The girl-child: A sociological view on the problems of girl-child education in Nigeria
The unequal treatment of boys and girls in Nigeria’s education system cannot be separated from the unequal treatment of men and women in wider society. Being born and growing up as a girl in a developing society like Nigeria is akin to a curse due to contempt and ignominy received from family, in school and from society at large. The cumulative effects of these discriminatory, exploitative, and unjust treatments have profound negative impacts on education opportunities available to girl-children, which in turn contributes to perpetuating the patriarchal and sexist society beyond the world of youth and education.
This paper therefore examines the general problems facing the girl-child, in particular the challenges facing them in terms of education opportunities in Nigeria. To do so, the authors conducted a literature review of published and internet sources using a radical feminist theory that places patriarchy as the primary cause of exploitation of women and girls. Patriarchal structures that contribute to this exploitation are discussed, including the gendered nature of paid vs unpaid work, violence, household relations, and the state, as well as the distinction between private and public patriarchy.
The paper revealed some the cultural and traditional beliefs and practices in Nigeria which constitute major barriers to the education opportunities of girl-children. Particular problems faced by girl-children in Nigeria that directly impact their access to and quality of education are identified and discussed, including: family abuse and domestic violence; sexual abuse; rejection and neglect, often from the moment of birth due to disappointment that the baby is not a boy; genital mutilation; forced and early marriage; victims of suspicion of witchcraft; girl-child homicide; inducement to prostitution; and child labour.
The authors note that the problems thus described are intolerable, and contrary to the rights of the girl-child to a reasonable quality of life and access to education, and to intergenerational obligations. Furthermore, such exploitation and infringements of girls human rights work against the nation and society as a whole, holding back development for all. The authors conclude by suggesting some ways of enhancing girl-child education through a holistic approach, including:
Individuals, organisations and government agencies must aggressively pursue programmes directed at increasing girl child rights, privileges, and opportunities
The Nigerian government should strengthen the power of relevant agencies in protecting child rights and enhancing their opportunities, and ensure parents from rural areas are enlightened on the need to educate and reduce biases against the girl child.
The provision of safe and supportive educational environments is needed, free from abuse, with separate toilet facilities and safe drinking water.
The school curriculum should be revised to ensure gender and cultural sensitivity, and to include life skills, HIV/AIDS education, citizenship and conflict resolution elements.