Girl-child education in Nigeria has many challenges. They include gender discrimination, cultural and religious limitations, poverty, illiteracy, among others. Education is a basic human right and has been recognised as such since the 1948 adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. A positive correlation exists between the enrolment of girls in primary school and the gross national product and increase of life expectancy. Because of this correlation, enrolment in school represents the largest component of the investment in human capital in any society. Rapid socio-economic development of a nation has been observed to depend on the calibre of women and their education in that country. Education bestows on women a disposition for a life-long acquisition of knowledge, values, attitude, competence and skills.
To ensure equal access to education, national policy on education states that access to education is a right for all Nigerian children regardless of gender, religion and disability.
Education, especially, the girl-child education is becoming a major issue of discourse in academic and political spheres in Nigeria. Nollywood producers, radio presenters, professors, mechanics, drivers, politicians are always bringing up the issue to the public domain. Will there ever be a day in Nigeria when the girl-child will be as privileged as the boy-child with regards to the freedom to pursue their academic aspirations?
In many African traditions, the birth of the male child is more celebrated than that of a female because it is believed that the male child would keep the family name so that the lineage would not be cut off but I keep wondering if one would live for a thousand years; that is a food for thought. Consequently the female child is denied the opportunity to go school as it is considered a waste of resources.
Poverty also contributes to making these girls financial providers to their families. They hawk in the streets, which exposes them to the risk of road accidents. They engage in menial jobs like housemaid and lots more. All these expose them to sexual abuse. Another challenge of girl-child education is cultural misconceptions. So many ill traditional believes make the female child not treated equally with male child.
Female children are confined to domestic chores; she is considered to be only fit in at the kitchen and the house and she is not schooled because that is her role – a house keeper. This orientation makes her not to realise her full potential. Cultural missed conception is a tool that has been a hindrance to a lot of girls getting education. Illiteracy is another major challenge of girl-child education. There is poor enlightenment about the benefits of educating a girl-child and so many illiterate parents see no reason a girl-child has to go to school. Some of their reasons are if they educate her she would get married and there no benefit of her being educated.
The importance of the girl-child education cannot be overemphasised. Every child should be given the opportunity to be educated irrespective of gender as both sexes can bring equal growth and contribution to the society. According to an African proverb, “If you educate a boy, you educate one person but if you educate a girl you educate a family and nation”. An empowered woman is full of great potential, strength, courage and knowledge which she passes down to society.
This will empower and improve productivity in the society. It will also increase women’s involvement in the political process as an educated woman can participate in politics and contribute effectively to the governance of the society. With education, women are able to understand issues relating to women and can intelligently contribute to such issues. Similarly, an educated woman can raise her voice to be heard especially to demand for equality and fairness on issues that concern them and their families. Having a voice that could be heard leds to reduction in the rate of domestic and sexual violence. Girl-child education produces women that easily embrace safe sex thereby reducing the level of sexually transmitted diseases and they also have knowledge of the preventive measures to avoid other diseases.
The solution to the high rate of girl-child drop out from school is to encourage enlightenment campaign on the importance of girl-child education. A lot can be done by simply spreading the message by talking to someone and continuing to do so until every child is given the opportunity to go to school
In order to improve the level of girl-child education, government should create more public enlightenment and make policies that discourage discrimination on girl-child education. Religious leaders should also play a role by teaching their followers on the importance of girl-child education and discourage them from negative beliefs on girl-child education.
Dorcas K. Peter,
Department of Mass Communication,
University of Maiduguri