GIRLS’ RIGHT TO EDUCATION IN NIGERIA (1)

I wrote this piece in 2004 and it was published in two parts my weekly column with Daily Independent on Thursday, July 1, 20004 and Thursday, July 8, 2004. I will share the first part this week and the other next week. I was inspired to dig into my archive to bring it out today by the declaration made by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, in his goodwill message on Malala’s birthday, ‘when women and girls are educated, they accelerate development in their families and communities. For every extra year of schooling, a girl increases her future earnings by up to 20 percent.’ Having, meditated deeply on the foregoing, I feel the 9 year old piece is still relevant today, particularly as it relates to my country, Nigeria.

Though, there is a level of improvement, but as long as there is one girl child, who is out of school in Nigeria, the system is incomplete and if the system is incomplete, we must hold all stakeholders accountable for the right of the girl child to education. The statistics are still scary. Below are the statistics supplied by World Bank Data ( data.worldbank.org )

  • The In 1999, around 106 million children were out of primary school. Almost 61 million (58%) were girls compared to 45 million (42%) boys.
  • In 2009, around 35 million girls were still out of school compared to 31 million boys.
  • Although the gap in gender parity has decreased substantially, there are still many more girls out of primary school than boys.

In Nigeria today 5,054,204 and 5,487,901 male and female children are out of school respectively. It is sad that Nigeria is one of the countries, which take the lead in number of girl children, who are out to school in the world.

Having state the foregoing, I invite you to read my piece of 2004…Thank you.

“Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, has 114 million people and more than 250 ethnic groups. Although Nigeria has had a National Policy on Education since 1981, it has not been implemented effectively and efficiently due to rapid population growth, insufficient political will, a long period of undemocratic governance, and poor management of scarce resources. Women and girls have been most affected by these negative factors. The national literacy rate for females is only 56%, compared to 72% for males, and in certain states the female literacy, enrolment and achievement rates are much lower. For example, girls’ net enrolment in Sokoto, one of the six target states under the UNICEF African Girls’ Education Initiative, is 15%, compared to 59% for boys.”- UNICEF

As a lawyer, I live, I move and have my being by the driving elixir resident in the injunction of the founding father of the legal profession in Nigeria, Christopher Alexander Sapara William. He instructed, “the legal practitioner lives for the direction of his people and the advancement of the cause of his country.”  In fact nothing fascinates me as a lawyer more than the fact that the profession provides a viable platform for me to engage in the noble cause of social engineering. This was the platform upon which Thomas Jefferson stood to draft the Charters of Freedom (the American Declaration of Independence) with which the United States declared its independence from the British in 1776. This declaration has today become an eloquent reference point in the struggle for the respect of fundamental human rights the world over.  It was the same platform upon which Dr. Nelson Mandela stood to reject the evil of minority domination in South Africa.

Today I am delighted to stand on this same platform to defend the rights of this Nigerian Child. I am elated by the fact that I have a virile platform to challenge a society, whose culture and negligence defy all logic of civilization, equity and good conscience. A society is best described as retrogressive when it descends into the ludicrous abyss of rating people on the basis of gender, contrary to the original intention of the Maker, who declared, “…there is neither male nor female; for you are all one…”

The introductory statement to this piece credited to UNICEF vividly illustrates the dismal case of the endangered Nigerian Girl Child, who is today denied equal opportunities to equal and adequate education with her male counterpart. The situation as it is today runs contrary to the collective spirit of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (Section 42), The Organisation of African Unity Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (Article 3), and The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Article 2).  Article 3 of the Charter provides, “Every child shall be entitled to the enjoyment of the rights and freedoms recognized and guaranteed in this Charter irrespective of the child’s or his/her parents’ or legal guardians’ race, ethnic group, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national and social origin, fortune, birth or other status.”

Recently, a crucial meeting of West African Education Ministers held under the auspices of UNICEF in Burkina Faso to find solutions to the embarrassing situation. Next week I shall continue along this line as I bring you some of the resolutions of the meeting and other matters arising.

I think I should sign out here. Thank you for visiting today. Sure you learnt one or two things on how to Think the CHILD…Think TODAY and Think the FUTURE.

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