It was one fine moment of jubilation of former students of St. Anne’s Secondary School, Ibadan established 150 years ago. The school which has produced very successful students including Nigeria ’s former minister of finance, Dr (Mrs) Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has repeatedly championed the cause of the girl-child given her daily struggles and triumph of the human spirit.
The event which was attended by former students of the school had Chief (Mrs) Funmi Ogundoyin as guest speaker. While speaking on the topic ‘girl-child education in Nigeria, Ogundoyin, an educationist, advocated strongly that educating the girl-child would guarantee national development.
According to her, “The acquisition of education bestows on women a lifelong disposition of benefits. Some of these opportunities accruable from acquisition of education includes: knowledge; it strengthens economies and advances the fight to end poverty through better employment and income. It prevents forced child marriage. It builds more stable communities. It prevents needless deaths. It develops the personality of the individual who eventually becomes relevant to the society. Educated mothers take better care of their children’s health. It gives girls the opportunity to develop skills, knowledge and confidence to make informed decisions. It brings about social integration. It fosters social placement. It brings about social and cultural innovation. It brings about competence and skills.”
She also argued that certain attitudes have been responsible for lack of education of the girl-child. These, she contended, included both cultural and economical reasons.
“Women in Nigeria have had various challenges in order to obtain equal formal education with their male counterpart. Education is a basic human right and has been recognised as such since the 1948 adoption of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.
“However, so many factors have been reported to be responsible for low enrolment of girls in schools in many parts of Nigeria, especially in the northern region of the country. These factors include but are not limited to the following: religious misinterpretation, cultural practices, poverty, early marriage, illiteracy, and inadequate school infrastructure.
“To majority of the parents, girl-child education is less important because no matter what level of education the girl attains, their hope is to see the girl-child get married. To some parents, western type of education is termed to be a way of negative transformation and initiation of an individual into materialism, promiscuity and inculcation of western cultural ideologies.
“With almost 70% of the Nigerian population living below the poverty line, girls are often sent to hawk wares on the streets. Barriers to girl-child education in Nigeria especially in the north have been identified a poverty, early marriage, cultural and religious misconceptions as well as teenage pregnancy.
“Various cultural and social values have historically contributed to gender disparity in education. One prominent cultural view is that it is better for the woman to stay home and learn to tend to her family instead of attending school. A study by the University of Ibadan linked the imbalance in boys’ and girls’ participation in schooling was to the long-held belief in male superiority and female subordination. This situation was further aggravated by patriarchal practices which gave girls no traditional rights to succession. Therefore, the same patriarchal practices encouraged preference to be given to the education of a boy rather than a girl,” she said.
Foremost on her list of successful women whom she called on the girls to emulate was Chief (Mrs) H.I.D. Awolowo who was wife of the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo. Other women who have contributed in small measure in national and global development included Justice Atinuke Ige, Ibukun Abiodun Awosika, Chief ‘Folake Solanke, Professor Bolanle Awe, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, Nike Adeyemi, Professor Grace Alele-Williams and Bolanle Austen-Peters.