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INVESTING IN GIRLS EDUCATION IS SMART ECONOMY

The case of how my best friend and the most intelligent girl in my class was denied her dream of becoming a medical doctor was my first encounter with how social barriers can prevent girl child education. My friend had to abandon her ambition by getting a job and getting married to assist her parents to fund the education of her other siblings. Of course, the rest was history.

My second encounter was my participation in an African wide research conducted by Association of African Women for Research and Development (AWWORD) on Perception of African men and Women about gender equality when majority of respondents admitted that in times of financial difficulty, they will prioritize the education of the boy child. Again, in 2008, when I participated in the writing of the Nigerian Non- governmental organization (NGO) Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) Shadow Report, the discoveries I made about the barriers that prevent girls from getting education and the intricate web of social economic factors that are implicated in cementing these barriers were very disturbing.

Girls face many barriers at the point of access, enrollment, retention and completion of their education. Poverty, lack of toilet in schools, inadequate water and sanitation, violence, sexual harassment, burden of cost, child marriage and teenage pregnancy are among the major factors that prevent girls from getting an education.

These barriers were compounded by the austerity measures imposed by the International Monetary fund (IMF) conditionality implemented in the last 20 years. The austerity measures completely wiped out the Nigerian middle class with resultant worst outcomes for the girl child education. In recent times, the World Bank insistence on removal of subsidies from all sectors of Nigerian economy including education has further exposed education to the market assault dealing a debilitating blow particularly to girls’ education.

The inconclusive manner in which the right to education has been framed under our laws has not helped matters. The African charter which is part of Nigerian law guarantees the right to education. The child rights law also guarantees free basic education up to junior secondary school but the Nigerian 1999 constitution almost took the right away by making rights to education a non justice able right, meaning that the right to education is not enforceable in our law courts. This of course could deepen the pervasive gender disparity skewed against the girl child in education.

According to the gender in Nigeria report (2012), Nigeria has more children of primary school age out of school than any other country in the world. The 2009 Nigeria Education data survey also shows that some 1.5 million children (8.1% of children aged 6-14) who were enrolled were not in school at the time of the survey. Girls constitute almost 53% of those not in schools.
The situation of girls education in Northern Nigeria is worse. More than two thirds of 15–19 year old girls are unable to read a sentence compared to less than 10% in the South. Only 4% of females complete secondary school and over half of all women in the North are married by the age of 16 and are expected to bear a child within the first year of marriage.

Notwithstanding these maze of challenges, we still have some best practices that have boosted the girl child education. In Ekiti state, the free education policy of the current government has helped to encourage boys and girls to go to school and reduce the incidence of girls dropping out of school. Even girls who became pregnant in school are allowed to go back to school once their babies are born.

The introduction of School based management committee (SBMC) in some states like Lagos and Kano has boosted the girl child education. The SBMC members who basically are members of the community work with the primary and secondary schools to raise awareness about enrollment and also monitor students to ensure they do not drop out of school.

Other non formal education initiatives have been found to be very useful. Mentoring programs for young girls on women’s right, entrepreneurship, sexuality rights and feminism are initiatives that have boosted the girl child education in Nigeria.
My organization has been mentoring young girls by matching them with accomplished women mentors in the last 3 years. We have trained young women feminist and raise awareness about women’s rights and the rights of the girl child to education.
Evidences abound that providing education to girls will likely reduce social disparities, improve maternal and child health and enhances growth and development. Thus, prioritizing investment in girl’s education is smart economy that will enable Nigeria meet the MDG goal on education, secure her future and set her on the pathway to sustainable development.

This story was written for World Pulse’s Girls Transform the World Digital Action Campaign.

World Pulse believes that women's stories, recommendations, and collective rising leadership can—and will—bring girls greater access to education which will transform their lives, their families, and communities. The Girls Transform Campaign elicits insightful content from young women on the ground, strengthens their confidence as women, and ensures that influencers and powerful institutions hear their stories.
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Comments

Firstly, it sounds like your mentoring programmes are doing very valuable much-needed work.
My next thought is: What a lot of barriers there are to girls' education in Nigeria! I was saddened to hear that Nigeria has so many children of primary school age not receiving education, and similarly that so many teenage girls still have such difficulty with basic reading. It doesn't quite seem fair that the picture looks so different in different parts of the country (and world) but it offers hope that progress can be made: Let's hope Ekiti, Lagos and Kano are setting examples that other states will follow soon!
Finally, thank you for your interesting piece. There are a lot of telling statistics there. I can only imagine the emotional and psycholocical effects that growing up in some of these areas must have on young girls. Keep up the good work towards their empowerment!

Titilope's picture

The geographical disparity in

The geographical disparity in girl child education in Nigeria is of grave concern to women's rights activists. We still need to do a lot in terms of changing perceptions about women particularly in the northern part of Nigeria.
I really appreciate your comments. Thank you.

weaverheart's picture

Compelling piece!

Thank you for this. How complex and challenging this issue becomes! I am happy to see your work on behalf of all these young people to be able to receive their chance at an education. You raise some interesting statistics which really do complicate the whole picture. It takes a razor-like mind to be able to cut through the myriad of red tape and policies that stand in the way of the core goal, which is to educate each and every person in the nation (and the world!). Please continue sharing your voice and insight and keep up the great work!

All the best,
Laura

Laura R.

Titilope's picture

I am happy that you find this

I am happy that you find this piece compelling. Addressing the barriers can be very daunting. But we will keep working.

CatherineSakala's picture

Really Informative.

I agree that it is an interesting piece to reach and very informative. Bravo for the wok you are doing of pairing girls with mentors to look up to and to find a guide for what they would like to achieve.

I like that you talk about issues to do with policies and how that is affecting education. I really wish that this piece would be seen by governing and policy making bodies and they could learn from it.

Are you doing any work in sensitizing men of their role in supporting girl child education?? I mean if men can see and understand it I think changes will be adopted much faster.

Thanks again

Catherine Sakala
Entomologist and Parasitologist- Zambia

Titilope's picture

There are many policies on

There are many policies on education in Nigeria but they are rarely implemented. Most of them are just paper tigers. Some of the information given here are contained in the Gender in Nigeria report which was done by DFID in Nigeria. The report was lauched by key policy makers in Nigeria but yet they do not see the urgency in addressing the issues.
We have been working with men in addressing the issues of girl child education but i think we need to deepen our work in this area.
We will continue to work with other relevant stakeholders to boost girl child education in Nigeria.
Thank you for your encouragement.

kati.mayfield's picture

Thank you!

Dear Titilope,

After your last assignment I was wondering about the specific issues that had motivated you to get into this work - now I understand them better. I can relate to your opening words about your best friend having to give up her dreams. My best friend was also pushed by her family into marriage, rather than pursuing her passions. Thank you for the work you are doing to help ensure that fewer women have to face the same barriers that our friends faced.

best,

Kati

*resolved this year to think twice and to smile twice before doing anything*

Titilope's picture

Completeing my last

Completeing my last assignment was a bit of challenge for me because i have to depart from my given rules of not dicussing my personal life but like i said the voice of the feminine prevailed. Perhaps this is just the right thing to do.

Activechica's picture

Right Person, Right Place

Titilope,

I am so very glad that you are in a position to shed light on and call attention to the policies that are so negatively affecting education enrollment - especially for the girl child -- in Nigeria. And that you are finding ways to be part of the solution.

Thank you for all that you do!!!

Warmest wishes,
Leslie

Titilope's picture

As women rights activist we

As women rights activist we have to ensure we perform our oversifght functions by drawing the attention of policy makers to the challeneges in our system and at the same time we need to work with them to find solution to the problems. It is great to be part of the solution. If we all do our part, i know we will make teh needed difference .

Thank you,

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