The reality in some states in Nigeria today, and sadly in some other countries within Africa, is de-emphasising the importance of educating girls.
Education is the process of receiving or giving systematic instruction, especially at a school, to enlighten inexperienced people and make them functional members of the society at large. Its importance cannot be overemphasised, especially in this part of the world where some still believe that the right to education is peculiar to a particular gender.
In some parts of Nigeria, right to education is restricted to male children while the females are majorly left out. In most parts of the country, women have faced serious challenges as regards the right to formal education.
The traditional philosophy in Nigeria is that a woman’s place is in her husband’s kitchen and her life’s goal should be centred on the home. This line of thought has kept a lot of women away from education.
Countries in Africa have been faced with the issue of gender equality, and this has formed the subject of intellectual discourses in the past and even in this century. Gender inequality is still a pervasive issue. However, efforts by international organisations, governments, non-governmental organisations have been a useful attempt to close or reduce the gender gap.
A decade ago, female adult education in Nigeria was slightly above average with a 59.4 per cent gap. Studies show that an average family in Nigeria prefers its male children to acquire formal education, as he is thought to be the future breadwinner of the family, while the usefulness of the female is relegated to household chores. While the males get formal education, the females are groomed for marriage.
For families living in poverty, marrying girls off is considered an avenue to make money; hence they are groomed to be ‘responsible’ and ‘obedient’ wives.
It is saddening that the girl is still being relegated when it comes to education, and this can be attributed to early marriage, pregnancy, illiteracy, poverty, societal and cultural discrimination against the female folk, among others. All these causal factors are inextricable from the others and they constitute factors that militate against the development of women in Nigeria.
Education generally has numerous benefits especially for a developing country like Nigeria, and educating the girl is as important as educating the boy, especially if Africa is to leap from the low rung of the development ladder.
Female empowerment has great prospects for a developing nation like ours. This could be achieved through education, which reduces poverty rate and strengthens the economy. A country with more of uneducated population is likely to have stunted economic growth, as a country’s growth depends on the education of its population.
Also, education of the girl improves the overall wellbeing of a family, society and nation. When females are sufficiently educated, worrisome gender issues like early marriage, pre-marital pregnancy, illiteracy and related health hazards can be easily combated. Enlightening the girl is a step towards securing gender equality and ensuring female empowerment, as well as reducing the rate of domestic and sexual violence against women.
Research has shown that female education is crucial for national development and that the role of women to national development should not be underestimated. The popular aphorism that “when you educate a man, you educate an individual; but when you educate a woman, you educate a nation” could not be vain.
Educating the girl is therefore a crucial stake worth exploring.
From the wake of this decade, gigantic steps have been taken towards bridging the gender gap and reducing the ingrained gender disparity. However, there is still a long way to go.
Towards this end, non-governmental organisations and non-profits have played an instrumental role. For families that are low on finance, who would consciously prefer the male child to acquire formal education rather than the female, scholarship opportunities have been provided for such disadvantaged females. Noteworthy is the Women Economic and Leadership Transformation Initiative (WELTI) academy whose contributions towards educating girls are commendable. Through the academy’s senior secondary school scholarships for young females, a number of girls have been able to go to school. Not only that, various leadership and business management trainings are still being conducted for the young females and instil in them business management and leadership skills.
The activities of the academy run annually, hence WELTI is able to impact and build lives year in year out. Its contributions will undoubtedly help in eradicating or reducing female illiteracy level in Nigeria.