Isaac A. Agih
Department Of History,
Kogi State College of Education, Ankpa, Kogi State
Questions have been raised regarding the inequalities between men and women in the areas of politics, property inheritance, education and other matters that affect human life. The contention is that women, have always been systematically denied access to positions of authority, leadership, property and power. Though some of these discriminations have been on the decline gender-based abuses persist. Such gender-based abuses and discriminations include forced marriages, forced prostitution, forced labour. Others are domestic violence, rape and denial of success to education. Most of the victims of the gender-based abuses are poor and illiterate women and girls. One of the effective measures of alleviating this gender-based human right abuse is girl-child education. Early girl-child education helps to create in the child an awereness of basic fundamental human rights, self-awareness, self-actualization and-confidence and serves as empowerment for women against gender-based abuses. This article therefore recommended basic education for all girls.
Nigeria’s intervention in the child’s early years of learning and development is firmly rooted in the National Policy on Education which is premised on the development of the individual into a sound and effective citizen and the need for equality of access to education irrespective of gender or any real or imagined disabilities.
Education without early child education is like building a house without a foundation. Generally, it has been observed that much of a child’s brain is developed in the child’s early age. That is the more reason that any nation aspiring for the development of its human capital, must develop the child’s early years to ensure that children have what they need to succeed. The Federal Government of Nigeria has captured this vision by the Universal Basic Education (UBE) law prescribing “one state one child education centre”, as the first step towards a total development of the Nigerian child. Nigerian Education Research and Development Council (NERDC) with the support of UNICEF also came out with a policy paper on the national minimum standards of the Early Child Centre in Nigeria.
UNESCO makes extensive reference to early child education and especially the girl child education and its importance in curbing social ills, ensuring peace, security and gender equality and as a tool against gender-based abuses. To achieve the objective of giving every child the opportunity to reach his or her potential, education for him or her has been defined to encapsulate health, nutrition, sanitation and stimulation.
Concept of Education
FRN (2009, p.4) defines education as “the process by which every society attempts to preserve and upgrade the accumulated skill and attitude in its cultural setting and heritage in order to foster continuty”. In tune with the above definitions early childhood education according to the Federal Republic of Nigeria National Policy on Education, FRN (2009), p.7) “is the education given in institutions for children ages 0-5 plus”. It is the foundation of the entire educational system and one of the objectives of early childhood education is to provide opportunities for the child to develop life manipulative skills that will enable the child, (girl-child as well) function effectively in the society within the limit of the child’s capacity.
The Impact of Gender-based Abuses on the Status of Women in Nigeria
The challenge before us is the current status of women and how well to serve their interests in the Nigerian democratic dispensation. We can still go further on this to pose the question of the fate of women in the emerging world order that is focused on issues of gender and development. Based on concerted research and general observation, the conclusion has been that women are denied some basic human rights such as the right of property inheritance, limited access to education and position of influence and power under the patrilineal structures. According to Asen (2005, p.46), “the overall result of these practices is low self-esteem by women leading to depression, lack of self confidence and initiative.” This in no small measure inhibits personal development and active participation by women and girls in national development. It is equally observed that in the last decade, over 62 percent of 7.3 million children of primary school age in Nigeria who are not in school, aged between six and eleven are girls. That is why Ezigbo in Udunze (2012, p.45) argues that “apathy to girl-child education and the inability of girls to attend school lead to poverty and economic related problems and not only that but the devaluation of females’ cultural and religious prejudices, early marriage and teenage pregnancy which force girls to drop out of school”. The male dominated society like ours takes advantage of the low–esteem nature of women to deny them access to quality. All these can become veritable tools in the women empowerment process and can sufficiently raise awareness and enhance the quality of women. Based on the vital role of Education in uplifting human life the United Nations Education and Scientific Organization (UNESCO) Constitution makes extensive reference to education and its importance in contributing to peace, security and gender-equality.
Early Girl-Child Education and Gender-Based Abuses in Nigeria
The integrated early Childhood Development Approach views the survival, growth and development of young children as mutually inter-dependent since education is a powerful tool to raise women’s status and empowerment for nation building, national integration and national development. The hypothesis is that most crimes, corruption and other evils against women originate from psychological insecurity and accompanying poor sense of self-worth of women.
In addition to psychological insecurity, the absence of early child education or illiteracy and non-value based education are responsible for intolerance, women subordination, human rights violation and abuse, poor sense of equity, social justice and rule of law. Thus, the girl–child needs proper education and a dynamic and value-oriented education curriculum that include teaching moral values and lessons of patriotism. We must begin from early childhood education to lay a proper foundation and arm children with proper values that will equip them for sane and responsible life in our society in order to overcome gender based abuses. Value-based education curriculum that will instill such truth in Nigerian children at all levels will dissolve psychological insecurity that is the basis of many crimes and evils against Nigerian women.
According to Bokova cited in Abubakar (2013, p.17), “Literacy is much more than an educational priority – it is the ultimate investment in the future and the first step towards all the new forms of literacy required in the 21st century. We wish to see a century where every child is able to read and write and to use this skill to gain autonomy”. The theme of the 2014 International Literacy Day, was “literacy and peace,” demonstrating the role of literacy in bringing people together to fight insecurity and social ills especially against women in our society. This is because ability to read and write transforms people and empowers them to cope with changes and diversity.
According to Abubakar (2013, p.18):
… the world is focusing on literacy … to emphasize the place of reading, writing and numeracy skills in enabling life-long learning and equipping all people with what they need to survive and attain their potentials in this knowledge-driven and competitive technological age.
According to the author above, some 775 million people are still considered non-literate (based on UNESCO report) of whom 85 percent live in 41 countries-Nigeria inclusive. Nigeria has globally fallen short of the Education for All goal of 2000 for a 50 percent improvement in literacy level world wide (2015). Statistics showed that 57 million children were out of school globally in 2011 and Nigeria accounts for 20 percent of this, (or over 10.5 million). Of every 5 children out of school in the world, 1 is a Nigerian. And even when our children enroll in schools, they may not complete the primary cycle. In spite of this gloomy picture, there is a determination by the Federal Government to move Nigeria forward. For instance, Brown (2014) explained with Nigeria will be receiving support to get the over 10.5 Million children who are not in school to become literate. All personal empowerment, social and human development and other opportunities depend on literacy. Literacy is essential for the eradication of poverty, reducing child mortality, curbing social ills, coping with population growth, achieving gender equality and ensuring sustainable development, peace and democracy.
All children deserve to have an early start in literacy development in order to learn. This applies especially to the girl child and Ajimobi (2014, P.15) rightly notes thus:
… It is necessary to concentrate on the girl child … because most of the future of a woman is usually determined from when she is a girl. This is when her character is formed; this is when she develops her personal ideologies and idiosyncrasies. This is when the foundation that will make or mar her future is usually laid.
Education is all–encompassing; it goes beyond the formal education that is received within the four walls of a classroom and usually includes informal education such as teaching of customs, socio-cultural values, traditional norms, courtesy and etiquette. Education therefore is one of the most important tools to empower the girl child to realize her potentials in life. This is achievable in the right socio – cultural environment. Nigerian government has severally pledged to intensify efforts to improve the status of women and girls, including enhanced reproductive health measures, the fight against sexual and gender-based vices and traditional practices. The domestication of the convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, (CEDAW) pledges to end domestic and sexual violence against women and girls by enacting laws and creating awareness in communities to end the social stigmatization relating to it.
Every government has the responsibility to provide qualitative basic education, and ensure that no child is denied access because of inability to pay fees. Thus education for all is an inclusive concept, encompassing not only primary education but also early childhood education, literacy and life skills acquisition. To ensure access to quality education for Nigerian children, the Federal Government embarked among others, on the Almajiri Education Programme which was launched as part of the strategies to address the challenge of high number of out-of-school children in the case of the northern part of the country. The observation is that since 2000, the percentage of out of school children has continued to increase and in 2010, only about 47 percent of Nigerian children actually got into secondary school despite effort of the Federal Government to improve the standard of education in Nigeria. It has been discovered that the country is far from meeting the MDGs target of 2015. The report of the annual Education for All Global Monitoring Report says that “Nigeria has the highest number of out of school children in the world” Ukemena (2013,p.29).
Early childhood education is a basic right of citizens that should go beyond learning to read and write and provide critical tools and skills that can empower women. As the economic welfare of women increases the quality of life improves as well and would help to solve the low women participation in Nation building.
- Many cultural practices such as religion, forced marriage, taboo which tend to oppress women, and girls are a clear violation of their fundamental human rights and so, should be discontinued.
- Government should not sweep the recommendations of the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, (CEDAW) under the carpet and the public should continue to remind and to hold the government accountable for its international obligations.
- The consequences and costs to Nigeria as a nation are enormous but they can be contained and managed through proper girl-child education. Stakeholders of girl-child education should join hands in empowering and educating the younger generation of women to achieve self-actualization.
- There should be equitable access by women and the girl child, to high quality and universal education. In tune with this suggestion, the Federal Government of Nigeria has said that it would continue to promote access and quality education that is affordable in line with the transformation agenda of the present administration. To achieve this, the need for collaboration among the national and international stakeholder should be intensified by information sharing and the domestication of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).
Women and girls in our society are being denied access to and control of vital resources, education and skills acquisition necessary to raise their economic and political power and status. As a result of the denial of early access to education, economic and political power, it has been easy for men to silence and have domineering power over the womenfolk. It is these disadvantages imposed on women to challenge the patriarchal ideology. It is important to remove the institutionalized forms of discriminations that reinforce and perpetuate gender-based crimes through the provision of early girl-child education. This way, future generation of women would have been taken through the right steps towards gender equity and equality.
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