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Strengthening Girl-child Education



October 11 every year is celebrated as the International Day of the Girl-Child. The day, which was declared by the United Nations in October 2012, is aimed at highlighting and addressing the needs and challenges girls face, while promoting girls’ empowerment and the fulfillment of their human rights.

The theme for the 2018 celebration is, “With Her: A Skilled GirlForce”, and one of the requirements needed to achieve this theme is education.

Education in any normal society is accepted as an instrument to power, prestige, survival, greatness and advancement for men and women. The United Nations General Assembly (2001) adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which stipulates that everyone has the right to education which shall be free at least in elementary and primary stages. Similarly, the National Policy on Education emphasizes among other things that there will be equal opportunities for all citizens.

Since the creation of Rivers State in 1967, successive administrations in the state has not relented in pushing for the advancement of girl-child education.

The establishment of several all-girls secondary schools in the state by successive military and civilian governors was aimed at encouraging more girls to embrace education.

The current administration in the state led by Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike has also not relented in its effort to advance the cause of girl-child education in the state.

The return of several state government-owned all-girls secondary schools to boarding status as well as the reconstruction of the Government Girls’ Secondary School, Rumuokwuta in Obio/Akpor local government area of the state, are pointers to that direction.

A record obtained from the Rivers State Ministry of Education, showed that a total of 215,349 females enrolled into post-primary schools in the state representing 48.67 per cent  of the total enrolment in the 2017/2018 Academic Year.

According to the record, Port Harcourt City local government area has the highest number of female enrolment with 56,172, followed by Obio/Akpor local government area with 28, 348.

Ogu/Bolo local government area of the state has the lowest number of female enrollment into post-primary schools with a total number of 906. It was gathered that the low number of female enrollment in the area is not unconnected to the small population of the local government area.

Just like every other aspect of life, girl-child education in the state has some factors militating against its advancement and these factors include, poverty, parental influence, early marriage, cultural practices, and religion.

According to Kaldick Jamabo, a Director in the Rivers State Ministry of Education, there is low demand by parents to have their girl-child educated.

Jamabo said: “Parents’ demand for the education of their daughters is low, reflecting both cultural norms and girls’ work in and around the home. In addition, the cultural perceptions of girls as child minders, marriage material and a burden to the family influences their educational attainment the contemporary society.

“Also some parents decided in many cultures that, education is not worthwhile for their daughters who will move into their husbands’ families when they marry and that the gains in productivity or income due to education will accrue to the families of the sons-in-law rather than to them.”

A trader, Mrs. Nneoma Onyeji who attributed the low enrolment of the girl-child into schools to poverty, said that most parents see girl-child education as adding extensive stress to the family.

Onyeji said: “I love education and I believe that educating my daughter will be of great benefit to my family tomorrow, but poverty have remained a serious enemy of girl-child education.

“Most parents struggling to raise a child, often see poverty as adding extensive stress to the family hence many girls who should class have been withdrawn to work for money.”

But Justice Suzzette Nyesom-Wike, wife of the Rivers State Governor believes strongly in provision of the needed incentives to boost the education of the girl-child.  She insisted that there is the need for families to prioritise girl-child education.

Speaking at an occasion to mark the International Women’s Day in Port Harcourt,   Mrs Nyesom-Wike who urged families to prioritise girl-child education, stated that the level of women education determines the level of their contribution to the development of the society.

She said: “If we give every girl the opportunity to access education, it would form the needed foundation for them to contribute meaningfully to societal growth”.

Speaking recently at the commissioning of Girls Secondary School, Rumuokwuta, Port Harcourt, British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr Awkright, warned that lack of investment in girl-child education will hinder the country’s development.

He said: “There is no reason we should neglect half of our population, who can help ensure the country’s prosperity. That is why education is important. That is why girl child-education is important. Without girl-child education, this country cannot thrive.”

In Rivers, development partners  have been supporting the task of ensuring improved education in the state.

One of such is a leading indigenous oil company in the Niger Delta, Belemaoil Producing Limited. The firm recently sent 10 female indigenes indigenes of the state to the United Kingdom and Ghana.

The girls, drawn from 10 local government areas in the state, are for post-graduate and undergraduate studies under the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC/Belemaoil Joint Venture (JV) 2018/2019 Foreign Scholarship Scheme.

The local government areas include: Khana, Abua/Odual, Ahoada-East, Etche, Oyigbo, Ikwerre, Degema, Asari-Toru, Ogu/Bolo and Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni.

Eight of the beneficiaries, Kainde Chinenye Akaya, Precious Ogochukwu Ajim, Pearl Befee Ezekiel, Fame Obiageri Onyechere, Benebo Daviesba Josephine, Christiana Victor, Obunezi Onyinyechi Favour and Rejoice Nathaniel are to study in the United Kingdom, under the post-graduate category.

Also, two other beneficiaries, Gloria Iyama Apikisirobia and Francisca Ibiso Francis are to study in Ghana, under the undergraduate category.

Speaking during a farewell ceremony for the beneficiaries in Port Harcourt, the Manager, External Relations, Belemaoil Producing Limited, Barrister Samuel Abel-Jumbo, said the scholarship is in furtherance of the company’s resolve to promote girl-child education and its commitment towards the advancement of education as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policy.