International Day of the Girl Child 2020: Access to Education
Education is a necessary tool for any society’s progress. It is one of the major factors that can make or mar a culture’s development.The Nigerian Constitution makes provision for the right to equal and adequate educational opportunities at all levels, however, this is still a far cry from Nigeria’s reality. The problem of lack of access to education in Nigeria is one that affects all genders and ages in the society, however, like most issues, this issue is not gender neutral, and girls are the most disadvantaged.
Girl-Child Education Statistics in Nigeria:
The population of out of school children in Nigeria has risen from 10.5 million to 13.2 million; the highest in the world.3
Out of the total number of out of school children in Nigeria, girls represent 60% of this population.4
The number of out-of-school girls in Nigeria is highest in the North where in the North-East only 41% of eligible girls receive a primary education and only 47% in the North-West.5
Factors Affecting Girl-Child Education in Nigeria
There are numerous factors militating against girl child education in Nigeria. They include, but are not limited to, religious misinterpretation, cultural practices, poverty, early marriage, illiteracy, and inadequate school infrastructure.6 Because of the existence of all these factors, girl-child education is usually sacrificed in order to preserve norms and stereotypes and protect families from hardship.
Gender Stereotypes: In a typical family setting in Nigeria, girls are trained for domestic labour and childbearing. Various cultural practices and religious beliefs allow such discriminatory attitudes to thrive and so the education of girls is seen as of less importance than that of boys. To them, no matter what level of education the girl attains, her highest achievement will always be her marriage and the fulfilment of her wifely and motherly responsibilities.
Disdain for Western Education: 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.7 The Qur’anic education which about 30% of Muslim children in the North-east and North-west regions of Nigeria attend does not include basic education skills such as literacy and numeracy.8 Such disdain for western education has also caused the destructive activities of the Boko Haram terrorist group in the North which has discouraged girl-child education.
Poverty: In 2019, the poverty headcount rate in Nigeria showed that in total, 40.1% of the population in Nigeria lived in poverty.9 Due to the financial inability of poorer families to support the education of all their children, they made to choose which children to support through school and the boys are usually favoured over girls.
Importance of Girl-Child Education
The developmental impacts of girl-child education to a nation are numerous. According to the UNESCO Institute of Statistics:
a child born to a mother who can read and write is 50% more likely to survive past the age of five.10
if every woman in Sub-Saharan Africa completed their primary school education, maternal mortality would fall by 70%.11
a woman who is educated is more likely to send her children to school as well, thus decreasing generational poverty.
each additional year of schooling can raise a girl’s future earning power by up to 20%.12
Encouraging Girl-child Education
Poverty alleviation: Poverty is one of the major driving forces behind lack of access to education for the girl-child. The government should embark on schemes that provide resources for poorer families to pay for education for all of their children as well as reduce the rate of poverty.
Public Awareness Campaigns: Such campaigns should be organised by the government and public bodies to enlighten the masses on the ills of withholding education from the girl-child.
Public Libraries: Good public libraries should be made available in the country with free quality resource material to encourage reading and knowledge development for those unable to attend formal school.
Policies: The government and law-making bodies should create policies that encourage education for girls and deter parents and guardians from withdrawing them from schools, including punitive policies.
Alternative Opportunities for Dropouts: Where girls are forced to drop-out of school, alternative modes of education should be provided for them such as evening schools, online courses, or extramural education.15
Girls and, by extension, women generally have not been accorded equal status with men in society. The girl-child in society is not seen and respected as a full human being as she should be and is therefore susceptible to a myriad of discriminations. However, through the granting of her rights and unrestrained access to free and compulsory quality education, she can be empowered to achieve her freedom, development, and self-actualisation.