Woe betides a child born as a girl in the traditional African society. The African landscape is laced with a-blood-lined patriarchal order which has kept the woman behind the scene. Where the man maintains a sort of megalomania, “boss in the building” attitude, the woman is underrated. The exaltation of the man in the Nigerian setting is a phenomenon. Hence, the problems of women started right from the womb. But suffice it to say that these classes of people-women are the true channel by which the men are born into the world. No woman, no children. No women, the injunction of God at creation “go ye into the world and multiply” will be a myth. Who does the multiplication? Can a man be pregnant? Can a man tend a child?
The problems of women are the problems of humanity. The world today is plagued with crisis— terrorism, religious intolerance, political upheaval; climate change, hunger, diseases, hate, poverty and natural disasters; man’s inhumanity to fellow man, are some of the realities that has defined our societies today. It is either happening in Asia, America, Africa, or Europe. Men’s hearts are failing them, mothers crying for their children; our youths confused and uncertain in the midst of myriad uncertainties; the government grappling with these challenges to provide a suitable society for men to live in. In the face of this plethora of challenges, the woman is the most unfortunate, in that, she is the worst hit.
Who has the solution to the problems confronting humanity? Are there thinkers and home builders cum managers, whose perfect understanding and wisdom has the potential of reshaping our society for the better? The answer is the women of Nigeria. History is replete with women who have made the world a habitable place. Women, who have stopped wars, quelled crisis, interrupted the status quos, challenged authorities, confronted some dare-devils of social anomalies. In all lives endeavour – science, arts and humanities, politics, commerce and industry, education, the panoply of women who has shaped history is evident. Time will fail me to go to every region of Nigeria and harvest a troupe of women who have made and are still making things happen. Why are women’s contributions to the development of the society not recognized? Why are women looked down upon?— Patriarchy. Why has our women accepted their positions because of what they have been told –ignorance? Why are a prepondrous number of our girl-children not in school? tradition, religion, culture and poverty. While some persons reading this may think me a sexist, a womanist or feminist; please, before you do, just know that I have no whapped sentiment or leaning toward the women folk, but rather, what I am saying in this paper is audible to the deaf and visible to the blind— the treatment of women in the African setting.
The problems of the women are the problems of humanity; I shall x-ray the problems that have been militating against the progress of the woman in Nigeria. In accordance with the topic of this essay, I have identified one huge problem confronting women in Nigeria— the “girl-child education”. This problem is so huge and acidic, that it has eaten deep into the fabrics of the Nigerian system, and retarded development – so debilitating is this problem that it has hindered the women folk from maximizing the potential in them. Where the problem of the Nigerian woman is a political, religious and socio-economic violence, denial of access to a formal education is an infringement on human right— of which our girls have been made to suffer.
The girl-child from birth is faced with many challenges – she’s considered a costly guest in her house. Schooling her is a waste of money and time, and she is differently trained only for her role as a bearer of many children. The world has gone beyond this primitive ideology. Raring and consigning the girl-child at home, only to grow up, be given out in marriage at 12 or 14; and to fulfill the destiny of giving birth to children is unbelievable. Education is a fundamental human right which should be made available to all citizens of a country without religious, sex, gender, age, and tribal considerations. The Universal Declaration (1948) on human rights acknowledges this. Education and its importance in a person’s life cannot be overstressed in one public discourse endeavour. A light which wards off the cloak of ignorance and brings a person to the realization and discovery of self is education. But this “light” is taken away from so many a girl-children in Nigeria. UNICEF’s 2014 findings reveal that there are 70.5 million out of school children in Nigeria. Out of this number, 60% are girls. What then is the real definition of denial of right? If there is any life-time investment with the prospects of a humongous harvest in the future, it is education of the girl-child. Educate the girl; you have empowered her mentally, morally, politically, socially, and physically. Educate the girl, you have educated a nation that is mentally sound, physically fit and socially adjusted to handle the social-economic challenge facing us. The Nigerian government has shied away from her responsibility for ages – that of equipping the girl-child with the requisite knowledge to combat ignorance and forces of inefficiency and backwardness. Today, we have some disgruntled elements, socially maladjusted children, delinquents and hooligans, as well as other social malfeasance who have been denied parental, especially maternal affection during childhood, who have turned against the society in a bid to revenge the injustice done their mothers – denial of access to functional formal education. We talk of high motality rate, this is not unconnected with the ignorance and illiterate status of the women—they are not lettered, and cannot decipher right from wrong. The question then comes, what should be done to get more women to school? These girls, ages 12-14, what should be done to get them in the north and eastern part of the country to school? The panacea to this problem is in form of suggestions. There is no doubt the fact that a lot has been done by UNICEF in encouraging parents to send their children to school.
For a solution like no other, there should be a political will in the part of government, local humanitarian service providers, NGOs and traditional rulers to build upon existing child friendly school initiative supported by UNICEF and UNESCO. The traditional, primitive, cultural philosophy, militating against the girl-child should be done away with. The issue of women being denied adequate formal education is a cultural mix though, but as a disruptive idea, those elders who consider a girl of 12-14 years old as ripped for marriage, should be ostracized from the society of humans! Parents are the first educators at home; they should be encouraged by their religious leaders to see the need of sending their girl-child to school. Matters that have to do with women are delicate. Most times, a girl can confide in another girl or a woman, to express her feelings. Therefore, a girl-child-based institutions of learning, where the teachers are women as well should be encouraged especially in the north where religion and culture is a factor confronting the girl-child’s access to formal functional western education. Owing to the peculiar nature of the girl-child, creating a girl friendly school environment that will enhance participation of girls and improve cognitive retention and all round learning should be established. As we know, there are various cultural and religious misconceptions regarding western education, which has been a wheel in the clog of the girl-child’s gaining access to a functional formal education, which should be discarded. The trauma a 12 or 14 year old child will go through in the house of a man old enough to be her ground father, is inexplicable. Therefore, the marriageable age of any girl should be 20. That way, she would have attained a level of maturity, and learnt what it takes to be a wife, mother, home builder, and a succor to her husband. The book is the most potent terrific weapon against the forces of mediocrity, ignorance, self delusion, and inefficiency. Allowing the girl-child access to these tools which will open her eyes and transport her from the world of darkness into light, is a righteous cause. It is so ridiculous that the 2017 budget has just fifty million for education. Any serious government should reverse this trend. In other climes, – developed places, education is paramount. On the whole, raising notional awareness on girl-child education and increasing political and financial commitment through advocacy and sensitization of policy makers at all levels— parents, school managers; girls themselves, will go a long way to curtail the number of out-of-school girls in Nigeria.
Women’s problems are the problems of humanity. It is social, political, cultural, or economic in nature. In this case however, the worst challenge women face is lack of education, child marriage, and violence. Lack of access to formal education by women has given rise to other social-political and economic problems such as trafficking, prostitution, child-labour and increase in mortality rate. If Nigeria wants to etch its name in the map of a developed world— in all facets, then the education of its girl-child is not negotiable, that way, the Sustainable Development Goals initiative, will not be a myth or hoax.
Amaechi Emmanuel is a Student of English, University of Lagos. A United Nations Award Winner; he writes essays, short stories, poems, and most importantly, he is interested in political, social, civil leadership, youths and girl-child discourses.
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