Why the Nigerian Girl Child Must be Educated.

 A 2018 report on Girl Child Education by United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) showed that only 45% of girls in Northern Nigeria are enrolled in school.

Currently, the dropout rate for primary school in Nigeria is 35.6%, most of this proportion being young girls. Northern Nigeria had 13.2 million children out of school, representing 69% of out of school children in Nigeria.

The attendance rate for girls is 45%, which means more than half of girls in the north is less than half. This shortfall has been attributed to child marriage and cultural values that promote women
labour and domesticity.

The situation is dire and harmful for the personal development of the “Girl Child” and the country, economically. There are qualitative and quantitative consequences for this situation.

According to World Bank, additional years of schooling increases the likelihood of higher wages for women and reduction in child mortality rates.

Psychologists also hold that children derive a lot of their intelligence from their mothers through interactions that fire up the various parts of a child’s brain.

Education is the basis of other forms of development. Education is a critical factor in employment, life expectancy and access to opportunities.

Several interventions have been made over the years with Nigeria creating and operating various policies from the 1980’s. Some of these policies which include;

  1986: Blueprint on Women's Education. An outreach and awareness campaign to promote the importance of equal education, increase the available educational resources for females and reduce dropout rates among female students.

1986: Nomadic Education Programme. Increase the access to education for children of Nomads without jeopardizing pastoralism.

1991: National Commission for Mass Literacy and Non-formal Education. A policy to motivate parents and families to send their school-age children to school and to establish training facilities that concentrate on domestic science, home economics and crafts.

1994: Family Support Basic Education Programme. A programme to encourage families living in rural areas to send girls to go to school as a means of promoting youth development.

1999: Universal Basic Education. Reduction in geographic and gender disparity in school enrolment.

2001: National Policy on Women

2002: Education For-all Fast Track Initiative.

2003: Strategy for Acceleration of Girls Education in Nigeria.

2004: National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategies (NEEDS).

2004: Universal Basic Education Act.

In addition to these policies, Nigeria subscribes to global positions such as “Education for All, 2015” under the Millennium Development Goals and Universal Declaration of Human Rights, where education was declared as a fundamental human right.

These efforts have yielded gains with primary school enrollment increasing from 30%-80% between 1970 to 1994.  However, these gains are significantly reduced because of dropout rates of girls and their irregular school attendance.

Child marriage, Cost of Education and Cultural Inefficiencies have led to the high dropout rates and underdevelopment of the girl child in the north.

The northern part of Nigeria gets our attention because any region that has 69% of children out of school will naturally limit the progress of the entire society.

At WEEC, we believe that the culture in the northern part of the country be assessed and aided by soft and encouraging legislation that will ensure girls study and stay longer in school.

This must go side by side with an encouragement of male child education. None should be left. A male child that drops out of school will almost lead to another female child leaving school because of the patriarchal nature of society. Afterall, the male child that is out of school will need a wife.

We also need a new approach to tackling this problem. We have largely employed a system of goal statements, monitoring and feedback to tackle this problem. But we have not identified how to effect cultural changes as well as other ancillary socio-economic issues in the north.

Globally, we have seen a boost, where Saudi Arabia outlawed under 18 marriage. This should be a signal to Nigeria. If the holy grail of modern day Islam has done this, then we must see if we can benefit from imitating such a policy.

A region where the children are encouraged to engage in nomadism will naturally have a lot of children that will be out of school. This nomadism goes beyond rearing cattle. It involves, the movement of young people looking around for food and survival.

A lot of children are born into this lifestyle, and it has become a way of life rather than an economic necessity.

We suggest that government seek behavioral change through dialogue and communication with the people in that part of the country. We must also seek to develop technological systems for animal husbandry and scientific development of pasture to reduce the inefficiencies climate change brings.

This must also go alongside development of security systems to protect the citizens in pockets of northern economic localities across the country.

If our girls and women are educated, it will change the face of the Nigerian society. This is what we will love to see across the length and breadth of the country.

The girl child must be educated to foster national development, reduce infant mortality, and promote personal development of girls and help Nigerian women rank in higher numbers across various professions in the world.

If Nigeria will be great, it will through people, and if we leave the girl child out, then we have no people in the practical sense.

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