The importance of female education
Education and knowledge are, by far, the most powerful weapons known to mankind. It is a fundamental factor in being able to make a valuable and substantial difference in the world. Education is not just about knowledge but about understanding. The definition of education is vast but we can sum it up in a line saying that education is development and growth of oneself. Education makes us capable of acquiring new skills and being able to communicate with others in a civilized manner. Education is the basic right of everyone and therefore while providing education facilities, we should not discriminate among genders or sexes. Unfortunately, this discrimination still prevails in many parts of the world and therefore there is a need to make people understand that women also deserves to be educated and it is their basic right too just like men. This is not to say that more girls should be provided with education rather than boys. Instead, it is a reminder to recognise the importance of equality across both genders, especially in communities where women are seen as the weaker gender.
Education is one of the most critical areas of empowerment for women. It is also an area that offers some of the clearest examples of discrimination women suffer. Research has shown that among children not attending school there are twice as many girls as boys, and among illiterate adults there are twice as many women as men. Offering girls basic education is one sure way of giving them much greater power of enabling them to make genuine choices over the kinds of lives they wish to lead. This is not a luxury. The Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women establish it as a basic human right.
Female Education in Nigeria
A positive correlation exists between the enrollment of girls in primary school and the gross national product(GNP) and increase of life expectancy. Rapid socio-economic development of a nation has been observed to depend on the quality of women and their education in a country. Education gives women a disposition for a lifelong acquisition of knowledge, values, attitudes, competence and skills.
To ensure equal access to education, the National Policy on Education states that access to education is a right for all Nigerian children regardless of gender, religion and disability. This indicates that there is a gender dimension to educational attainment and development in Nigeria. According to the Examination Council of Nigeria (1994) there are still other problems, such as high drop-out rates of females students, poor performance, reluctance on the part of females students to enroll in science-based courses and poor classroom participation. Across various geo-political delineations in Nigeria, a greater percentage of school-age girls are needlessly out-of-school, compared with the ratio applicable to boys of same age grouping.
Reasons behind disparity in female education
Cultural beliefs, values and traditions
There are various cultural and socioeconomic issues in Nigeria that prevent women from having adequate access to education. The ‘Nigerian tradition’ was explained as a tradition that attaches higher value to a man than a woman, whose place is believed to be the kitchen. 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. The Nigerian society (both historical and contemporary) has been dotted with peculiar cultural practices that are potently hurtful to women’s emancipation, such as early/forced marriage, wife-inheritance and widowhood practices. As daughters self-identify as females with their mother and sisters, and sons as males with their father and brothers, gender stereotyping becomes institutionalized within the family unit. Also, the dominant narratives of religion in both colonial and post-colonial Nigerian society privileges men at the detriment of women, even in educational accessibility.
Financial cost of education
The decline in economic activities since the early 1980s has made education a luxury to many Nigerians, especially those in rural areas. This is because Nigerian parents are known to invest in children according to sex, birth order or natural endowments, girls and boys are not exact substitutes. Often the family can only afford to send one child to school. Because daughters have assumed responsibilities in the home, she is less likely to be the one to attend school.
At the beginning of colonialism and Christianity, rigid ideals about gender perceptions were imposed on the African mind. Thereafter, the woman’s role has come to be limited to sexual and commercial labour, satisfying the sexual needs of men, working in the fields, carrying loads, tending babies and preparing food. The disempowering colonial ‘ideology of domesticity’ as espoused by the practice of ‘housewification’ provided the springboard for women’s educational imbalance in parts of Africa. As such, the overall human development in Nigeria is being hindered by this unevenness in educational accessibility across gender categories.
The importance of female education
- That women might have the chance of a healthier and happier life should be reason enough for promoting girls’ education. However, there are also important benefits for society as a whole. An educated woman has the skills, information and self-confidence that she needs to be a better parent, worker and citizen.
- An educated woman will also be more productive at work and better paid. Indeed, the dividend for educational investment is often higher for women than men. Studies from a number of countries suggest that an extra year of schooling will increase a woman’s future earnings by about 15 per cent, compared with 11 per cent for a man.
- It is a widely known fact that girls mature at a far younger age than boys, which could lead to them being able to apply their knowledge and skills sooner; thus, enabling them to develop a sustainable livelihood and escape poverty at a much earlier stage in life. Not only does this benefit the individual but her family, local community and empowers the greater society to achieve more.
- Educated women are more likely to encourage a good education and inspire compassionate values into their own children in addition to her wider family. This will help empower entire generations of families, rather than simply boosting the individual. Not only sharing her knowledge, but an educated woman also has a better understanding of maintaining a healthy family and how to ensure the emotional and mental wellbeing of her children and extended family.
An educated woman is better informed about pregnancy-related issues, as well as influences on her general health and that of her family. In turn, this knowledge not only reduces unplanned pregnancy rates and infant mortality rates; it can effectively result in experienced female health care providers who can better assist with childbirth and pregnancy-related care.
- Educated girls are far more likely to be aware of issues surrounding violence and abuse and are less likely to become victims of things like domestic and sexual abuse or human trafficking. For every year that a woman is in education, their confidence grows and a confident woman prefers to stand on her own two feet, work outside the home and is much less likely to give in to abusers that like to isolate their unfortunate partners. According to the World Bank Report released in 2014, women who completed secondary education had a 36% lower risk of domestic abuse and violence in the home.
- Women who have access to education have a greater awareness of politics and confidence in their ability to lead, resulting in stronger and more informed female leaders who are more likely to be politically involved. Studies have shown that women who have received an education are much less likely to support extremism and militarism than men educated to a similar level, which can lead to a safer and more compassionate society for all.
- Preventing social discrimination early on in development can help save women from suffering depression and other mental health disorders that are a result of being kept at home to carry out chores. By providing women access to education, they can build better support and professional networks, improving their future career prospects.
- Overpopulation is a growing concern and large families can often directly correlate to a lack of education for women. By educating women, they can make more informed choices about their family planning and help to slow the rapidly growing world population.
- Women tend to be more empathetic, compassionate and seek satisfaction in their job role and responsibility, as opposed to salary. This can bring plenty of positive changes to a traditionally male-dominated working industry and see better engagement with workers of both genders. The benefit of male education over female in terms of leadership has been shown to be negligent, with the core principles of the individual contributing to better leadership and management rather than their gender.
An educated woman will impact significant reduction in childhood marriage rates, better prevention of diseases like AIDS, and combatting gender stereotyping which currently still exists in various cultures around the world today.