In Sri Lanka education has come to mean skills in passing examinations.  Life skills are paid scant attention despite the fact the stated national objectives are all about competencies for life with an emphasis on citizenship.  The situation is worsened by having a system which gives hope to each and every parent that the best possible education is available for your child, if he/she passes either of two critical exams. The government has identified 100+ schools as popular schools and sets bars each year for entering those schools using the results of Grade V Scholarship examination or GCE (O/L) examination for that year. Each year almost all of the 320,000 children compete for the, Grade V scholarship exam, for example, but the bar are set so that only 15,000 are selected. Yet, the parents have bitten the bait and are engaged in a furious race to get the best for their children, girls or boys.

As a result, our primary school children spend their days at school absorbing book knowledge, cram further at home even during vacations. This practice goes on right through their school years from Grades 1 to 13. To top it off, Sri Lankan streets are not girl-friendly.  Limited in mobility due to their gender, girls as a group end up more home-bound than their male counterparts. Even at to study. The end products are generations of women who are very limited in their exposure, experience and outlook.  If women’s wisdom was deemed to be limited to the length of the spoon or the  ‘හැදි මිටේ දිග’ today’s young women are limited by the ‘පෙලපොතේ පළල’ or the  school text books they read.  They are the mothers who drive the next generation towards more book-learning.

On this Girl-Child day let us wish more for more life experiences for our young women.  If their own families’ are the obstacles, let us wish for schools that guide them through excursions in the physical or internet world, opportunities engage in creative, active or service projects,  give them a sense adventure and an eagerness to explore the world, beyond prescribed text books and past papers.

(Thanks are due to Swarnvahini and Zonta, Sri lanka for inviting me along with Mala Thudawe, MD  to the Ayubowan programme on Swarnavahni  today  for a brief discussion. Written on Oct 11, world Child-day )

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Latest comments

  • 0

    Life skills?
    Girls are progressing in education.

    All girls must be taught the dangers of casual sex and abortion.
    Abortion rates are very high in sri lanka.
    Both sexes should be taught safe contraception.
    All contraceptives should be made available on request.
    Family Planning clinics for adult females,must function regularly.

    Senior Public Health Nurses ran “little mothers’ classes” for schoolgirls above 15 years of age in the sixties – maternity and child care were explained – child feeding and emergency care were demonstrated.
    These should be revived.

  • 0

    If women’s wisdom was deemed to be limited to the length of the spoon or the ‘හැදි මිටේ දිග’ today’s young women are limited by the ‘පෙලපොතේ පළල’ or the school text books they read. – INDEED!

    • 0

      Why this Malala story in your article. She is hijacked by a more worse group than some extremists in Afgan.

  • 0

    423 dead bodies of migrant women mostly below 30 years of age were brought to sri lanka from the Middle East in 2012.Where does the girl child stand in society? Money they send are squabbled by a ruthless Regime. As I see the broblems of our women is their silence and failure to assert themslves.

  • 0

    This article does not talk any discriminations girls in Sri Lanka. Just read sentence by sentence it hans not said any problems that girl child is facing.

    Probably you did now want to discuss the forcing of girls to wear hijab or what ever muslim veil – like things. Because right now those things are banned to talk subjects in Sri Lanka. Did you try to be dishinese there ?

    “If women’s wisdom was deemed to be limited to the length of the spoon or the ‘හැදි මිටේ දිග’ today’s young women are limited by the ‘පෙලපොතේ පළල’ or the school text books they read.”

    You became very DISHONEST here. You pulled something from the past and ACCUSED THE sRI lANKAN SOCIETY FOR THAT.

    Instead you should have talked about HIP HOP and R & B culture that has introduced to Sri Lanka and that uses girls as SIMPLE SEXUAL OBJECTS.

    Were you honest in your writing s or did you do enough research before writing this crap article ?

    How about girls are not behaving as disciplined individuals they themselves chase for that indisciplined culture. Why did not you talk about personal responsibility to be taught to girls ?

  • 0

    If women’s wisdom was deemed to be limited to the length of the spoon or the ‘හැදි මිටේ දිග’ today’s young women are limited by the ‘පෙලපොතේ පළල’ or the school text books they read.”

    EVERY SOCIETY HAS THIS KIND OF STATEMENTS WHICH CAME FROM THEIR OLD WAYS. Sri Lanka was still superb if you compare it with respect to the societies that boast highest conditions with respect to women’s rights.

    What you have stated is the OLD Sri Lankan society. But, Sri Lanka has not treated women that way at all. Just read the history.

    On the other hand, you neglected Hip & R & B culture, and how it is degrading women or girls ?

  • 0

    Dear Dr.

    Please give some definition to ” The female human”.

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