Standing Up for the Girl Child
What are the benefits of the Girl-child education? Speakers at a conference organized for African and traditional leaders in Abuja, shared their expert-knowledge, reports ABDULSALAM MAHMUD.
There are approximately 16,823,822 girls aged 10-19 in Nigeria. In essence, 1 in every 9 Nigerians is a young girl, so says the 2013 National Demographic Health Survey (NDHS) data. Then, it went further to add that those who enroll in school leave earlier than their male counterparts and in Northern Nigeria, only 4 percent will complete secondary school, just as more than 75% of those aged 15-19 years in the North are unable to read a sentence compared to less than 10 percent among their counterparts in the South.
A breakdown in the NDHS’ statistics showed that over 70.8% of women aged 20-29 in the North West are unable to read and write compared to 9.7% in the South East zone.
Again, in Northern states, over 80% of women are unable to read and write compared to 54% of men; while only 4% of females complete secondary school in the North.
In the face of the abovementioned ugly narratives, amid other issues affecting women in Africa, eminent speakers, distinguished academics and participants converged in Abuja, the capital-city of Nigeria, for a“Regional Conference for African Traditional and Religious Leaders on Keeping Girls in School in Africa”.
They brainstormed on ways to swiftly shore up the terribly low percentage of girl-children enrollment in schools, at the event tagged: “Keeping Girls in School”.
Leading first class Northern Emirs (traditional leaders) including Sarkin Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi (II); Etsu Nupe, Alh. Yahaya Abubakar; Emir of Argungu, Alh. Samaila Mera; the Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Alfred Achebe, Gbom Gwom Jos, and other prominent monarchs from the South South, alongside notable religious leaders, attended the three-day event.
It was organized by the Sultan Foundation for Peace and Development.
The Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu; FCT Minister, Mall. Muhammad Bello; the Kabaka of Buganda, Ronald Edward Kimera Mutebi (II) of Uganda; Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, Amina Mohammed; Interior Minister, Abdulrahman Dambazzau, and the ‘Queen Mother of Asante’ were also among the A-list dignitaries at the conference.
Declaring the event open, President Muhammadu Buhari, said the time has come for young African girls to be liberated from the clutches of illiteracy, HIV/AIDS pandemic, sexual trafficking and dehumanizing poverty, among others, by sending them to schools for personal development.
Buhari appealed to traditional and religious leaders to exploit their closeness to the grassroots to sensitize their people on the benefits of acquiring western education, especially by female children, so as to check the subjugation and marginalization of women.
Welcoming the participants, Alh. Sa’ad Abubakar, Sultan of Sokoto, said studies have shown that the health of children substantially improve when their mothers are educated.
“The direct correlation between the education of the mother and health and development outcomes of families shows that the future of African families is dependent on the education of the girl”, he observed while delivering his speech.
The Sultan, who chaired the event, explained that the three-day conference will provide an opportunity for traditional and religious leaders from 15 countries with the highest female school dropout rates to share ideas and best practices, articulate and develop strategies, while building networks that they will use to keep girls in school so as to complete 12 years of education and acquire livelihood skills in their communities.
A renowned Northern public figure, Dr. Usman Bugaje, moderated a six-member panel discussion entitled,“Indigenous African Approaches on Keeping Girls in Schools in Africa – Experiences from the Field”.
The Ugandan Deputy Minister for Education, who stood in for Mrs. Sylvia Nagginda, the Queen of Buganda, informed participants that female children enrollment figure in Ugandan schools has increased due to the domestication of the Echoto, Saka Noroba, Obuntu and Kabaka teaching systems, in all regions of her country.
She explained that the four education models are time-tested approaches which were beautifully-designed, and have since been achieving their sacred objective of keeping a large number of girls in schools, while also curbing teenage and under-age marriages.
Hajiya Lateefat Durosinmi of the Federation of Muslim Women’s Associations of Nigeria (FOMWAN), who said that ignorant women in communities begets a morally-decayed societies, maintained that education remains the most powerful instrument of social revolution and moral rebirth.
“FOMWAN, as a body, has about 300 Islamiyya schools across Nigeria, where children receive sound knowledge of Islam and also acquire western education. We also have over 50 adult literacy and vocational skills centres for training women and young girls in various artisanal trades so as to become self-reliant. Then, our annual ‘Education Lecture’ has remained a platform for stakeholders to cross-fertilize ideas on ways to promote knowledge-acquisition, especially by Northern females,” the FOMWAN official added.
Underscoring the importance of educating girl children, Rev. Dr. Obed Dashan of COCIN, observed that biblically, women play a pivotal role in molding and shaping their societies.
He said: “COCIN’s outstanding efforts towards eradicating illiteracy is manifest in the over 200 primary and secondary schools it established for indigent children across the country.”
Ms. Gogontlejang Phaladi, a youth champion from Uganda, said her Pillar-of-Hope-Project (POHP), attaches greater premium on the development of the girl child.
Reeling out the findings of a survey, she said: “The children of educated mothers are 50% more likely to survive past the age of 5 years, while educated mothers are also more likely to send their own children to school. Almost 90% women with higher education and 75% of women with secondary education give birth in a health facility; but only 10% of uneducated women do so. 80% of children whose mothers are educated are well nourished, compared to less than 50% of children whose mothers are uneducated. Finally, if all girls in developing countries completed secondary school: under 5 child mortality would fall by 49%, maternal mortality would fall by 66% and the number of girls married off by age 15 would reduce by 64%.”
Muhammadu Sanusi II, remarked that girl child education will help reduce inequality, increase productivity and earnings and also drive economic competitiveness.
“It will also improve health and nutrition, lower infant and child mortality rates, decrease maternal mortality and protect against HIV/AIDS infection; it will increase women’s labour force participation and their earnings. Above all, it will promote peace building and stability, while enhancing mutual cohesion and harmony within communities and larger society,” said the Kano monarch.