Women in Nigeria have had various challenges in order to obtain equal education in all forms of formal education in Nigeria. MAKINDE OLUWAROTIMI, in this piece, examines the challenges and efforts of campaigners to end the scourge.
To educate means to train the mind, to build character and develop ability. Education is responsible for the transfer of skills, values and benefits from one generation to another; it is probably the most important aspect of human development and the key to successful living.
Since women are responsible for child upbringing in the society, it follows that education should begin with them; and they should transfer such education to children, especially girls, to ensure the continuity of the cycle. Good education makes girls better mothers, good home keepers and efficient leaders.
However, it is noteworthy to observe that the last five centuries, viewed as the age of modernity, have been essentially structured by varying historical processes. Significantly, gender and racial categories emerged during this epoch as two fundamental axes for exploiting people and stratifying societies. Consequently, male-gender privilege, as an essential part of European ethos, became enshrined in the culture of modernity.
At the commencement of colonialism (and, of course, Christianity), rigid binaries about everything including gender perceptions were imposed on the African mind. Thereafter, the woman’s role has come to be limited to sexual and commercial labour; satisfying the sexual needs of men, working in the fields, carrying loads, tending babies and preparing food.
As such, the attainment of overall human development in Nigeria is being obliterated by this unevenness in educational accessibility across gender categories. There is no doubt that societal recognition to the value of education in northern Nigeria has been displaced, paving way to the ignorance of the people’s deplorable condition of education particularly that of the girl-child.
This situation arose because of many reasons among which are; socio-cultural and ignorance, economic stagnation characterised by pervasive poverty which has virtually weakened all sectors of development, especially the education sector, and above all inefficient and ineffective implementation of the national and state government policies on education. These impediments contributed to poor school enrolment particularly that of the girl-child, who is considered not necessarily relevant to pursue formal education in traditional social set up. For instance, socio-cultural factors are significant in parental and family decision on whether to invest in girl-child education. Pervasive gender ideologies at the household and community levels always favour boys over girls and promote differential educational opportunities and outcomes.
Socio-cultural believes and custom influence decision to enroll girls in schools, decision to withdraw them from schools and decision to drop out of school and indeed, their academic performance as well as grade level attainment. Also, the sociocultural expectation of girls and the priority accorded to their future roles as mothers and wives have a strong negative bearing on their formal education. The girl-child is discriminated by virtue of her sex, the structure of the society; its values, traditions and institutions. All have an in-built discrimination against women. The assigning of different expectations to male or female has made the traditional society in the past years to believe that it is not natural for a female child to be educated.
As such, the illiterate parents prefer to have their female children doing some domestic works at home. Traditional beliefs to some extent hamper the girl-child education. It ranges from the fact that girls do not carry on the family name like boys. If at all they send their children, it is limited to the male children who, according to such parents, would occupy their place in the case of death. As such, every available means is used to train the boys at the detriment of girls because of their important role in protecting the “family name”.
In addition, some girl-children are withdrawn from school or denied access to higher education because of the belief that the higher the girls educational qualification, the lower her chances of getting a suitable husband.
Tackling these giant monsters to the progress of girl-child education in Nigeria is the reason Dr Hauwa’u Mainoma is launching a foundation to be known and called “MAIFATA EDUCATIONAL FOUNDATION”. The aim and objectives of this foundation is to support the speedy development of girl-child education in Nigeria through the various available resources.
At the end of this campaign, the outcome would create more awareness among parents, governmental agencies, law makers and the politicians with the aim of improving on the number of girls that receive modern education in Nasarawa State.
According to the founder of the education campaigner, Hauwa’u Muhammad Mainoma, a doctor of Educational Administration and Planning, Nasarawa State University, Keffi, girl-child education has always been negatively affected by cultural and religious misconceptions.
She lamented that in this part of the world, some still view female education as a waste of resources. This is in contrast to boys, who are seen as breadwinners and custodians of the family lineage.
She said “In most cases, while making the choice of sending a child to school due to limited resources in the family, it is the boy that is chosen. Girls are often sent out to work, trade or hawk at a tender age to generate additional income for the family, exposing them to many dangers.”
“Even when allowed to attend school, girls are vulnerable in many ways; at puberty, they may skip school for days when observing their monthly cycle due to lack of water and sanitation at school. They may also be forced to leave school due to harassment by teachers or fellow students, or even early pregnancy. School distance sometimes also contributes to girls dropping out of school,” she noted.
According to a UNICEF report, the number of out of schoolgirls is very high, with proportion of girls to boys in school ranging from 1 girl to 2 boys and even 1 to 3 boys in some states and zones; North Central and North West present the worst national scenarios. Girls’ access to basic education especially in the northern states is very low, with only 20 per cent of women in North West and North East attending school; current female literacy rate for ages 15 and above in the country is put at 59.4 per cent, which is less than male literacy rate of 74.4 per cent.
Some cultures believe that no matter the level of education a girl attains in life, once she gets married to another family, she answers their name, thereby glorifying their status. In most villages of northern Nigeria, educating a girl is not considered a priority, as most of them are married out early. In fact, early marriage affects every eighth girl. One in seven girls are said to give birth by age 17. The easiest justification for this practice is that it serves as a strategy for reducing burden on the family. But in reality, among other problems, early marriage accords northern Nigeria with having the highest number of Vesico-Vaginal Fistula (VVF) cases.
Dr Mainoma, as an educationist and with the passion she has for education, has established one of the best Islamic and western schools within Keffi metropolis and named it Marhum International Academy.
In the University, She has served in several capacities and also held administrative positions such as Faculty Officer, Faculty of Natural and Applied Sciences (2008-2009), Pioneer Secretary, Diploma Unit (2009-2011), Pioneer Alumni Relations Officer (2008-2009), Departmental coordinator LVT Programme (2014-date), Coordinator in charge of Degree Affiliation programme Institute of Education (2015-date), Coordinator Teaching Practice LVT Programme (2015-date), Coordinator, SIWES LVT Programme, a Senior Lecturer and Acting Director, Institute of Education (Jan, 2017 to date) and a member of the distinguished Friends of Police Cooperative Society.
From her working experiences, she has identified numerous barriers to girl-child education including what she called religious misconceptions.
According to her, religious misconception is another militating factor, making many parents to believe that formal education is not meant for girls. It is assumed that the primary responsibility for which they were created is domestic chores. In most cultures, school is seen as a distraction; especially in places where women and girls are the home makers who must stay at home to cook, clean, take care of the children and the sick. These women also fetch water, sometimes from long distances, for drinking, washing, sanitation, and cooking for the entire family. This, in many cases, has a direct effect on their health.
It is also assumed that staying for many years in school might cause a girl not to marry on time. Suitors also have their issues with educated girls; they believe that education makes women to look down on men. This reason dissuades many parents from sending their girls to school; they believe once a girl has her first monthly cycle, then she should be in her husband’s house.
Poverty and unemployment are determinants of girl child education. Girls are denied the opportunity to develop their talents and contribute to the society and nation building, because parents consider them as agents for generating income for the family; the expectation on girls’ input into the family income is very high.
For girls that have grown to be mothers, they do not accept this state of affairs; they want a better deal for their daughters and they believe that education is the road to this better deal. That explains the effort that has been going on, especially from Dr Mainoma, in favour of girl-child education.
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