Gender inequality: Issues and challenges in basic Education in Nigeria
Although every child has the right to education in Nigeria, the ratio of male and female students shows a significant bias favouring boys, with the rate of disparity being lower in primary schools than in secondary schools. This suggests that Nigeria has a retention problem with regard to girls progressing from primary to secondary education. To examine why this may be so, this paper discusses gender inequality in Nigerian educational systems, the goals of Universal Basic Education (UBE), a scheme launched by the Federal Government of Nigeria in 1999, and the gendered challenges that have arisen in UBE, before suggesting recommendations to close the gender gap in secondary school enrollment.
The basic premise of UBE is that of “education for all”. The implication of the programme is that every child in Nigeria must stay in school for a minimum of nine years, i.e. through the merged primary and junior secondary school (JSS) levels of school education, with successful students proceeding to senior secondary schools (SSS). Unsuccessful students who do not progress beyond JSS are to be provided with skills training to give them a chance to earn a living. UBE is intended to provide free, compulsory, and qualitative education at primary and JSS level for all Nigerian children, male and female. Yet there persists inequalities in access across all levels of education for girls, for a number of reasons:
Economically, men are regarded as bread-winners of the family, while women are expected to do low or unpaid work such as household chores, agricultural work, etc These expectations are then passed on to boys and girls, with access to education prioritised by parents accordingly.
Lack of resources also exacerbates the above point; where families have limited resources, it is more often than not the boys who are invested in, while families will often have more children in attempts to beget boys, thus reducing the amount of resources to invest in girls even further.
Religious hierarchies also discriminate against girls, which is reflected in religious-based views on education especially in the north-east of the country.
Bias in curricula affect girls, with regressive attitudes vewing maths and science as being “male” subjects, while girls are predominantly taught literary arts and home economics. This attitude is perpetuated in the attitudes of teachers themselves.
To overcome these gendered barriers, and close the education gap between boys and girls, the following strategies are recommended which can only be achieved through political will and the cooperation of the parents and other members of the society:
Public enlightenment campaigns are required on the need for female education, not only in the primary schools, but in the secondary schools and beyond through radio, television and newspapers etc.
Sensitise communities on the benefits of educating girls and women.
Urge communities to plan, manage and monitor basic education programmes.
There is need to increase the number of female teachers to attract more girls in the schools.
Plan the location of schools to give equal opportunity to all school age children, especially girls.
The government should build more schools for girls in order to improve the number of those admitted into the schools.
The idea of girls not continuing with their education should be discouraged to allow more to study up to and beyond the secondary schools.
Women need to come together to form a body that will monitor and coordinate the issue of girls’ education.
Parents should not only encourage their girl-child to read and be well educated, but also sensitise them to doing professional courses that will place on the same pedestal with their male counterparts.