Women education in Nigeria: predicaments and hopes
Despite continued barriers to girl and women education in Nigeria, recent trends in enrolment at various levels of education show improvement in favour of their educational attainment. This paper, published in the international Journal of Advancements in Research and Technology, traces the genesis of western education in Nigeria from its introduction by Christian missionaries between 1842 and 1881, identifies and discusses barriers to women's education, and examines the traditional bias that exists still in Nigerian society to this day.
Originally, educational systems established by missionaries in Nigeria had the aim of reinforcing and spreading Christian doctrine. However, the need to meet the country's manpower needs led to colonial government intervention and the creation of teacher training curricula, professional standards, and the spread of western education beyond the south of the country to encompass Nigeria as a whole. Embedded within this western colonial education however was a strictly gendered project of social engineering designed to create wives, rather than intelligent, independent women. Since independence in 1960, successive governments have made efforts to reposition the Nigerian educational system, including the adoption of international conventions and instruments aimed at eliminating gender discrimination in education, not least the Millennium Development Goals and the National Gender Policy.
The paper then discusses the more contemporary barriers to women's education in Nigeria, including the residual negative attitudes to women's education leftover from colonial times; religious beliefs, expressed most extremely by the Boko Haram sect in northern Nigeria; illiteracy amongst parents, with a corresponding lack of appreciation for the importance of education; and not least, poverty. Some 45% of Nigerian families live below the poverty line, and so struggle to pay for education.
On a more positive note, and in light of the positive trends then discussed in regard to increasing women’s education attainment, the authors argue that if the current momentum is sustained, women will not only achieve equal status to men in educational attainment, but have the opportunity to surpass men within the next ten to fifteen years. The implications of this could be significant and outreaching, with a new paradigm likely to evolve with the potential to destabilise the social fabric of the traditional norms of Nigerian culture. The challenges faced by men in adapting to new roles of homemakers may not augur well in a men dominated culture, and so to help achieve a smooth and successful transition, the authors suggest that: men should be encouraged to continue to enroll in career paths leading to teaching in Nigeria’s tertiary educational sectors; courses and curricula ought to be developed to educate learners on the impending cultural shifts; and that woman studies should be fine-tuned to accommodate emerging workplace roles for women.