Girl-child education • Stakeholders seek safe, inclusive learning environments to drive development

Bianca Iboma-Emefu

Educating the girl-child requires a strategic plan for them to reach their heights. Daily, across the nation, girls face barriers to acquire education which is caused by poverty, cultural norms, and practices, poor infrastructure, violence, and fragility. 

Stakeholders are of the view that girls’ education goes beyond getting them into school. It is about ensuring that girls learn and feel safe while in school; complete all levels of education with the skills to effectively compete in the labour market; learn the socio-emotional and life skills necessary to navigate and adapt, to a changing world. They should be able to make decisions about their own lives and contribute to their communities and world.

According to them, better-educated women tend to be healthier, they participate more in the formal labour market, earn higher incomes, have fewer children, marry at a later age, and ensure better health care and education for their children, should they choose to become mothers. All these factors combined can help lift households, communities, and nations out of poverty.

Recently, the world celebrated the international day of the girl-child,some women spoke on creating more educational opportunities as regard access to qualitative education for the girl-child in a repressive society.

 

The Provost, Federal College of Education (Technical) Umunze, Anambra State, Dr Tessy Okoli, said that the safety of school children is paramount as the world marks the international day of the girl -child, stating ‘’Nigeria need to do more on the safety of school children by ensuring inclusive and quality education that would promote life long learning opportunities for the girl -child.

“Safety in our schools is a national duty set before each of us, we need to tame the monster of insecurity in our schools nationwide” she stressed.

“We must understand that the safety of our children should be paramount and included in the educational policy that would help us achieve the desired results in the sector. The safety of all, especially the girl-child should be paramount in our society,this would drive development.

A child specialist and Coordinator of Rhema Bible Foundation, in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Mrs. Cordelia Idorgho, said

to bridge the gender gap as regards access to educational opportunities in the nation, stakeholders need to start a campaign that will encourage the enrolment of adolescent females and adults in learning centers across the 36 states including Abuja.

She noted: ‘We have been shown continuously that girl-child education drives development. We can never over-emphasized the need for an awareness campaign such as this. This is a movement to bridge the gender gap and it is a cause worth following, which will bring about societal balance, equity, and justice.

Idorgho urged the government to ensure gender parity by encouraging more females to acquire education, which will assist in curbing female infanticide, child marriages, feticide, sexual abuse and exploitation, rape, domestic violence, physical abuse, female genital mutilation, human trafficking, among others.

“We must educate our girls because they have the right to be educated. We must change the narrative. The narrative must-read loudly that the girl-child has a right to education; to be protected and to stay safe from violence. She has a right to access health services and she, of course, has a right to fully participate in her community,” Idorgho said.

The founder of Leadership Foundation for African Girl-Child and Women, Mrs. Viola Okoro said, empowering the girl- child in a repressive society, can be very challenging, but we must engage them through basic skills and empowerment schemes that are productive.

Okoro explained that they need to be equipped with the right information from those who had experienced some of the challenges faced by teenage girls and how they positively made an impact on themselves while growing up.

“Cultural values and norms should not be forced on the girl-child, especially some barbaric ones need to be erased, a school teacher at one of the private schools in Ago Palace Way, lsolo, Lagos, Blessing Lawrence observed.

A caregiver, who resides in Laguna, Viola Akut said that to be born a girl in Nigeria, is one of the toughest place, adding that of all the children not in school, girls are higher in number compared to boys. That is why we have a higher number of women being illiterate.

Akut explained that the provision of basic education is a very key assurance for girls, being given greater personal power and independence, stressing “you educate a girl child, you educate a generation.

“Some girls still have their ambitions questioned. Thus few make it to the top. Illiteracy isn’t the only problem, flawed perceptions can be just as dangerous’’, Akut noted.

In the same vein, Mrs. Opeyemi Thomas said the girl-child education is important and cannot be overemphasized, adding that gender inequality has relegated the girl-child to the background.  She emphasised that education is a vital element for the empowerment of girls and it would reduce poverty and gender discrimination.

She opined that the girl-child needs education, in order to improve their lives and create better child health and development for the country.

Mrs. Thomas said stakeholders have a major role to play by spreading the vital information with friends, family, and communities that the girl-child must be educated.

For the 14-year-old student of  Iba Housing Junior Secondary School, Benita Akinjide said the various programmes geared towards aiding girls like her, would give them a voice in the society and also make them achieve their full potential. She stressed that the empowerment of girls should not be an ‘option.

Akinjide appealed to the Lagos State government to initiate more friendly, girl-child programmes that would help to develop them.

A cleric, Mrs. Victoria Dominic, spoke on obstacles women in Nigeria face and how they can tackle the various challenges in order to have equal education.

She said there is a positive link between the enrolment of girls in primary school, the gross national product, and the increase of life expectancy.

“The enrolment in schools represents the largest component of the investment in the human capital of any society. Rapid socio-economic development of a nation has been observed to depend on the caliber of women and their education in that country.

Dominic stressed that education bestows on women a disposition for a lifelong acquisition of knowledge, values, attitudes, competence, and skills.

In her contributions, the Executive Secretary of Youths Empowerment Foundation, an NGO that uses goals initiative to empower the girl-child, Mrs. Iwalola Akinkunmi said that providing girls with basic education is an assurance of giving them personal power and independence.

She said educating girls will enable them to make a better choice for themselves than depend on those around them to meet their needs.

Akinkunmi recommended seven ways to recognise international day of the girl-child, which are to make a big difference in the lives of a girl-child in the society, which are: provide the ticket to a better life: clean water, support girls and women in crisis, mentor a girl close to home, help every girl and woman feel valued, invest in a small business owner, use your voice to help keep girls in school, help a new mom and tell the women in your life that you care.

 

 
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