Ja'ida Kato

By Ja’ida Kata

An​ ​ageless​ ​adage​ ​says​, ​“educate​ a woman (​the​ ​girl-child),​ ​​ ​educate​ ​a​ ​nation.”​ ​This​ is a fact that the worst of pessimists would not deny.​​​​ ​Contrary​ ​to​ ​popular​ ​belief​ ​that​ the ​girl-child​ ​illiteracy​ syndrome ​is​ mostly ​prevalent​ in​ ​the​ ​north it​ ​is​ ​pertinent​ ​to​ ​note​ ​that​ ​this​ ​is​ ​a​ ​Nigeria​ ​problem​ ​and by extension, a problem​ ​the​ ​world over.
While poverty​ ​is​ ​identified to​ ​be​ a leading ​cause​ of ​illiteracy, ironically, illiteracy​ ​has​ ​been​ ​fingered ​as​ ​the​ ​root​ ​cause of​ ​poverty​ ​in​ ​most​ ​Third​ ​World/developing​ ​countries. ​​​In​ ​most​ ​rural​ ​homes ​​the​ ​girl-child​ contributes to being a family breadwinner​ ​at​ ​a very​ ​early​ ​age. Mallam​ ​Nura​ confirms​ ​that​ ​his​ ​daughters​ ​make​ ​more​ ​profits​ ​every​ ​day​ ​from​ ​hawking​ ​because ​people​ ​are​ ​more​ attracted​ ​to​ ​females​ who sell than they are to ​the male​ ​children.​ ​When​ ​asked​ ​about​ ​his​ ​male​ ​children,​ ​​ ​he​ ​proudly​ ​said​ ​“sun​ ​tafi​ ​makaranta” meaning​ ​“they​ ​have​ ​gone​ ​to​ ​school”.​ ​He​ ​quickly​ ​added​ ​that​ ​the​ ​boys​ ​needed​ ​the​ ​free​ ​education offered by the Kaduna State Government more​ ​than​ ​the​ ​girls​ ​because​ ​the girls​ ​will​ ​soon​ ​be​ ​married​ ​and​ ​their​ ​husbands​ ​will​ ​be​ ​responsible​ ​for​ ​their​ ​needs.​ ​This ​ reasoning​​ ​has​ ​been​ ​accepted​ ​not​ ​only​ ​amongst​ ​illiterates​ ​from​ ​the​ ​rural​ ​areas​ ​but​ ​also by some educated​ ​people​ ​in​ ​​ ​the​ ​urban​ ​areas.​ ​​ ​I​ ​remember​ ​back​ ​in​ ​school​ ​there were many girls​ ​whose dream ​was​ ​to​ ​finish​ ​school​ ​​​ ​and​ ​get married​ ​to​ ​a​ ​rich​ ​man​ ​who​ ​will​ ​take​ ​over​ ​their​ ​responsibilities.​ ​Sometimes​ ​these girls ended up dropping out of schools ​ because​ ​ the​ ​zeal​ ​to​ ​read​ was overshadowed by the ​desire to​ ​get​ ​married​ ​from​ ​that​ ​young age.​ ​​​We​ could ​ blame​ ​this​ ​on​ ​gender​ ​roles​ ​as​ ​the​ ​child​ ​grows​ ​up.​ ​​ ​The​ ​male​ ​children​ ​are​ ​taught to​ ​be​ ​focused​ ​and​ purpose ​driven​ ​from​ their ​young ages ​. They are constantly​ ​reminded​ ​of​ their​ ​ responsibilities​ ​as​ ​​men. The​ ​girl​ ​child​ ​on​ ​the​ ​hand​ ​is​ ​brought​ ​up​ ​looking​ ​forward​ ​to​ ​her wedding​ ​day.​ Typical ​greetings​ ​from​ ​aunties​ ​and​ ​neighbours​ ​goes​ ​thus​ ​“Allah​ ​ya​ ​nuna​ ​mana​ ​biki’n​ ​ki” meaning​ ​“may​ ​God​ ​show​ ​us​ ​your​ ​wedding​ ​day” (may we live to see your wedding day) as commendation ​whenever​ ​the​ ​girl​ ​child​ ​does something​ ​noteworthy,​ ​as a ​ ​birthday​ wish ​or​ ​just​ ​as​ a ​good​ ​will.​ ​​ ​She​ ​grows​ ​up​ ​with​ the consciousness​ ​that​ ​she​ ​will​ ​grow​ ​up​ ​and​ ​get​ ​married​ ​and​ ​will​ ​be​ ​taken​ ​care​ ​of​ ​by​ ​a​ ​man​ ​and that​ ​is​ ​the​ ​end​ ​of​ ​her​ ​purpose​ ​here​ ​on​ ​earth.​ ​​ ​Talking​ ​to​ ​a​ ​group​ ​of​ ​teenage girls​ ​hawking groundnuts​ ​earlier​ ​in​ ​the​ ​year,​ ​I​ ​asked​ ​why​ ​they​ ​were​ ​not​ ​in​ ​school​ although ​ ​education was​ ​free​ ​in​ ​Kaduna State​​.​ ​With​ ​their​ ​face​s smeared​ ​with​ ​all​ ​colours​ ​of​ ​makeup​ ​they​ ​happily said​ ​they​ ​were​ ​hawking ​to​ generate​ ​money​ ​for​ the dowry of ​one​ ​of​ ​them​.(​​ possessions​ the bride takes to her new home) They added that it was a routine that helps each one of them that eventually gets married.​​ ​​ ​Although it is still dangerous but if these girls​ ​were​​ ​hawking​ ​​ ​to​ ​make​ ​up​ ​money​ ​for​ ​school​ ​books,​ ​​ ​uniforms​ ​or​ ​something​ ​pertaining to education​ ​which​ ​should​ ​be​ ​their​ ​concern​ ​at​ ​that​ ​young​ ​age, their future would be assured.
​Mallam Nura​ ​was​ ​looking​ ​forward​ ​to​ ​his​ ​daughters​ ​being​ ​married​ ​as​ ​a solution to the many mouths he had to feed​ ​and hopefully​ ​their​ ​husbands​ ​will​ ​help​ ​with​ ​money​ ​and​ ​small​ ​gifts as well.​ His five daughters were between the ages of ​seven ​and​ fifteen years​​ of age ​from​ ​one mother. The wife sat​ ​beside​ ​Mallam Nura ​lost​ ​in​ ​her​ ​thoughts.​ ​She​ ​had​ ​four​ ​boys​ besides the five girls ​and​ ​was​ ​heavily​ ​pregnant​.​ ​​ ​
Mallam​ ​Sani​ is a renown tailor​ who has been in the business for decades. He is a proud father of four University Masters degree graduate boys ​ earning their living from various offices. He trained his boys both in the formal and ​informal​ ​education.​ ​He​ ​explains​ ​that​ ​with​ ​the​ ​way​ ​he​ ​saw​ ​the​ ​world​ ​transforming​ ​years​ ​back,​ ​​ ​he knew​ ​they​ ​will​ ​definitely​ ​need​ ​both.​ ​​ ​Sadly,​ ​that​ ​is​ ​not​ ​the​ ​case​ ​with​ ​his​ ​daughters.​ ​ ​They​ ​all learned​ ​to​ ​sew​ ​but​ they have ​no​ ​formal​ ​education.​ ​​ ​Mallam​ ​Sani​ ​ explained ​that​ ​their​ ​husbands​ ​will​ ​worry about​ ​that.​ ​Two​ ​of​ ​his​ ​daughters​ ​were​ ​divorced​ ​and​ ​were back​ ​to​ ​the​ ​house​ ​with​ ​their​ ​children​ at the time of this interview.
The ​awareness​​ ​created​ ​on the​ ​benefits​ ​of​ the ​girl-child education​ ​should ​ ​have​ ​reached​ ​every​ ​nook​ ​and​ ​corner​ ​of​ ​our​ ​society​ ​and​ ​changed​ people’s ​mindsets but​ ​interactions ​with​ ​a​ ​few​ ​people​ ​from​ ​different​ ​geo-political​ ​zones​ ​of​ ​the​ ​country shows that ​so much more needs to be done.

Amaka​ ​Obi​ from​ ​the​ ​east​ ​​ describes a similar​​ ​ordeal​ female children face in​ her​ ​environment.​

​​ ​The​ ​girl – child​ ​is​ ​seen​ ​as​ ​a​ ​second​ ​class​ ​human​ ​who​ ​would​ ​soon​ ​be​ ​married​ ​off​ ​and​ ​have ​her​ ​surname changed to her husband’s, but​ ​the​ ​boy​ ​child​ ​will​ ​carry​ ​on​ ​with​ ​the​ legacy of the ​family​ ​name.​ Preference​ ​is​ ​given​ ​to​ ​the​ ​male children​ ​in​ ​most​ ​cases​ ​where​ ​the parents cannot ​afford​ ​to​ ​send​ ​all the​ ​children​ ​to​ ​school. One ​begins​ ​to​ ​wonder,​ ​how​ ​many​ would be female ​doctors,​ ​​ ​engineers,​ ​​ ​teachers,​ ​​ ​pilots,​ ​​ ​nurses,​ ​​ ​Architects, Scientists​ ​etc​ ​ the nation has lost​ ​because​ ​they​ ​were​ ​never​ ​given​ ​that​ ​fundamental​ ​right​ ​to​ ​education. It​ ​is​ ​important​ ​to​ ​note​ ​that​ ​education​ ​goes​ ​beyond​ ​the​ ​four​ ​walls​ ​of​ ​a​ ​classroom.​ ​As​ ​it​ ​is​ ​said “Knowledge​ ​is​ ​power”.​ ​Education​ ​helps​ ​people to ​know​ ​ their​ ​rights​ ​as​ ​​ ​human​ ​beings. It​ ​​ ​enables them to question​ ​happenings​ ​around​ ​them,​ ​​ ​proffer​ ​solutions​ ​and​ ​sometimes​ ​act​ ​as​ ​a catalyst​ ​to​ ​change.
Most​ ​illiterate​ ​women​ ​who​ ​have​ ​been​ ​subjected ​ ​to​ ​domestic​ ​violence​ ​have​ ​no​ ​idea​ ​that​ ​their​ ​rights as​ ​humans​ ​beings have​ ​been​ ​violated​ ​and​ that they ​had ​ ​better​ ​chances ​of​ ​taking​ themselves ​ ​and​ their ​children​ ​out​ ​of that​ ​situation.​ ​​ ​Barr.​ ​Sweet​ ​Ideal​ ​is​ ​presently​ ​handling​ ​a​ ​pro-bono​ ​case​ ​of​ ​a​ ​young​ ​woman whose​ ​guardians​ ​ ​have​ ​been​ ​abusing​ ​sexually​ ​for​ ​years​ ​and​ ​have instilled​ ​the​ ​fear​ ​of​ ​her​ ​dying​ ​if​ she ​ever​ ​spoke of it.​ This​ ​young​ ​woman​ ​and​ ​her​ ​likes​ ​out​ ​there​ ​suffer​ ​in​ ​silence​ ​because​ ​they​ ​have​ ​no idea​ ​of​ ​their​ ​rights​ ​as​ ​human​ ​beings​ ​and​ ​as​ ​ ​women.​ ​​ Educating​ ​the​ ​girl-child​ ​will​ ​invariably​ ​avert​ ​most​ ​of​ ​the​ ​ills​ ​that​ ​afflict​ women​ ​to​ ​the​ ​barest minimum.
Other maladies that interfere with the development of the girl-child to her full potential include the following:
CHILD-BRIDE:​ The​ ​issue​ ​of​ ​marriage​ ​should be ​ ​delayed​ un​till​ ​she​ ​finishes​ ​school. This ​ gives​ ​her​ ​time​ ​to​ ​develop​ ​physically​ ​and​ ​psychologically​ ​as​ ​well. TEEN-PREGNANCY: When a girl gets pregnant while in school her life literarily stops. She is ridiculed and sent out of school. She is rejected by the boy responsible for the pregnancy. The boy goes on with his life and nothing happens to him. There must be laws to balance this. It is not enough to say that the girl is wayward the boy is irresponsible too. ​
RAPE:​ ​When​ ​a​ ​young​ ​female​ ​child​ ​is​ ​made​ ​to​ ​hawk​ ​on​ ​the​ ​streets​ ​instead​ ​of​ ​being​ in ​school,​ ​​ ​she is​ ​exposed​ ​to​ ​a​ ​whole​ ​lot​ ​of​ ​danger​ ​which​ ​includes​ ​rape.​ ​​ ​Take​ ​ these ​children​ ​off​ ​the​ ​streets​ ​and put​ ​them​ ​in​ ​school​ ​where​ ​the​ ​environment​ ​is​ ​safe​ ​and​ ​the​ ​issue​ ​of​ ​them​ ​being​ ​raped​ ​on​ ​the streets​ ​is​ ​averted. HEALTH:​ ​All​ ​the​ ​issues discussed above ​come​ ​with​ ​health​ ​hazards.​ ​​ ​Early​ ​marriage​ ​ teenage​ ​pregnancy​ ​and​ ​rape​ ​could​ ​result​ ​to​ the person being a VVF victim, an HIV/AIDS infested patient and could suffer from many more sexually transmitted diseases. ​ ​The​ ​mortality​ ​rate​ ​of​ ​educated​ ​women​ ​is​ ​not​ ​as high​ ​as​ ​that​ ​of​ ​illiterate​ ​women​. Educated women are learned on issues like ​ ​proper​ ​diet and​ ​how​ ​well​ ​to​ ​take​ ​care​ ​of​ ​themselves​ ​in​ ​pregnancy.​ ​​ ​An​ ​educated​ ​woman​ ​will​ ​identify​ ​faster​ ​if her​ ​child​ ​has​ ​any​ ​problem​ ​or​ ​disability.​ ​Educated​ ​women​ ​plan​ ​their​ ​child​ ​spacing​ ​better​ ​than illiterate​ ​women​ ​and​ ​this​ ​can​ ​be​ ​achieved​ ​if​ ​the​ ​girl-child​ ​gets​ ​a​ ​sound​ ​education.
DRUGS / PROSTITUTION / GANG​ MEMBERSHIP ​are​ ​all​ ​vices​ ​the​ ​girl​ ​child​ ​is​ ​exposed​ ​to​ ​outside​ ​the​ ​walls​ ​of​ ​the classroom.​ ​Girls are easy prey and can be used as bait for the recruitment of gang members. They are also easily recruited for drug trafficking.
Child​ ​trafficking​ ​is​ ​another​ ​hazard the girl child faces in recent times. Apart from the international market that is the ultimate for trafficking in children we should be concerned about the plights of the house helps in peoples’ houses around us.​ ​Many of these children are raped by the man of the house himself and thrown out if they speak out or get pregnant. Others drop out of school to take care of the children belonging to the families they serve. The condition given to their parents before they left home was that they would be registered in school.
There​ ​is​ ​no​ ​way​ ​we​ ​can​ ​get​ ​a​ ​lasting ​solution or remedy​ ​to​ ​the​ problems militating against the sustainable development of the girl child ​​ ​if​ ​we​ ​do​ ​not​ ​ ​intensify​ ​the​ ​propagation​ ​of ​educating​ ​the​ ​girl-child.​ ​​ ​For​ ​a​ ​sustainable socio-economic​ ​development​ ​of​ ​the​ ​nation,​ ​​​ ​issues​ ​that​ ​affect​ ​the​ ​girl-child​ ​must be​ ​taken​ ​most seriously.​ ​It​ ​is​ ​indeed​ ​heart​ ​breaking​ ​that​ ​in​ ​the​ ​entire​ ​northern​ ​states,​ ​it is only Kano State that has ​accepted​ ​the​ ​Child​ ​Rights​ ​Act.​ ​​We hope that ​other ​states​ ​will emulate this noble gesture.
The​ ​importance​ ​of​ ​education and career​ guidance must be taught ​not​ ​just​ ​to​ ​the​ ​male​ ​children​ ​but​ ​the​ ​females​ ​today. Both growing males and females need to​ ​maintain their dignity and self respect ​and​ ​how​ ​they​ ​can​ ​add​ ​value​ ​to​ ​their​ ​society​ ​and​ ​the nation​.​ ​​ ​

The girl children need to ​ ​know​ ​they​ ​too​ ​can leave​ ​their​ ​footprints​ ​on​ ​the​ ​sands​ ​of​ ​time​ ​and​ ​be​ ​better​ ​than​ ​the​ ​women​ ​before​ ​them.​

Point them to heroes and achievers such as the late Dora Akunnyili, Amina Mohammed of the UN, etc. Today we​ ​live​ ​in​ ​a​ ​world​ ​where​ ​women​ ​worthy​ ​of​ ​mention​ ​keep​ ​shattering​ ​the​ ​glass​ ​ceiling​ ​. They could be​ ​one​ ​of​ ​them.
Girl-child​ ​education​ ​is​ ​not​ ​just​ ​a​ ​“female”​ ​problem​, ​ ​it​ ​affects​ ​the​ ​male​ ​as​ ​well.​ ​​ ​Mothers​ ​spend more​ ​time​ ​with​ ​their​ ​children,​ ​​ ​both​ ​males​ ​and​ ​females.​ ​​ ​An​ ​educated​ ​mother​ would more likely push​ ​her​ ​children​ to succeed better ​than​ ​the illiterate​ ​mother would.​ ​​ ​This naturally creates a ​ ​disparity​ ​between​ ​children​ ​raised​ ​by educated​ ​mothers​ ​and​ ​those​ ​raised​ ​by​ ​illiterate​ ​mothers.​ ​Most educated​ ​women​ ​are​ ​career specialists who earn a living​ ​and​ ​do​ ​help​ ​with​ ​the​ home ​finances​. ​ This ​eases​ ​the​ ​burden​ ​for​ ​the man​ ​who​ ​may​ ​have​ ​to​ ​cater​ ​for​ ​not​ ​just​ ​his​ ​immediate​ ​family​ ​but​ ​the extended​ family ​as​ ​well.​
​When​ ​we agitate​ ​for​ ​the​ ​girl-child​ ​education​ ​it​ ​is​ ​for​ ​the​ ​good​ ​of​ ​the​ ​society​. ​​ ​Education​​ ​unlocks​ ​a​ ​whole​ ​lot​ ​more​ ​than meets​ ​the​ ​eyes.​​ ​It​ ​is​ ​the​ inexhaustible ​fountain​ ​we will always point to the future generations. ​ ​​



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