By Vincent Ojochegbe Akoji
The girl-child is a biological female offspring from birth to eighteen (18) years of age. This is the age before one becomes a young adult. This period covers the crèche, nursery or early childhood (0-5 years), primary (6-12 years) and secondary school (12-18 years). During this period, the young child is totally under the care of the adult who maybe her parents or guardians and older siblings. It is made up of infancy, childhood, early and late adolescence stages of development. During this period, the child is malleable, builds and develops her personality and character. She is very dependent on the significant others, those on whom she models her behaviour, through observation, repetition and imitation. Her physical, mental, social, spiritual and emotional developments start and progress to get to the peak at the young adult stage.
Education is the process of providing information to an inexperienced person to help him/her develop physically, mentally, socially, emotionally, spiritually, politically and economically. Education is the process through which individuals are made functional members of their society (Ocho, 2005) It is a process through which an individual acquires knowledge and realizes his/her potentialities and uses them for self-actualization, to be useful to herself and others. It is a means of preserving, transmitting and improving the culture of the society.
To educate means to train the mind, character and abilities of individuals. Education is a fundamental human right that should be availed to all citizens irrespective of age, sex and nationality. There are a lot of human right instruments that provide for education as a fundamental right, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948).
The importance of education in the life of an individual can never be overemphasised. In both spiritual and temporal or mundane aspects of human existence, education is paramount. It is the light that shows the way by removing the darkness of ignorance; the salt that gives the taste of life; the medicine that cures; and the key which open doors.
The greatest favour one can do to himself or herself is “to get education” and to others “to give them education”. According to a Chinese proverb, education is the best legacy to give to a child because “giving your child a skill is better than giving him one thousand pieces of gold.”
Many girls today, do not have adequate education past a certain age. When a girl is 12-14 years old, the elders in the community feel she is “ripe for marriage” and their words are LAW. So what are her words worth when the elders in the community have spoken? A girl who is given out in marriage at a very tender age is placed at a very high risk. She is not matured enough to be a mother, without any skill, information and confidence that might lead to her being a better mother and wife if she were educated.
The native traditional philosophy is that a woman’s place is in her husband’s kitchen and her primary role centres on her home. This belief have kept many girls away from education. The Child’s Rights Act of 2003 prohibits child marriages and betrothals. In section 21 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, any marriage contracted by anyone less than 18 years old is invalid. This is why there have been a lot of emphasis, particularly in recent times, for all citizens to have access to basic education.
When a girl is given out in marriage at a very tender age, to a man who is old enough to be her grandfather, her right as a human has been abused as most Nigerians would say “she don marry her grandpa”. She has also been deprived of her right to education and will be doomed to be an illiterate forever if her husband does not give her opportunity to school after her wedding.
At the beginning of colonialism, rigid ideas on gender were imposed on the African mind, thereafter, the woman’s role has come to be merely for sexual and commercial labours – satisfying the sexual needs of men, working in the fields, carrying loads, tending to babies and preparing food. How can a girl who is not up to 18 years old be able to execute all these duties and look after her so called “family”? She is not matured enough to give birth and in the process of giving birth could become exposed to certain viral infections and even lose her life.
It has been established by researchers that enabling female education is crucial for national development, and the role of women cannot be underestimated. The general belief is that “when you educate a man, you educate one but when you educate a woman, you educate a nation.” This is so because the education of every child starts from the family and the mother is the first teacher. Educating the girl child produces mothers who are educated and who will in turn educate their children, care for their families and provide their children.
Therefore, educating the girl child translates to better health for the future generation, reduction in child morbidity and mortality thus triggering a snowball effect of achieving all other Sustainable Development Goals in a viable manner.
The girl child needs to be educated to acquire knowledge and skills needed to advance her status for social interactions and self-improvement. The girl child education also prepares her to face the reality in society and teaches her to be a good wife and mother. When she is educated, she realises the full potentials endowed in her; she discovers to be whoever and whatever she wants to be. With education, she would break the shell of ignorance and open that of self-discovery.
The Child’s Rights Act should be strengthened and implemented in all states. This would go a long way in checkmating indiscriminate child abuse. This is because, as girls are not educated, they remain dependent on their parents before marriage, on their husbands after marriage, and on their children if eventually their husbands die. Would you as a concerned, caring and loving father or mother love to see your daughter in this condition? This calls for encouraging the girl child education.
Education is specifically important for a girl-child as we cited Nigeria female teenagers that emerged winner of the 2018 Technovation as a case study.
Nigeria female teenagers that emerged overall winner of the 2018 Technovation World Pitch in California, United States. When the team, Save-A-Soul, developed a mobile application called ‘FD Detector’ to tackle the problem of fake Pharmaceutical products in the country.
The Nigerian girls defeated teams from the United States, Spain, Turkey, Uzbekistan and China to become the first Nigerian team to win the competition.
The teenage girls are from Anambra State in the South-East region of Nigeria, and will be pitching their app to investors in the Silicon Valley.
The team argue that Nigerians has the largest market for fake drugs, and they plan to partner with the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control [NAFDAC], using the app, to tackle this challenge.
Vincent Ojochegbe Akoji is a Public Policy Affairs.
With a remarkable feat from these teenage girls, it is clear that investing in the “Girl-Child Education” is vital to driving human capital development in the country.
Think about great professionals like Chief(Mrs) Eniola Fadayomi, Prof. Bolanle Awe, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Dr Obiageli Ezekwesil, Mrs Winifred Oyo-Ita, Mrs Omobola Johnson, Mrs Sola Borha, Mrs Ibukun Awosika, Dr Sarah Alade, Mrs Toyin Sanni, Ms Arunma Oteh, Ms Hadiza Bala-Usman, Ms Funke Opeke, Mrs Bolanle Austen-Peters are all products of great investments in the “Girl-Child Education”.
From the Technology, Finance & Investment, Creative Industry, Education, Policy and Advocacy space, women have the capacity to make exploits in Nigeria, and it all begins with the value for “Girl-Child Education”.
It is time to invest more in the Unity Girls secondary schools across the nation, girls technical schools and the North-West, North-East and South-South should be top priority in this regard.
The about 10.5 million out-of-school children index in Nigeria, which includes the Girl-Child has to be addressed urgently to curb the incidence of early-child marriage, poverty, illiteracy, prostitution, amongst others.
Policymakers must also create an enabling environment for increasing gender participation in the political, business, financial market, technology and even Agric sectors, providing a valuable pipeline for the “Educated Girl-Child” to be transformed into women that will be agents of national transformation.
Vincent Ojochegbe Akoji is a Public Policy Affairs.