By Daniel Wesangula
NAIROBI, June 19 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Girls' school attendance in East Africa almost doubles when students of both sexes are taught about sex, relationships and money, a charity said on Monday, highlighting how the attitudes of boys influence the educational success of girls.
Asante Africa Foundation said girls' attendance increased by 80 percent in Kenyan and Tanzanian schools where its project taught about 9,000 adolescent girls, 3,000 mothers and 500 boys about problems like teenage pregnancy and domestic violence.
"If we want to ensure that the next generation of women are given the chance to receive a quality education then we must train our boys to be champions for girls' equality," Erna Grasz, founder of the U.S.-based charity, said in a statement.
Two-thirds of the countries with the greater gender gap between boys and girls in school are in sub-Saharan Africa, largely due to culture and poverty.
Poor girls in rural East Africa often drop out of school when their periods start, as their families regard this as a sign that they are old enough to be married off, or have sex to pay for basic needs.
After taking part in the programme, boys started listening to girls more and helped them come up with income-generating ideas, like making jewellery and rearing chickens, the charity said.
"The boys of today are the husbands and fathers of tomorrow," the report said, highlighting the need to change boys' attitudes towards traditions like female genital mutilation to end such practices.
Mothers were brought in to talk about puberty and finances, while students had frank discussions with slightly older girls about taboos like backstreet abortions, Asante Africa said.
At current rates, the world is set to miss a target for all children to go to secondary school by 2030 by more than half a century, according to the U.N. educational body UNESCO.
(Reporting by Daniel Wesangula; Editing by Katy Migiro; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org to see more stories.)