Presented by Emmanuel S. Okafor-
Program Coordinator- Ray of Hope Empowerment Foundation
According to Alabi, Bahah et al (2014), Today’s girls are tomorrow’s women; the differential treatment of girls and boys can hardly be separated from the preferential treatment of men to women in our society. Being born and growing up as a girl in a developing society like Nigeria is almost like a curse due to contempt and ignominy treatment received from the family, the school and the society at large. The cumulative effects of these discriminatory, exploitative and unjust treatments have had profound negative impacts on education opportunities available to girl-children. This paper therefore examined the general problems facing a girl-child, the absence of political will on the part of government in the implementation of Girls Education Project and the peculiar challenges facing their education opportunities in Nigeria. Information used by the author were collected from published articles, text and internet sources. The paper highlighted some of the cultural and traditional beliefs and practices in Nigeria which constitute major barriers to the education opportunities of girl-children. The author concluded by suggesting some ways of enhancing girl-child education through holistic approach.
Introduction/ Conceptual Issues in Girl-Child and Education:
The National Child Welfare Policy (1989) as cited by Ada (2001) defines the girl-child as a female between the ages of 14years. Offorma (2009) defines it as a Biological female offspring from birth to eighteen (18) years of age. This includes the period of infancy, childhood, early and late adolescence stage of development. The girl-child is therefore seen as a female person who will eventually grow into a woman, get married and bear her own children. The gender apartheid placed the girl-child in a disadvantaged position, suppresses her potentials and destroys her self-actualization making her become a victim of a pre-existing socio-cultural male chauvinism (such character that subjects the girl-child to multiple operation, exploitation and discrimination).
The girl-child education has become a major issue of concern in most developing countries of the world especially in Sub-Sahara Africa where large numbers of young girls do not attend school. According to UNICEF (2007) as cited by Grace (2010), the global figure for out of school children is estimated to be 121million, out of which 65million (approximately 53.8%) were girls and over 80% of whom lives in Sub-Sahara Africa.
Primary school completion rates has been the lowest in the world and this remains a concern as half of the world’s out-of-school children are concentrated in 15 countries, out of which 8 are in Sub-Sahara Africa (Ibrahim 2012)
Today in Sub-Sahara Africa, the number of out of school girls had risen from 20million in 1990 to 24million in 2002 (Offorma 2009). Accordingly, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan (2011) further confirmed the fact that Nigeria has 9million out-of-school children, and this has been referred to as the highest in the whole of Africa. Nigeria is currently grappling with increasing number of out-of-school children annually. The trend varies from zone to zone. For instance, it is on record that in South-Eastern Nigeria, more boy-children are sent for apprenticeship in trading. This is the opposite case of the Northern Nigeria where there is low girl-child education as compared to boys.
So many factors have been reported to be responsible for low enrolment of girls in schools in northern Nigeria. Tyoakaa et al. (2014) in Mukhtar et al. (2011) identified religious misinterpretation, cultural practice, poverty, early marriage, illiteracy, inadequate school infrastructure as some of the factors militating against girl-child education. To majority of the parents, girl-child education is less important because no matter what level of education the girl attains, she gets married and answers another family’s name. They forgot the fact that such fulcrum of procreation requires more attention as the duty of making and sustaining homes lies on their shoulders. To some parents, western type of education is termed to be a way of negative transformation and initiation of an individual into materialism, promiscuity and inculcation of western cultural ideologies.
Statement of the Problem
Education is meant for all; in fact, it is the fundamental human right of every child whether boy or girl, able or disabled to acquire the basic education. There should therefore, be no discrimination as to who goes to school and who does not, hence education recognizes and helps to unlock the potentials in every child. Low enrolment of the girl-child in school is widening the educational and economic gap between the men and the women folks, families and Nigeria in general. The most sensitive fact about most parents, especially in the northern states is that they tend to remain tightfisted to their future as a result of their inability to invest on such CORNER STONES OF HOME OWNERS; The Girl-Children. Thus, spread the wide fire of poverty beyond their great grandchildren. Addressing the problems and challenges of girl-child education in Nigeria has become necessary in view of not only the ignorance of rural dwellers on the importance of education, but also the dehumanizing practice of keeping the girl-child out of school.
Nigeria’s Strategy for Girls:
Building on existing Child Friendly School Initiative which is supported by UNICEF, Nigeria has developed the Strategy for the Acceleration of Girls’ Education, which evolved into SAGEN and now being reinforced by the new Girls’ Education Project (GEP); a substantial measure which if firmly implemented through the established joint undertaking by the Federal Government of Nigeria, DFID and UNICEF would have met the major objectives of GEP to boost girls’ education in Northern Nigeria and accelerate progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), especially with respect to gender equity. However, the lack of political will on the part of government and poor participation of the local humanitarian service providers (NGOs/CSOs/CBOs/FBOs) as well as the traditional councils had kept the major GEP objectives listed below unattained till date.
The major objectives of the Girls’ Education Project (GEP) include but not limited to:
- Raising national awareness on girl-child education and increasing political and financial commitment through advocacy and sensitization of policy makers at all levels, parents, school authorities, other leaders and girls themselves.
- Developing technical capacity of schools and teachers’ academic skills to create girl-friendly school environments that would enhance the participation of girls and improve learning outcomes.
- Establishing Child-Friendly School principals as minimum benchmarks for effective schools, linked to community empowerment and development.
- Creating school management committees with community involvement and participation.
- Building institutional capacity for promoting girls’ education and the capacity of stakeholders on gender sensitivity and sexuality.
- Collaborating with Government and other stakeholders in reviewing existing curricula and teaching materials for gender sensitivity.
- Promoting the employment of more female teachers in the rural areas, where they are most needed to serve as role models and assist in the mentoring of out-of-school girls.
- Monitoring and evaluating of girls’ education programs and mobilizing and strengthening the Inspectorate’s role in this process.
- Promoting synergy between girls’ education and poverty alleviation programs.
- Improving service delivery with all stakeholders, providing more girls’ only schools where appropriate, and improving facilities (including access to safe water and separate toilets for girls) and instructional materials for the promotion of quality education.
Enhancing Girl-Child Education through Holistic Approach
What would it take to improve girls’ access to education? Experience in scores of countries shows the importance, among other things, of:
- Strong political will: The Federal Government through the Federal and States Ministries of education must renew its commitment with UNICEF, accept foreign partners who have shown interest in partnering with us and works in close partnership with Civil Society in both formal and non-formal sub-sectors, while expanding partnership with Civil Society Action Coalition on Education for All ( CSACEFA) – an umbrella organization encompassing NGOs around the country but should be improved to accommodate CSOs/CBOs/FBOs and traditional councils for better accomplishment of Girl Education Project.
- Parental and community involvement: Families and communities must be important partners with schools in developing curriculum and managing children’s education.
- Low-cost and flexible timetables: Basic education should be free or cost very little. Where possible, there should be stipends and scholarships to compensate families for the loss of girls’ household labor. Also, school hours should be flexible so children can help at home and still attend classes.
- Schools close to home, with women teachers: Many parents worry about girls travelling long distances on their own. Many parents also prefer to have daughters taught by women.
- Preparation for school: Girls do best when they receive early childhood care, which enhances their self-esteem and prepares them for school.
- Relevant curricula: Learning materials should be relevant to the girl’s background and be in the local language. They should also avoid reproducing gender stereotypes.
In view of the various problems affecting girl-child education in Nigeria as unraveled and the fact the GEP has not made the expected impact, Ray of Hope Empowerment Foundation suggest the below recommendations alongside some notable scholars:
- Government at all levels should make concerted effort to alleviate poverty at the grass root, as this will undoubtedly overcome the challenge of not sending the girl-children to school by parents for reason of poverty.
- The Federal, State and Local Governments should provide free, compulsory primary and secondary education in all the villages of the 774 LGAs in Nigeria by building more stand Schools, well-staffed and equipped to provide quality education so that the children can compete favorably with their counterparts from other parts of the country.
- Parents should be enlightened to encourage the girl-child to acquire basic education, at least, that will make her self-reliant and enhance her ability to secure a better future for herself.
- Federal/State/LGA Governments, NGOs, CSOs, Religious leaders and traditional councils have a major role to play in leading these awareness and enlightenment campaigns on not only the importance of western education for the girl-child but also on the need to discard the various cultural and religious misconceptions that have militated against girl-child education in Nigeria over the years.
- Governments should also make a promulgation by rising the age of marriage for girls to at least twenty (20) years of age or above.
On our part, we have commenced strategic alliance with some State Governors that have shown interest to our proposal in principles, to collaborate with us to ensure that such debilitating scourge to the girl-child is reduced to zero level before 2025. We also use this opportunity to call on all friends and associates to join force and end this set back.
Our strength no doubt, greatly depend on our wonderful friends and partners- KOREAN EMBASSY who are always determined to do Nigeria proud judging from the immense support they had rendered to the Nigerian children, youths and indigent women in our society over the years, towards breaking the poverty line that have so eaten deep into the fabrics in our communities using their long standing innovative strategies.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Despite the little achievements recorded over the years which we cannot totally ignore, a major challenge remains as over 9million school-age children still do not go to school, while good numbers of those who go to school do not complete primary 6. Additionally, the quality of what is learned at school still requires substantial improvement in teacher competences and learning environment. This low capacity not only reduces the level of learning but also compromises literacy and employment opportunities.
The Barriers to girl-child education in Nigeria to a larger extent is tied to several factors such as poverty, early marriage, cultural and religious misconceptions or misinterpretations, as well as teenage pregnancy. Various studies not mentioned here have identified religious misinterpretations, cultural practices and economic factors as issues militating against girl-child education in Nigeria especially in the north (Nwagwu, 1976; Tahir 2005; Guttman 2009). It has also been revealed that the inability of parents to provide adequate and basic education for their girl-children by sending them to school which is their sole responsibility, either as a result of illiteracy, poverty, cultural or religious misconceptions has created inequality between the male and female children enrolment in schools across most LGAs in northern Nigeria.
Thank you for your attention.
- Alabi T., Bahah M., Alabi S.O. (2014). The Girl-Child: A Sociological View on the Problems of Girl-Child Education in Nigeria – European Scientific Journal January 2014 edition vol.10, No.2 ISSN: 1857 – 7881 (Print) e – ISSN 1857- 7431
- Tyoakaa, Lazarus M., Amaka, John I. and Nor. (2014). Problems and Challenges of Girl-Child Education in Nigeria: The Situation of Kalgo Local Government Area (L.G.A) Of Kebbi State – IOSR Journal of Research & Method in Education (IOSR-JRME) e-ISSN: 2320–7388,p-ISSN: 2320–737X Volume 4, Issue 4 Ver. IV (Jul-Aug. 2014), PP 01-05
- Nigeria UNICEF Country Office (2007).Girls Education.http://www.unicef.org/wcaro-nigeria-factsheets-girlseducation.pdf.
- Offorma, G.C (2009).Girl-child Education in Africa. Keynote Address Presented at the Conference of the University Women of Africa Held in Lagos, Nigeria, 16th-19th July, 2009.
- Williams, D.H. (1960). A Short Survey of Education in Northern Nigeria. Kaduna: Government Press, Northern Region.
- Nwangwu, N.A. (1976). Universal Primary Education: Issues Prospects and Problems. Benin: Ethiope Publishers, Pp 13.