“Until we get equality in education, we won’t have an equal society”
Malala was 15 years old when she got shot by a Taliban gunman in protest of her activism for the girl child education. Malala’s story is one of many which sheds light on how gender disparity is denying lots of young individuals, whether male or female, the right to quality education.
Gender inequality is one of the pertinent issues that has existed for a long time and is still a pressing issue in our society today. Access to education, which is one of the drivers of national development, is still influenced by gender in this present era despite the level of civilization attained. It is a huge barrier depriving intelligent minds from attaining the knowledge and skills they deserve, thus increasing the projection of a stagnant and an underdeveloped society. Education is a basic human right that should be availed to all and gender equity has to be maintained in its access and delivery.
Sustainable Development Goals
The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals on quality education (SDG 4) are set to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning for all. As quality education is one of the basis of sustainable development, this goal was set to ensure that inclusive education is provided for the less privileged. Furthermore, the SDG 5 which is “to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls” is set and should be adopted to put an end to every form of discrimination towards women and girls and to afford them equal right and opportunity. The synchronization of these aforementioned SDGs supports the advocacy of girl child education.
Statistics and Data
Even though gender bias in education is been reported in virtually all parts of the world, it is however most common in Africa. This issue affects both males and females, but the statistics of male and female students in school have shown that the latter are most affected. According to global statistics, women make up about 67% of the world’s 796 million illiterate people. Presently in Africa, according to UNICEF, in terms of primary education, less than 90 girls for every 100 boys are enrolled in primary school. At secondary level, the statistics shows that less than 76 girls for every 100 boys are in school. In Nigeria, as far back as in the 1920s, out of 25 secondary schools in existence then, only 3 students were girls while the others are boys. Fast forward to 98 years after, the story has not changed much. According to a 2018 report by UNICEF, 60% of out-of-school children in Nigeria are girls. Furthermore, statistics from UNESCO states that in Nigeria, males have a higher primary school completion rate (78%) than females (69%).
Gender bias in education in Nigeria can be attributed to cultural and socioeconomic factors. First, the typical “Nigerian culture” is patriarchal in the sense that men have most power and importance in the society. The cultural values and norms in the country have limited girls and women to minor roles in the household and in the society as a whole while men are regarded as the “breadwinners”. It is often believed that the girls are meant to help at home while boys should be sent to school. However, in some cases, girls are sent to school and boys are made to work with their fathers because they are stronger (as mostly seen in the south-eastern part of Nigeria). More so, the sentiment that a girl child is maximally successful in the society only by getting married and not by academic qualifications still eats deep. The popular saying of “the kitchen is a woman’s office” is still loudly echoed in the rural communities and sadly, not so silent in the said urbanized regions. (Remember the “kitchen and other room” comment and the sensitivity of where it came from??)
Secondly, due to the incessant economic instability experienced in the country, affording quality education has become very expensive for families, especially those in the rural communities. As such, most families can only afford to sponsor one child at a time. The odds of such deliberations and decisions are mostly against the girl child.
“Why spend so much money on her when she’s definitely going to adopt another man’s name when she gets married?” “Why sponsor her education when she can be married off and even get benefits of an in-law?”
Additionally, the influence of religion tenets in most cases intertwined with ridiculously early marriage is also a great deal in the setbacks observed in achieving equitable access to education in Nigeria. Some religious extremists in some parts of the country (especially in the north-east) vehemently protest against girl child education because they believe female education exposes her to the western world ills and vices which will rip off her serenity and purity.
Although some level of progress has been made towards achieving gender equity in education in Nigeria, there are still certain steps to ensure that every child is enrolled in school irrespective of his/her gender. First, there should be increased and extensive public awareness on the need for girl education. Secondly, effectual policies such as free and compulsory Universal Basic Education for every child should be adopted. In addition, early child marriages should be abolished so as to afford young girls the opportunity to get basic primary and secondary education at least. In conclusion, the government and private sectors such as NGOs should intensify efforts at providing educational support to promising girls from poor backgrounds
YATTIYR! EXCELLENCE FOR ALL