Dear Ban Ki-moon… Isn't 45 kids in a classroom too many?

Poor quality education leads girls in the Philippines into early marriages. The Girl Declaration is here to change that

The Girl Declaration was created by 25 development organisations after speaking with girls in poverty in 14 countries. Here, Angeline Martyn from Save the Children writes about what she heard from girls in the Philippines…


Dear Ban Ki-moon,

Monday morning in the Philippines. Whether you're a young girl in the heaving metropolis of Manila or in the lush, green communities of rural Mindanao, it's time for another school run. Nothing unusual there, you're probably thinking; but the challenges these girls face in getting an education most certainly are.

In Mindanao - where fishermen, farmers and children are the most impoverished - travelling to school is a constant challenge, as routes are often unsafe or simply inaccessible.
In Manila, classrooms are overcrowded and hard for girls to gain access to. Monica, one of the girls we spoke to during the Girl Declaration consultations, told me: "There are 45 kids in my class. It's noisy, I can't concentrate."
Poverty in the Philippines can almost always be traced back to inadequate or non-existent education for girls.

Education costs

The girls here all aspire to finish school. "If you have a good education, all the other issues can be resolved," one girl told me.

But money is one of the biggest roadblocks. Families cannot afford the tuition, exam fees, uniforms and sometimes the cost of losing an extra pair of hands in the family home.
When girls do get to school, they have to fight for their right to stay there. Sometimes girls even need to battle within their own families to stay in school.  
"I was told by my father to stop going to school and to take care of my younger brother," one girl told us. "I convinced him to let me go, but my other brother was then pulled out of school to care for my younger sibling."

Child marriage

When girls are taken out of school a dangerous cycle begins. No education means no skills and no earning power in later life. Girls are then seen as a drain on the family income, so parents look to get them married to secure their future.

In the T'boli tribe in Mindanao, girls get married as early as the age of nine. When I asked the girls I met about the age they wanted to get married, they gave answers ranging from 29 to 33 - a difference of at least 20 years from the reality for some girls.
They told me: "Those who are forced aren't happy, but they follow what their parents have decided."

Prosperous future

Wherever they were from, all the girls I spoke to wanted the same things: education, delayed marriage and the chance to work towards a good life for themselves and their families.

"I want to be a flag so everyone will notice me and look up to me; I want to be a bird so I can soar," said one young girl.         

Together we can ensure a more prosperous economic future for these girls, their communities, their countries and the world - but only if we pay attention to what they're saying.

You can help these girls achieve their hopes and dreams. Will you?


Yours sincerely, 



The Girl Declaration has launched. Read it to find out how girls from the Philippines have shaped what it says

Join the conversation on Twitter using #GirlDeclaration