Women and girls in Nigeria live in a world where they are denied their basic human rights, and this is especially true when it comes to accessing education. Major barriers include restricted mobility, cultural beliefs, family tradition, low economic status, and poor infrastructure.
Nigeria is a country located in West Africa with a population of over 170 million people. The official language of Nigeria is English, but there are over 500 different ethnic groups in the country, each with its own language. The Hausa, Yoruba, and Igbo are the three most populous and influential ethnic groups in Nigeria. Nigeria is a federal republic and is divided into 36 states and one federal capital territory. Nigeria’s capital city is Abuja.
Nigeria has a long history of gender inequality. In the past, women and girls were not given the same opportunities as men and boys when it came to education. This has changed over time, but there are still some disparities between genders when it comes to education in Nigeria.
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According to data from UNESCO, the literacy rate for adults aged 15 years and older in Nigeria was 67% for women and 80% for men in 2010. The gap between literacy rates for women and men has been narrowing over time, but there is still a significant difference.
In October 2017, the National Competitiveness Council of Nigeria (NCCN) made frightening revelations about the gender gap in the labor force, which was shown to be less than 2% in several states of Nigeria. Even though the inequality was predicted, nobody thought it would be this severe. This results in fewer women working in specific economic sectors. Following are some of the occupations where women made up a majority of employees in 2012: architects (2.4%), quantity surveyors (3.5%), lawyers/jurists (25.4%), lecturers (11.8%), obstetricians and gynecologists (8.4%), pediatricians (33.3%), and media practitioners (18.3%).
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The Education minister of Nigeria emphasizes the importance of female education during his visit to an orphanage in Kenya. He was alive and lauded by the education ministers for visiting the orphanage in Kenya, which educates predominantly girls which are disenfranchised from society, in order to lend attention to their plight and the situation. Not all children including girls from ten years old may go to school and there is a big disadvantage in terms of not having quality, affordable, and gender-responsive education in Nigeria.
The situation of women and girls’ education in Nigeria has improved significantly over the past few decades thanks to economic growth, increased access to education, and improved educational quality. However, there are still some challenges that need to be addressed, such as early marriage and childbearing, which can lead to girls dropping out of school; a lack of access to quality education in rural areas; and financial barriers to education. Numerous projects and programs have been set up by various groups to improve the lives of women and girls across the world. 129 million females worldwide, including 32 million in elementary school and 97 million in secondary school, aren’t attending school, according to UNESCO figures. 41,000 females get married before they turn 18 regularly. That equates to 15 million females annually.
Education in Nigeria
Nigeria is a nation in West Africa. Nigeria’s official language is English. However, there are over 500 different languages spoken in Nigeria. Hausa, Yoruba, and Igbo are the three largest groups of languages spoken in Nigeria.
Nigeria has a population of almost 200 million people. The literacy rate in Nigeria is 61.3%. This means that about 118 million Nigerians are literate. However, the literacy rate for women is only 54%. This means that only about 108 million Nigerian women are literate.
The education system in Nigeria is made up of six years of primary school, three years of junior secondary school, three years of senior secondary school, and four years of tertiary education.
Primary education is free and compulsory for all children aged 6 to 11 years old. However, due to poverty, gender discrimination, and other factors, many girls do not have access to education. In fact, only about 60% of primary school-aged girls are enrolled in school. The dropout rate for girls is also high. In 2010, 36% of girls who started primary school dropped out before completing their schooling.
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Junior secondary school is also free and compulsory for all children aged 12 to 14 years old. However, due to the same reasons mentioned above, many girls do not have access to education and drop out before completing their schooling. In 2010, only about 40% of girls who started junior high school completed it.
In an interview in 2014, Adaobi Alex-Oni, the founder of ROWEAD (Role of Women in Emerging African Democracies), stated that colonial-era gender norms that were placed on women were to blame for the inequality in education between men and women. The idea that women are inferior to males confined women’s responsibilities to providing for the family, caring for the children, cooking, cleaning, and domestic work. In other words, the colonial principle—which has persisted to this day—was based on women serving as housewives.
Nigerian Government and International Communities’ Efforts to Improve Education for Girls
Nigeria’s government has committed to increasing girls’ access to education and improving the quality of education for all. The government is working with international partners to provide more opportunities for girls to attend school and complete their education.
The government has also implemented a number of policies and programs to improve the quality of education for all children, including girls. These include the introduction of free primary education, the improvement of teacher training, and the provision of more learning materials in schools.
In addition, the government is working with civil society organizations to raise awareness of the importance of education for girls and women. These organizations are helping to promote girl-friendly schools and providing support for girls who face obstacles to attending school.
Despite these efforts, there are still many challenges that need to be addressed in order to improve girls’ access to quality education in Nigeria. These include changing negative attitudes towards women and girls within society, ensuring that schools are safe and accessible for all children, and providing adequate resources and trained teachers in all schools.
The Gap Between The Northern and The Southern Nigerian States
There is a significant gap between the educational opportunities and outcomes for women and girls in Nigeria’s northern and southern states. In the North, fewer girls go to school, and those who do, attend for fewer years. As a result, literacy rates are lower among women in the North than in the South. In addition, early marriage and childbearing are more common in the North, which further limits women’s educational attainment and life choices.
Situated in Nigeria’s conflict-ridden Middle Belt region, Benue State has one of the lowest primary school completion rates for girls in the country. In 2015–2016, only 37% of primary school-aged girls were enrolled in school, compared to 80% of boys. A number of factors – including poverty, insecurity, cultural norms around gender roles, and a lack of infrastructure – contribute to this disparity.
In contrast, Anambra State in southeastern Nigeria has some of the highest rates of female education attainment in the country. In 2015–2016, 91% of primary school-aged girls were enrolled in school. This is due in part to targeted interventions by the state government to increase access to education for all children, particularly girls. These interventions include building new schools in rural areas and providing scholarships for girl students from low-income households.
The disparities between Northern and Southern states are reflective of broader inequalities within Nigeria as a whole.
Educational Challenges Women Face in Nigeria
Gender discrimination is a huge problem that women face in Nigeria when it comes to education. Although girls are allowed to attend primary school, they often face discrimination and violence both in and out of school.
This violence can take many forms, from physical abuse to sexual harassment and assault. As a result, many girls are afraid to go to school and end up dropping out. Even when they do stay in school, they often lag behind their male classmates. During one of our interviews in Awka, a parent said, “We are faced with long distances to primary schools. On their way to school, girls encounter men. Later, some get pregnant and drop out of school. “Also, because we lack a vocational school to teach our females after they finish elementary and lower secondary school, we consider it a waste of money to educate girls.”
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This discrimination starts early on in a girl’s educational journey. In some families, resources are limited, so boys are given preferential treatment when it comes to education. For example, parents might invest in their son’s schooling while neglecting their daughter’s education. Uche Onyebuchi, a 13-year-old girl from Achala, said in an interview that “I stopped going to school in order to marry.” The young teen lamented that she married during a school break. She said, “Before I could return, I became pregnant.” I never returned after that.
As a result of all these challenges, women in Nigeria face significant obstacles when it comes to getting an education. This lack of education then limits their opportunities later in life, perpetuating the cycle of poverty and inequality.
Christine Sadia stated that “women must be provided with tools and training so they fully understand what the risks are.”
Consequences of Lack of Female Education
The consequences of a lack of female education are manifold and damaging. In Nigeria, women and girls who have not received an education are more likely to be married off as child brides, suffer from domestic violence, and have little to no control over their own reproductive health. They are also at a greater risk of becoming victims of human trafficking and forced labor.
Lack of education contributes to poverty and economic insecurity. Women who are not educated are less likely to find formal employment, meaning they are more likely to live in poverty and be economically dependent on men. This lack of financial independence can make it difficult for women to leave abusive relationships or seek help when they experience violence.
Girls who do not go to school are also more likely to become pregnant at a young age. Teenage pregnancy often leads to stunted educational and economic opportunities for both the mother and child. In Nigeria, adolescent girls who give birth are three times more likely to drop out of school than their peers who do not have children.
The consequences of a lack of female education extend beyond the individual level; they also impact communities and society as a whole. When women are not educated, gender inequality persists, thereby limiting the social and economic advancement of all people.
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It is evident that the situation of women and girls’ education in Nigeria is dire. The lack of access to education, limited resources, and widespread gender discrimination continue to hinder progress. While there have some efforts to improve the situation, much more needs to be done in order to provide Nigerian women and girls with equal educational opportunities. The World Bank and other organizations’ research has demonstrated that educating more girls leads to faster economic development and higher women’s incomes than educating solely males. The wealth and well-being of families are also increased when women earn more money because they are more inclined to invest it in their families and homes.
Nigerians need to focus more on the education of girls to succeed in society’s developmental processes. Quality education for all girls and young women is a fundamental human right, a top concern for international development, and a top objective for the World Bank.