Education helps men and women claim their rights and realize their potential in economic, political and social arenas. It is also the single most powerful way to lift people out of poverty. Yet, women are still excluded from education in Nigeria. There has always been the agitation that women should also be involved to promote gender equality and empower women, therefore, uses education as its target and the measure of gender disparity in education as its indicator of progress. What progress have countries made to achieve this goal? And specifically, how far has Nigeria as a nation gone to meet this goal? Nigeria is still among the nations facing many challenges in reaching that target by 2015 as well bridging the gender gap in primary and secondary education.
Gender inequality in education is extreme. Girls are less likely to access school, to remain in school or to achieve in education. girls who do enroll in school may have irregular attendance due to other demands on them, and the fact that their education may not be prioritized. Girls are more likely to repeat years, to drop out early and to fail key subjects, and in most countries, girls are less likely to complete the transition to secondary schooling. Inequality in society inevitably has an impact on the provision and content of education. Hence, the need to examine and address the issues surrounding poor education of women in our society cannot be overemphasized.
At every educational level women earn less than their male counterparts and in some cases, men with less education earn more than educated female peers. Also, Nigerian girls drop-out of school earlier than their male counterparts. The evidence further shows that more than two-thirds of 15-19-year-old girls in Northern Nigeria are unable to read a sentence. Of course, these facts are devastating in their own right, but what is more worrisome is that it seems efforts by the Nigerian government for the past 20 years to tackle the gender disparity in education have not had any significant impact. With regard to women’s education, Nigeria’s education policy has evolved since the 1980s towards a gender focus.
Children from the poorest households are much less likely to ever enroll in school. Living in a rural area where long distances to school are compounded by poverty and traditional practices increases the risk. UNESCO suggests that in ‘Sub-Saharan Africa, if recent trends continue, the richest boys will achieve universal primary completion in 2021, but the poorest girls will not catch up until 2086’ (UNESCO, 2014).
The implication for Poor Education of Women
Inequality in the Nigerian society inevitably has an impact on the provision and content of education, as well as on the ability of girls to enter, and remain in, school. The tradition, customs, socio-cultural values, ethics, motherhood instincts are some of the factors influencing gender bias in the education sector. Cultural and social beliefs, attitudes and practices prevent girls from benefiting from educational opportunities to the same extent as boys. The achievement of girls’ right to education can address some of the societies’ deeply rooted inequalities, which condemn millions of girls to a life without quality education – and, therefore, also all too often to a life of missed opportunities.
Family roles, expectation and responsibilities. Reinarz (2002) argues that balancing work and family is a major hurdle for working women. Hence, family responsibilities influence the careers and education choices of women who mostly have disproportionate work in care if children and the home.
Another implication for poor education opportunity for women is involvement in low paying ventures. It has been noted by Oladunni (1999) that because of societal stereotype and stigmatization on certain professions and subjects as the exclusive preserve of men and or women most Nigerian women have been forced into less paid jobs (teaching, nursing services, agriculture, small-scale food processing, secretarial duties, clerical duties, note- counting in banks, cleaners and middle level professional occupations). In most societies, both the public and private sectors continue to be dominated by men, leading parents to ask themselves: why bother educating our girls if they will never make it anyway?
Why Bother Educating Our Girls If They Will Never Make It Anyway?
Educating girls is good for development; girls’ education encourages economic growth, contributes to stable and secure communities, reduces maternal and child mortality, reduces fertility rates, raises schooling levels for the next generation and meets human rights standards. We still have far to go to meet the needs of all girls to a basic education.
An educated woman is an empowered woman and more marketable in terms of employment. Better employment, in turn, implies more earnings for the family as a whole, as well as improved children’s wellbeing. All of which contribute to poverty reduction and economic growth.
Basic education provides girls and women with an understanding of basic health, nutrition, and family planning, giving their choices and the power to decide over their own lives and bodies. Women’s education leads directly to better reproductive health, improved family health, economic growth, for the family and for society, as well as lower rates of child mortality and malnutrition. As women education increases, fertility, population growth, and infant and child mortality fall and family planning, as well as health, tend to improve significantly.
In terms of women education’s link to employment, ensuring women’s education in the society increases the earning capacity that is, they become more marketable and employable.
Generally speaking, improving access to and the quality of education is the most rewarding investment any country can make. Investing in female education will accelerate Nigeria’s economic and social development by enhancing human capital, slowing population growth, and alleviating poverty.
The past 20 years have witnessed improved but not sufficient enrolment of the female population in higher education. However, a closer analysis of higher education statistics reveals the different nature of the problem in different socio-cultural and economic contexts. A number of cultural barriers still exist in the Nigerian society which seriously hinders women’s development as citizens and professionals. Efforts to improve female education in Nigeria needs to go beyond rhetoric and should involve policies and programs with measurable results.
Article by: Busayo Tomoh