To educate means to train the mind, character and abilities of individuals. Education is a fundamental human right that should be availed to all citizens irrespective of age, sex and nationality. There are a lot of human right instruments that provide for education as a fundamental right; the girl child education is becoming a major part of discourses in academic and political spheres in Nigeria.
Girl child education has been identified as the backbone of the advanced societies of the world. It is a critical issue that should not be treated with laxity. Its impact in the society is numerous and includes; improving the individual, causing her to be productive and not a burden to the society; it improves the economy of the society through various means such as environmental sustainability; lowers illiteracy rate which also leads to lower poverty rate. Girl- child education also decreases maternal mortality. This is because women with formal education tend to have better knowledge about health care practices.
The Nigerian constitution clearly stipulates that every child, boy or girl, has the right to education. Actually, the constitution even requires a free and compulsory education for children between the ages of 6 through 15 years. Nonetheless, we are aware that there are over 10 million children that are not in school and are not receiving any form of training to help them better their lots in life. Of these 10 million children, the woman – or more accurately, the girl child- constitutes a sizeable chunk. The importance of education in the life of an individual can never be overemphasized. Education is paramount; it is the light that shows the way by removing the darkness of ignorance; the salt that gives the taste of life; the medicine that cures; and the key which open doors.
An African proverb says, “If we educate a boy, we educate one person; if we educate a girl, we educate a family and a whole nation.” An empowered woman is full of great potentials, strength, courage and knowledge which she passes down to her child and the society. The solution to high rate of girl child drop outs from school is to encourage enlightenment campaigns on the importance of girl- child education. A lot can be done by simply spreading the message by talking to someone and continuing to do so till we see that every girl is given the opportunity to go to school. And as more girls go to school, it becomes easy to make a country great.
Females like their male counterparts have the right to education and skill acquisition, the right to choice and self-actualization. But what we see in most societies today is the other way round. Similarly, educated women can raise their voices to be heard especially to demand for equality and fairness on issues that concern them and their families. Having a voice that could be heard leads to reduction in the rate of domestic and sexual violence. Girl child education produces women that easily embrace safe sex thereby reducing the level of sexually transmitted diseases and they also have knowledge of the preventive measures to take to avoid other diseases. A girl who completes primary school is three times less likely to contract HIV.
One of the major reasons militating against the girl child education is poverty, followed closely by the culture of the Nigerian people and certain aspects of the Nigerian religion. With about 60% of Nigerians living in poverty, families are forced to make very difficult choices. One of such choices is to sacrifice the education of some of its children for the education of one who will later carry the other family members to ‘the promised land’; needless to say that the education of the girl child is almost always sacrificed for that of the boy child. The native traditional philosophy is that a woman’s place is in her husband’s kitchen and her primary role centres on her home. These beliefs have kept many girls away from education. The Child’s Rights Act of 2003 prohibits child marriages and betrothals. In section 21 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, any marriage contracted by anyone less than 18 years old is invalid. This is why there have been a lot of emphasis, particularly in recent times, for all citizens to have access to basic education.
The girl child needs to be educated to acquire knowledge and skills needed to advance her status for social interactions and self-improvement. The girl child education also prepares her to face the reality in society and teaches her to be a good wife and mother. When she is educated, she realizes the full potentials endowed in her; she discovers to be whoever and whatever she wants to be. With education, she would break the shell of ignorance and open that of self-discovery. We have vibrant and outstanding women in Nigeria like Professor Rukaiyyatu Rufai, Mrs Farida Waziri, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Author of Purple Hibiscus, among others who confirm the saying that “What a man can do, a woman can do better.”
Therefore, educating the girl child translates to better health for the future generation, reduction in child morbidity and mortality thus triggering a snowball effect of achieving all other Sustainable Development Goals in a viable manner. The greatest favour one can do to himself or herself is “to get education” and to others “to give them education”. According to a Chinese proverb, education is the best legacy to give to a child because “giving your child a skill is better than giving him one thousand pieces of gold.”
Article by: Blessing Bassey