Mrs Ebere Ilediagu (Nee Onodugo)
According to Wikipedia, education is the process of facilitating learning, or the acquisition of knowledge, skills, values, beliefs and habits. It is the process of imparting or acquiring general knowledge, developing the powers of reasoning, judgment, and generally of preparing oneself intellectually. Education gives us knowledge of the world around us; it is needed for development and improvement of a nation. It empowers people and strengthens the nations; it also ensures gender equality. Education has the key to creating, applying and spreading knowledge thereby ensuring the development of dynamic or competitive economies.
The Nigerian Constitution (1999) clearly stipulates that every child, boy or girl has the right to education. The constitution even requires a free and compulsory education for children under 15 years. Girl-child education has been identified as the back bone of the advanced societies of the world. Educating a girl-child means educating the nation. The girl-child needs to be educated to acquire knowledge and skills needed to advance her status for self improvement. Educating the girl-child also prepares her to face the reality in society and teaches her to be a good wife and mother. Offering girls basic education is one sure way of giving them much greater power, of enabling them to make genuine choices over the kinds of lives they wish to live. An educated girl-child has the skills, information and self-confidence that she needs to be a better parent, worker and citizen.
Girl child education helps women to take advantage of opportunities that could benefit them and their families, preparing them for the labor force and helping them understand their legal rights as well as their reproductive rights. Basic education provides the girl-child with an understanding of basic health, nutrition and family planning, giving their choices and the power to decide over their own lives and bodies (Uzoma, 2013).
Factors Militating Against Girl-Child Education
- Poverty: It has remained a serious enemy of girl-child education. The girl child helps with the house hold chores and looking after the younger ones which relieves the parents of employing a paid house helps. This therefore reduces the financial burden on the family (Ballana, 2002).
- Also traditional cultural practices strongly militate against girls’ enrolment in educational system. Families with limited resources tend to place more priority on boy-child education recognizing them as future heads of house hold than girl-child education.
- Another factor militating against girl-child education is early marriage which conflicts with educational programmes. Bolaji (2007), noted that early marriage used to be the case among the Ibos, Ibibios and Urhobos, but with western education, the practice has abated but not completely eradicated.
Importance of Girl Child Education
- Girl child education reduces inequality, illiteracy and poverty. Primary education helps to boost ethnic minorities, rural families and those who are likely to be poor. By providing a girl-child education, they become relevant to the nation and its growth. Education improves the girl, causing her to be productive and not a burden to the society. Educated women can raise their voices to be heard on equality and fairness on issues that concerns them and their families. Having a voice that could be heard leads to reduction in the rate of domestic and sexual violence.
- Education ensures economic growth: Productivity leads to higher income and improved economic performance. Education contributes greatly towards improving a nation’s productivity. Education increases income for wage earners and productivity for employers thereby increasing the benefits to the nation.
- Girl-child education promotes economic competitiveness. One of the pillars of the knowledge- based economy is an educated and skilled workforce. Technical innovations and the competitive use of knowledge increases comparative advantage among nations.
- Girl-child education raises productivity and earnings.
- It reduces poverty: Education helps in the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals. It enhance environmental awareness, and lowers illiteracy rate which can give room for more women to be able to contribute financially to the families.
- It lowers infant and child mortality as well as maternal mortality rates: women with educations seeks medical care, ensure their children are immunized, be better informed about their children’s nutritional requirement, and get improved sanitation practices, this makes their infants and children healthier and better nourished, thereby ensuring their survival. Women with formal education will not become pregnant at a very young age. They have fewer better-spaced pregnancies, and they go for pre and post-natal care. All these will reduce the rate of mortality in the world.
- It contributes to democratization in the nation; when there is smaller education gap between rates of boys’ and girls’ schooling the nation is most likely to enjoy greater democracy. It would also increase women’s involvement in the political process as educated woman can participate in politics and contribute to effective governance of society.
- It decreases women’s fertility rate. Women with no formal education have little or no idea of how to take necessary steps when it comes to fertility. Education brings awareness of family planning methods. Educated women use reliable family planning methods, delay marriage and childbearing, have fewer babies and ensure they are in good health.
- It improves health and nutrition: Education benefits personal health greatly. It is essentially needed for girls as they tend to be the heart of a home. It affects reproductive health, and also improves child mortality and welfare of every member of her home through better nutrition and higher immunization rate.
- It limits the spread of HIV/AIDS infection: An educated woman becomes less vulnerable to men. It reduces the spread of HIV/AIDS as it contributes to female economic independence. 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.
Girl-child education is very necessary and an issue that cannot be over emphasized. A woman plays very vital roles in a family and society at large. The saying goes that the woman is the foundation of the home; she could make it work or just break it. Educate the girl-child and she becomes a friend, a teacher, a confidant, a counselor and the “hand that feeds”. Girl-child education remains an important tool in nation development. The development of any society would be grossly lopsided if the girl-child is not given proper education. Thus, every child should be given the opportunity to be educated, no matter the gender of the child; it will help to bring equal growth and contributions to the society. Hence, the slogan; if you educate a boy, you educate an individual but if you education a girl you educate a nation.
Asiegbu, G. E., Okoji, P. N., & Bosah I. P. (2015). Factor mitigating against female and rural dweller’s access to and participation in higher education in Nigeria. International Journal of education learning and development 3(7), 1-8.
Ballara, (2002). Women and literacy: Women development series. London: Zed book Limited.
Bolaji, (2007). Child Marriage. Sunday Sketch Newspaper, Lagos
Falae, V. Girl child education in Nigeria: problems & prospects. Retrieved from www.legit.ng.
Uzoma, (2013). Girl child basic education.