Nigeria and the girls left behind

Kenechukwu Obiezu

Kenechukwu Obiezu

In Africa, realization has long dawned that the future belongs to the children who by reason of age will remain long after their parents have joined their ancestors.

This realization which is eminently funded by reason explains why we always say that children are the leaders of tomorrow and that they are the future. When we say children are the leaders of tomorrow, we invariably infer that the leaders who are in place today have expiry dates beyond which the future must then belong to the children.

To prepare children for leadership, to get children ready for tomorrow, it has also been long recognized that there are few better tools than quality education. This realization pays tribute to the efficacy of education as an equalizer and the empowering role it plays in the face of life`s daunting challenges.

But for many years, the insipid rot that has slowly but steadily continued to consume the roots of the Nigerian society has also eaten deep into the education sector. As of today, Nigerian public universities remain shut because the Academic Staff Union of Universities has been on a months-long strike. But actually, unlike fish which begins to rot from the head, the rot in the country`s education sector actually begins from the bottom.

Many public primary schools around the country lie in ruins. The dilapidated state of the infrastructure in them perfectly mirror the state of mind of the disgruntled teachers who teach in them and the bleak future of the students who learn therein. But if the future is bleak for the students who go to public schools in Nigeria, then for many children in Nigeria, there may be no future at all.

The United Nations Children`s Fund recently and    damningly painted a disturbing picture of Nigeria`s out-of-school children. According to the UNICEF Chief of Field Office in Kano, Mr. Rahama Mohammed Farah who was speaking at a Media Dialogue on Girls` Education under the Girls` Education Project (GEP3), “Currently in Nigeria, there are 18.5 million out of school children,60 per cent of these out of school children are girls – that is over 10 million girls are out of school. The majority of these out-of-school children are from northern Nigeria,”

Mr. Farah went further to lament that the situation has heightened gender inequity and inequality with only one in four girls from poor, rural families completing Junior Secondary education.

As Nigeria has disastrously veered towards disintegration in the last decade, education has been worse hit by the activities of terrorists who have been on rampage in many parts of northern Nigeria since about 2009. Schools have been razed to the ground, teachers and students have been slaughtered alike and with the disruption of families and their livelihoods has come a consequential disruption of life for many students.

In spite of the fact that Nigeria is a signatory to the Safe Schools Declaration, Nigerian schools have been anything but safe. Girls have been especially affected. In 2014, terrorists stormed a girls` secondary school in Chibok, Borno State and abducted hundreds of girls in an attack that sent shockwaves around the world. More than seven years later, some of the girls have remained in captivity. Many schools across the country have also witnessed similarly devasting attacks. With all these attacks coming every now and then, how then can   schools be deemed safe so as to encourage the girl child who even before the whole security crises struggled to get into school to return to school.

It is said that when you educate a girl, you educate a nation. As things stand today, girls have to navigate countless hurdles just to go to school. It does not help their case that grave insecurity now also counts as one of those hurdles.

A country serious about its education and prosperity sure knows it must go back to its girls – there is no other way.

Kene Obiezu,

keneobiezu@gmail.com

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