Chapter One/ Introduction
The term ‘girl-child refers to a female between the ages of 6-18 years (Mukhatar (2011). The National Child Welfare Policy (1989) as cited by Ada (2001) defines the girl-child as a female below 14 years of age. Offorma (2009) defines it as a biological female offspring from birth to eighteen (18) years of age. During this period, the young girl is totally under the care of the adult who may be parents, guidance, or elder siblings. It is also a period when the girl-child is malleable, builds and develops her personality and character. She is very depended on others on who she models her behaviour, through observation, repetition, and imitation. Her physical, mental, social, spiritual, and emotional development start and progress to get to the peak young adult stage Sutherland, (2001). Again, the gender apartheid places the girl-child in a disadvantaged position, where her potential is suppressed, and self-actualization is not achieved. She, therefore, becomes a victim of a pre-existing social-cultural male chauvinism. Furthermore, on the account of gender, girl- child are subjected to all multiple forms of operations exploitation and discrimination.
For any society to developed and is not lopsided, the girl-child should be given quality education. Girls’ education is a strategic development priority. Better educated women tend to be more informed about nutrition and healthcare, have fewer children, marry at a later age, and their children are usually healthier, should they choose to become mothers. They are more likely to participate in the formal labor market and earn higher incomes. All these factors combined can help lift households, communities, and countries out of poverty. According to UNESCO estimates, around the world, 132 million girls are out of school, including 34.3 million of primary school age, 30 million of lower-secondary school age, and 67.4 million of upper-secondary school age. In countries affected by conflict (for instance Northeast Nigeria), girls are more than twice as likely to be out of school than girls living in non-affected countries. And in many countries, among girls who do enter primary school, only a small portion will reach and far fewer will complete secondary school.
Girl-child education has then become a major issue of concern in most developing countries of the world today, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, where many young girls do not attend school. According to UNICEF (2007), as cited by Grace (2010), the global figure for out-of-school children is estimated to be 121 million, out of which 65 million (approximately 53.8%) were girls and over 80 percent of these girls live in sub-Saharan Africa. Primary school completion rates in Africa have been the lowest in the world and this remains a concern as half of the world’s out-of-school children (OOSC) are concentrated in 15 countries, eight of which are in sub-Saharan Africa (Ibrahim, 2012). In sub-Saharan Africa, the number of girls out of school each year has risen from 20 million in 1990 to 24million in 2002 (Offorma, 2009).
According to Nigerian President Muhammed Buhari as quoted on January 16, 2020 Nigeria has 13.2 million out-of-school children. The girl-child accounts for 60% of this figure. In the Northern part of Nigeria, which comprises three geo-political zones: The North East, North Central and North West. The north Central shows an improvement over others, these zones cannot boast of appreciable number of girls’ enrolment at primary and secondary schools’ level, not to talk of tertiary level of education, as compared to boys’ enrolment. This indicates the level of backwardness of women compared to the men in the region.
For instance, in Yobe state, socio-cultural factors are significant in parental and family decision on whether to invest in girl-child education. Pervasive gender ideologies at the
household and community levels always favor boys over girls and promote differential educational opportunities and outcomes. Socio-cultural believes and custom influence decision to enroll girls in schools, decision to withdraw them from schools and decision to drop out of school and indeed, their academic performance as well as grade level attainment. Also, the sociocultural expectation of girls and the priority accorded to their future roles as mothers and wives have a strong negative bearing on their formal education. The girl-child is discriminated by virtue of her sex, the structure of the society, its values, traditions, and institutions all have an in-built discrimination against women. The assigning of different expectations to male or female has made the traditional society in the past years to believe that it is not natural for a female child to be educated. As such, the illiterate parents prefer to have their female children doing some domestic works at home. Traditional beliefs to some extent hamper the girl-child education. It ranges from the fact that girls do not carry on the family name like boys. If at all they send their children, it is limited to the male children who according to such parents would occupy their place in the case of death. As such, every available means is used to train the boys at the detriment of girls because of their important role in protecting the “family name
In the same regard, owing to the economic stagnation of Yobe state, it is common to find school age girls engaged in street hawking rather than attending school. Poverty and the impoverished condition of the citizenry serve as a barrier to girl-child education. Most mothers preferred street hawking and early marriage than sending their wards to school. In the same vein, family background of the girl determines her chance of attending school.
The more educated a parent, the more favorable his/her attitudes to education. Further to this, in most polygamous homes, boys are usually given considerations whenever there are scarce resources for the training of the children. Sometimes, an intelligent girl is deprived of opportunity to go to school while allowing a less intelligent or less ambitious boy to go to school. Also, the input of the girl-child in the family income is so high that it becomes economically unwise to allow such a child to pursue western type of education. Such income could, therefore, be generated through hawking food items. The situation led girls between the ages of thirteen to fifteen are falling headlong into marriage and thereafter begin to face the challenges of childbirth. One, they are denied the opportunity of formal education as they could not have any solid economic base or resources. With little or no education. This does not only affect the young women or rather the girl-children but also their offspring who due to the collapse of social and religious welfare services, are dumped with their unsecured mothers.
Statement of the Problem
The girl child and by extension women have been turn out to be bearers of children, and toilers of arduous labour from sunrise to sun set. They can only be seen but not be heard in both the private and the public spaces of decision making. The girl child by the natural status ascribe to her by male define norms of societal conduct and behaviour remains a property to be owned and commoditized. No community will remain undeveloped if it has the required human capital and the best instrument for developing any society is to invest in human capital Richardson, (2009). This is because the acquired knowledge and skill will guarantee the economic and social liberation of the individual and by implication enhances their contribution to community and national development Efe, (2001)
Education is meant for all; in fact, it is the fundamental human right of every child whether boy or girl, able or disable to acquire the basic education. There should therefore be no discrimination as to who goes to school and who does not, hence education recognizes and helps to unlock the potential in every child. Low enrolment of the girl child in school is widening the educational and economic gap between the men and the women folks in Northern Nigeria and Yobe in particular.
Therefore, the issues of gender equality in education have been the subject and off course the prominent topic of debate for decades now. In Nigeria for example, there are large disparity between the education that the girl child received and that of their counterpart boys. Many girls do not have access to adequate education to a certain age. The literacy rate, adult female (ages 15 and above) in Nigeria was at 52.66% in 2018, according to the World Bank collection of development indicators, compiled from officially recognized sources. (World Bank, 2018). In Yobe state, the net attendance rate is 47.7% meaning that more than half of the girls are not in school. The education deprivation in northern Nigeria is driven by various factors, including economic barriers and social-cultural norms and practices that discourage attendance in formal education, especially for girls. Effort to boost female education have been made by governments, organizations and INGOs (especially FHI360), however, there still disparity in education.
The research is intended to identify and address the challenges bedevilling girl child education or the factor responsible for low enrolment in schools in Yobe State. It also necessary to unravel the challenges of girl child education in view of not only the ignorance of rural dwellers on the importance of education, but also the dehumanizing practice of keeping the girl child out of school, why parents often keep the girl child at home to look after the younger ones and engaged in house chores with perception of grooming them for future husbands.