At the age of 14, the life of beautiful and brilliant Aishat was in disorder, and hers is now a future compromise. She was troth to a wealthy man by her guardian; she could not continue in attending school with her peers and dropped out. By the time she clocked 18, she was already a mother of three children.
In a television interview, PMB on a lighter mode claimed his wife belong to the kitchen. Then eyebrows were raised, and criticisms filled the social space. While feminists and opposite-sex have contested the societal role of the girl child. The fact remains she is pivotal in the country’s development.
Her role as a mother in the development of the nation cannot be underestimated. She remains the creator and maintainer of the future leaders in the society. Also, she ensures such child is discipline, but when she does not have enough education. She shovelled to the heap of problems already plaguing the country.
The recent spate in the Girl’s child education advocacy gives a glimmer of hope to the teeming number of out-of-school girls in the sub-Sahara Africa most especially Nigeria. All eyes on the girl’s child for she forms an integral part of the society and plays an important role in national development through her motherly role.
“Nigeria has the highest number of out-of-school girls in the world.” This assertion but factual was the claim of Nobel Prize Winner Yousafzai Malala during her last #GirlPowerTrip to Nigeria. The young lady met with the then Acting President and later some of the released Chibok girls. The mild, concise and worrisome statement was further found on her educational charity Malala Fund Twitter handle. One would wonder which is important out of the long list of travails the young girls face, is it teenage pregnancy, child marriage, child abuse and gender inequality. Nigeria trails India closely in the number of girls’ out-of-school according to United Nations.
In 2013, India recorded the highest number of girls of all ages out-of-school given that 27 million girls in both primary and secondary school were out of school. Like Malala Fund, which advocates and support young girls a lot have been done to address the plethora of problems faced by the girl child in sub-Sahara Africa. Noteworthy is the “Because I am Girl” campaign by the PLAN. The organization also initiated the International Day of the Girl Child which was adopted by the United Nation General Assembly as an annual observance day for all Girl Child which started October 11, 2012.
Child Marriage is a phenomenon that requires ample attention due to the evil that accompanies it and its effects on the society. It is influenced by the gender myths, religion cultural beliefs and family decision. In the UNICEF State of the World Children Report of 2016, data published to expose the upshot of the early betrothal of girls without adequate classroom knowledge in this clime. According to it, across much of South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, children with mothers who received no education are almost three times as likely to die before age 5 as children of mothers with secondary education.
Education enables women to delay and space births, secure access to maternal and child health care and seek treatment for children when they fall ill.
However, in Nigeria vast majority of Northern states account for the country’s poor performance in girls’ child education. According to a report published by Africa Health, Human and Social Development information service (Afri-Dev. Info) and Pan African Campaign Against forced marriage of Under-Age Children. This horrendous statistics further expose the ill-mannered behaviour and spate in the number of girls that cannot read or write in the country.
The writer further affirms that Kano, Kebi, Sokoto, Jigawa, Zamfara, Katsina, Yobe, Gombe states have the highest percentage of females aged between 15 and 24 years who cannot read or write. It is therefore important for all stakeholders to join hands in solving this age-long problem for the girls affected large form part of the society. Rather declare a ”state of emergency” in the education sector as posited by the Nobel laureate Yousafzai during her visit to the Vice President Yemi Osibajo. There is a cause for concern when one out of five girls in the states mentioned above are out of school.
The problem of the girl child still centres on illiteracy which has its tributaries one of which is child marriage. When a girl is married as a child, then hers remains a hope dashed and the future compromised. With no progress, almost 950 million women will have been married as children by 2030, up from more than 700 million today and by 2050, almost half of the world’s child brides will be African according to UNICEF.
Angelina Kidjo, an award-winning artist and UNICEF ambassador, lamented that “married girls are among the world’s most vulnerable people. As she explains how she observed among her former schoolmates in Cotonou who were forced to get married the consciousness of their isolation is in itself painful. ”. She further explained that “when their education is cut short, girls lose the chance to gain the skills and knowledge to secure a good job and provide for themselves and their families. While the world fights this evil that has its root among the rural and poor people. Government at all level should deeply immerse themselves in the uprooting of the cankerous elements that might retard educating and developing a girl child.
While the South West and South East record low rate of child marriage in Nigeria. Teenage pregnancy is on the increase in this part of the country. In Nigeria, rapt attention needs to be given to the girl’s child especially in the North West and North Eastern part of the country. The convention on the rights of the Child recognizes that every child has the right to go to school and learn. Therefore, education must be made available to the both male and female for the role it plays in downsizing the number of females that are brides during the early part of their life.
Education is a critical part of the solution facing girls of school age in the southwestern and northern part of the country. Child marriage robs families, communities, and nations of the meaningful contributions these girls might have made as women. So, it must be stopped or reduced to it bearest minimum. Aside child marriage, young school girls who are deprived of quality education are at the peril of another phenomenon call teenage pregnancy. Statistically, 23 percent of adolescent women aged 15-19 years were already mothers or pregnant with their first child.
According to a report on one of Nigeria daily newspaper, the prevalence of teenage pregnancy is highest in the North West zone with 36 percent.
In a country like Nigeria, an entire study on the trend in the Northern part of the country will further unravel the many untold stories of out of school girls and child marriage. One way to treat the poster child is to massively campaign for it and halt the repeat of Ese Oruru who was then 14 when the news broke the internet when she was betrothed to her Kano husband Yunisa Dahiru who was later charged to court. Government policies, support, and initiatives are considered necessary in combating the problem faced by girl child. A massive campaign, rally, and educating parents and communities will be effective in correcting this anomaly in our society.
The government should ensure strict adherence to existing laws and legislation on child marriage. Also, enhancing girls’ access to quality education by providing incentives such as scholarships, uniforms, and necessary skills for girls to enrol and remain in school can delay marriage.
The gloomy world of the girl child in Nigeria is not a fair-haired one to bask in. A world of our own, though little it may be, we need to wipe out the tears in the eyes of a girl child.