Millions of girls are not in school in sub-Saharan Africa. Is it a privilege that few can afford?
How can more African women get educated?
"To educate girls is to reduce poverty," says Kofi Annan. But what do you think? How much does it cost to educate a girl child? What are the benefits?
The United Nations' Millennium Development Goals include the eradication of extreme poverty, universal access to primary education (age 7-14 years) and the promotion of gender equality as their top three objectives.
All three of these involve the education of girls.
In high-income countries, 95% as many girls as boys attend primary and secondary schools. But in sub-Saharan Africa the figure is just 60%.
How realistic are these Millennium Goals? Do they touch your life? What stops us educating our girl children?
The BBC World Service programme Africa Live! debates these and others issues on Wednesday 9 July at 1630 and 1830 GMT.
Use the form to send us your comments, some of which will be published below.
If you would like to take part in the discussion, e-mail us with your telephone number, which will not be published.
In the Middle East lip service is paid to educating girls. They are seen as fetching a higher dowry, but they are not expected to use their education in any meaningful way outside the home. Marriage in many countries is legalised slavery. Can you imagine having to seek permission from your husband to leave the house even just to go shopping? Western women have no concept of how lucky they are.
I think the IMF and World Bank have caused all these problems and that they should be dissolved.
The typical African family sees sending a girl to learn "foreign ways" as anti-domestic. It will divert the girls attention from regular household chores and make her wiser. You can compare African Women with the Biblical "Eve" who was not to touch the "forbidden fruit".
Musu Stewart, US
One challenge we need to address is the economic usefulness of teenage girls as opposed to teenage boys. For an impoverished family, she can sell wares for Mom in the local market, she may serve as a maid or she may be used as a pawn. For example she may used in exchange for food in famine situations. In some parts of Ghana, the World Food Program and Catholic Relief Services hand out rations for girls to take home from school. This augments their attendance and retention rates. Educating a girl is surely the way to educate the whole world.
Issah Abaneh Fuseini, Ghana
I do not think this is a problem in Africa today. But, if there is a reason, then it is poverty. What most poorer families will do is to send the intelligent ones to school and the non-intelligent ones to the street to sell basic commodities to support the family irrespective of gender.
Evans Arthur, Ghana/Malaysia
As the saying goes, when you educate a man, you educate an individual, when you educate a woman (or girl) you educate a nation.
I am a Gambian-born US-raised Muslim Sonike woman. My mother was not educated nor my father, yet, he went on to do so later in life. Many of my people believe that a woman who is educated will not have time to learn to take care of the house and other "womanly" tasks - cooking, cleaning, caring for the children and farming. I am a prime example of a woman who was schooled and finds it very difficult to marry a Soninke man from my village. According to him I am not a woman. I am doing a man's job - working out of the house and bringing in the same or more money. He feels less of a man if I, a woman, am doing "his" job.
Kadiatou Sibi, US
It is not an issue of cost but culture. Male dominant society wants to control their female population by denying them access to education. Until women are viewed as equals, which may never happen in some of these countries, the situation will not change.
Here is a proverb: One can never claim possession of an animal that is not properly trapped.
Education is the major force that propells all major economies in the World today. I am of the belief that what is good for a boy is also good for a girl. Girl's education is a right not a priviledge.
Nana Poku, Accra-Ghana
I think that it inappropriate to conclude that all parts of sub-Saharan Africa are guilty of discouraging the education of females. The Moslem religion discourages Western education especially for girls. I believe Illiteracy is predominantly in Moslem regions of sub-saharan countries
Frank O, Nigeria/USA
I too will blame the Moslem church. I saw this in Ghana where Moslem girls stay home. The other problem is rural poverty. Whilst there are primary schools in most villages, the secondary schools are in town. Another problem is that teachers are paid so little and it does not benefit them to go to the village to teach. Governments in African should make school free and compulsory for girls, similar to Affirmative Action in the USA. And even prosecute parents who fail!
J Appiah Mensah, Ghana
I totally disagree with those that put the blame on Islam. It is just fanatics that are misunderstanding the Quran. Infact, the book preaches about the importance of education for all mankind. As far as I am concerned the problems are cultural beliefs and lack of education, especially in my country Sierra Leone. Make education free.
Girls are wealth. If they get educated, they might not be respectful.
Manyanga Gak, Sudan/U.S.A
I am astonished to know such problems exist in any sister African country. In Sudan the ratio of girls to boys in the universities is 60% to 40% which speaks for itself.
Omer elfarouk Mirghani, Sudan
After independence, many sub-Saharan countries instituted government-funded, public education. This was destroyed about 20 years ago by IMF/World Bank demands. School fees became unattainable for many people. Combined with poverty, the results were a low number of girls receiving education.
Jocelyn Keith-Asante, Canada
Have we paused to consider the number of boys outside the classroom? The phenomenon of higher school drop-out rates is due to attention given to girls education at the expense of boys. Consider the social impact - more armed robbery and gangsterism. We must give all equal attention.
Freeman Tettey, Ghana
Everyone in my country is trying to get educated irrespective of their gender. The thing to realise is the basic need for education for all.
The greatest factor that prevent African girls from going to school is poverty - the father of all WOES in the dark continent.
Joseph K. Olatunbosun, Gambia
They say behind every successful man is a woman. In a traditional Tonga setup, a girl is expected to clean the house, take care of the children, fetch the water from as far as 5km and at the end of the day do the cooking as well. How can she find time to study? Girls are seen as a source of bridal wealth (lobola) whereas parents believe an educated boy will bring something into the family. Girls are easily intimidated at school. Sometimes teachers will molest them sexually and the only way they can escape is to stop going to school. We need good practical policies on the importance of a girl's education. Radio can play a strong role in sensitising parents as well.
Matongo Maumbi, Chikuni, Zambia
When African girls get married they belong to different families. Educating or sending girls to school may be considered a lost investment by some. In order to get more African girls educated, you need to educate their parents first. African girls whose parents have some kind of education will send their daughters to school regardless of cultural and financial constraints.
Wilson Emaanzi, Canada
In the 1950s in the United States it was considered a waste to send girls to college. The only way to get girls into school was to explain now it would make them better wives and mother. And to pay for the cost.
Anastasia White, USA
During a recent trip to Zambia I had the priviledge of visiting numerous schools that were either part of ROCS (Reformed Open Community Schools) or ZOCS (Zambian Open Community Schools). Not only was I welcomed into the schools but I was also invited to spend time at the homes of several teachers. The inequality between husband and wife is very evident. There was neither affection nor respect shown to the wives. But, interestingly enough, fathers were openly loving with their daughters. I think fathers want their daughters to become educated, respected professionals. But they want their wives to be subserviant homemakers. There is a definite double standard.
Tim Laughlin, USA
I belong to the Mandingo tribe, who are notorious for their lack of interest in the education of girls. This was similarly true with the boys and what our parents called "the white man's education", but is slowly wearing away. There is a misconception amongst traditionalists that we are living in a man's world. Women are more or less servants. I have also heard them say "If you want perpetual trouble, marry an educated woman".
Boakai Fofana, Liberia/Guinea
Most African girls do not go to school because of 1/ traditonal believe 2/by getting married at a young stage and 3/ most of them believe they will survive through men. Due to that they won't treat education seriously.
Ferenkeh, Sierra Leone
Lets call a spade a spade. Sub-Saharan African Moslem leaders need to be brought to question. I am from Cameroon, but have also lived in Nigeria, and the degree to which girls are marginalized in the Islamic sections of both countries are tell-tale. Islam has and continues to be an impediment to women's emancipation.
Che Sunday, Cameroon/USA
The problem is that there there is no law forcing parents to send there children to school. So, if we want to have more girls in schools, just like boys, our governments must prosecute parents who frustrate the education of the girl-child.
Denis Ocwich, Uganda
Because there is no money.
Women keep women out of school. It is the women who keep their daughters out saying a woman's place is in the kitchen and with her husband. They quote long-time traditions as their back up. Christianity does not help either.