Nigeria has the highest proportion of out-of-school children in the world. A closer look at the numbers reveals that most of these children are girls. Nigerian girls face a myriad of challenges, including gender discrimination, early marriage, early childbirth, inadequate access to quality healthcare, child labor and trafficking, female genital mutilation, sexual violence, and abuse to name a few. The solution to overcoming these obstacles is empowering and educating girls to make them aware of their rights and privileges and help them escape poverty, make better choices, and be self-reliant.
Education is the bedrock for national development and when you educate a girl, you educate a nation, leading to a better society for future generations. Science, technology, and innovation are the forces that drive the economy of the nation, and encouraging our girls' participation in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) will help in building our nation, Nigeria. Here are three ways we can move forward along this path:
Creating the right environment. We must strive to support administrators and educators to create a favorable environment in schools that is inviting to girls. When they are exposed to science and technology, they are encouraged to study these disciplines and their genuine interests and talents will be developed. This has already kicked off in Nigeria where many NGOs are carrying out STEM-based programs for girls.
Supporting girls through mentoring. Getting a mentor at an early age can help build confidence, which can translate to career satisfaction. Mentors should take interest in long-time advancement and have the capacity to assist the girls and lead them to success. Mentorship in STEM will greatly benefit Nigerian girls and enable them reach career goals. Also, introducing female role models in STEM like scientists, engineers, researchers, doctors, professors, computer scientists, and pharmacists will encourage and prepare them for a future in STEM.
Providing adequate resources. Once programs have been established, educational resources are necessary to enable participation in STEM. Students should have access to vast online resources available and schools should be provided with computers, internet facilities, books, and other study materials. Our girls can also be enrolled in hands-on vacation or after-school STEM programs, and also be encouraged to create or join science clubs for girls.
We need to support the participation of Nigerian girls in STEM and give them the opportunity to be curious and adventurous. When these girls grow into women with excellent skills in science, technology, and innovation, they in turn will contribute meaningfully to building and advancing our nation.