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  • Victoria Ajayi-Bembe

International Women’s Day: Breaking the Bias in Education in Nigeria

In 1910, during the second International Conference of Working Women, Clara Zetkin (Leader of the 'Women's Office' for the Social Democratic Party in Germany) proposed the idea of an annual International Women's Day (IWD) Celebration. The event was not just to celebrate the incredible strides women were making in diverse fields, but also to serve as day for women to speak up on issues that are affecting them. Today, IWD has become an important day to women all over the world.

The theme of this year’s celebration is “Break the Bias,” and it seeks to both celebrate women who are breaking the bias in their fields, and highlight places where inequalities still exist. One of these key areas is the education sector.

Gender is one of the systematic sources of inequality in education.

According to UNESCO, globally, Nigeria has the highest rate of out-of-school children, approximately 57% of whom are girls. Girls who do not receive an education are often forced into child marriages, experience unwanted pregnancies, and pregnancy-related complications. They, and their children, often face financial insecurity, malnutrition, domestic violence, and are less likely to contribute towards sustainable socioeconomic development.

The situation is worse in the northern part of the country where girls’ access to education is limited and discriminatory. In certain communities, education is considered the prerogative of men/boys. Girls are disadvantaged in education as they receive less attention from teachers and limited access to higher education. Such attitude results in discrimination between boys and girls, forcing girls to leave school earlier than boys and giving boys an advantage in continued schooling and better performance.

Another factor affecting girls’ education in Nigeria is the lack of security as well as questionable religious practices. For example, on 15 April 2014, 276 girls were kidnapped by Boko Haram from their school in Chibok in Borno State in Northeastern Nigeria. The Islamist terrorist group does not believe that girls should attend school, and these girls were targeted precisely because they were in school. According to Premium Times, from 2014 to 2020, Nigeria witnessed at least 11 cases of kidnapping of pupils and students from their schools. Over 700 students and pupils have been kidnapped since December 2020.

Majority of these kidnappings are schoolgirls, further reducing the number of girls in schools. A policy brief published on the occasion of the 2017 PRIO Annual Peace Address with Obiageli Ezekwesili, showed that educational inequalities in Nigeria are reinforced by regional, cultural, and gender-based divisions. In short, according to the brief, “the North is less educated than the south, Muslims receive less education than Christians, and girls suffer from a gender-bias in favor of boys.”

At GGAC, we look to support the most vulnerable girls in the community and give them a chance to have access to quality education. We contribute to dismantling the frameworks that reinforce gender inequalities and discrimination by creating initiatives to keep more girls in school and providing an empowering environment to protect their rights. We envision a world of equal opportunities for all children and youth, and believe it starts with empowering young girls and women in Nigeria. Our primary mission is to engage and empower girls and young women from disadvantaged backgrounds and marginalized communities across Nigeria through improved access to quality education, mentoring, skills training, and avenues for advocacy.

Together, we can break the bias of inequality in the educational sector in Nigeria. You can join the fight with us by donating to our cause.

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