Education of the Girl-Child in Nigeria: Why Our Hearts Bleed? By Folorunsho Moshood

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The empowerment of women anywhere and everywhere begins with the education of female children. To resolve all issues on the female gender, the education of the girl- child must be given the topmost priority. If you want a female President, start educating the girl-child. If you want to solve the problems or put a stop to all forms of harmful socio-cultural practices that negatively affect women, focus on the education of the girl-child.

Improving girls’ education should be a strategic national development priority. Well, educated women would be healthier, wealthier, politically participatory, socially responsible, and justice-oriented citizens, have fewer children, marry when they are ripe for it, and enable better health care and quality education for their children if they choose to become mothers. All these factors would have a multiplier effect of helping to remove households, communities, and nations out of the webs of hunger and poverty – a catalyst for the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 1, 2, 4, and 5.

According to UNESCO’s current estimates, 130 million girls between the ages of 6 and 17 are out of school and 15 million girls of primary-school-age—half of them in sub-Saharan Africa— will never enter a classroom. The picture even looks gloomier and our hearts bleed and still bleeding since UNICEF Nigeria has come out to say that one in every five of the world’s out-of-school children is in Nigeria. UNICEF further stated that even though primary education is officially free and compulsory in Nigeria, about 10.5 million of the country’s children aged 5-14 years are not in school. Only 61 percent of 6-11 year-olds regularly attend primary school and only 35.6 percent of children aged 36-59 months receive early childhood education. More than half of these 10.5 million children are girls.

Factors that are responsible for this gloomy picture about the education of the girl child are but not limited to:
The cost of access to education: This includes some illegal fees being charged by either the state governments or school authorities, cost of transportation, cost of textbooks/notebooks and cost of feeding, etc
Socio-cultural and religious beliefs: These beliefs promote the boy-child preference at the expense of the gild-child, child marriage, girls doing the domestic chores, providing for the family, and caring for the aged at the expense of their education.
Insecurity and lack of safety: Girls in schools have become soft targets of kidnappers, rapists, and insurgents.
Teenage/unwanted pregnancy: Unfortunately boys do not get pregnant but they are responsible for impregnating girls. While boys continue their education, girls’ education usually stops when pregnancy occurs.
Poor infrastructures in schools: Most schools in Nigeria lack basic infrastructures that can promote the health of the students. Girls are always at the receiving end of schools that lack toilet facilities and quality water.

What is the way forward?

There must be multi-sectoral approaches to curtail the challenges or barriers that the education of the girl-child is facing. This will involve government at all levels, civil society organizations, multilateral organizations, corporate Nigeria and donor agencies as well as developmental partners. These approaches should include:

Providing stipends or scholarships or bursaries to help the education of the girl-child
Ensuring proper implementation of the World Bank Assisted Better Education Service Delivery for All (BESDA) and other laudable educational projects
Improving the National Home Grown School Feeding Programme and School Improvement Programme
Reducing distance to school by establishing more schools and removing other illegal school fees
Involving boys and men to be a part of discussions about harmful socio-cultural practices that affect women
Ensuring gender-sensitive curricula and pedagogies and andragogy
Ensuring sexuality education is included in the curriculum.
Recruiting more qualified female teachers
Training and retraining of female teachers
Building safe and inclusive learning environments for girls and young women
Improving infrastructural and instructional facilities in schools.
Ending child marriage through the enhancement of the Child Rights Act.
Improving and implementing the Act that prohibits Violence Against Girls and Women.
If these multi-sectoral approaches are implemented, the gloomy picture about the education of the girl-child in Nigeria will evaporate like the mist when the sun rises and our hearts will definitely stop bleeding.

Mr. Folorunso Moshood is the Programme Director, Educare Trust
Coordinator, the Civil Society Action Coalition on Education For All (CSACEFA) Oyo State Chapter
Coordinating Consultant, Relevant Actions International
International Civil Society Fellow, Kettering Foundation, Dayton, Ohio the USA

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