Making education attractive to females
Breaking cultural boundary, financial implications
When 26-year-old graduate of the University of Abuja (UNIABUJA), Fatima Bombom Sani, set a new record at the Nigeria Law School (NLS), by winning nine individual awards at the 2015 Call to Bar, it was a bold pronouncement that women were coming and would soon meet the educational status of men.
The Adavi-Ege, Kogi State-born lady bagged a First Class honours in the October 2015 Bar final examination. Of the four First Class degrees in the class, three were female, Mbonu Genevieve Chinyeaka and Olowu Adetutu Abisoye. Edun Halimat Temitope and Aare Adejoke Kafayat equally made first class in the December 2015 examination.
The 2013/2014 academic session of the Covenant University, Ota, best explain what the women are up to now: filling the void after years of men’s domination. That year, 20-year old Alma Jamachi Oputa emerged the Best Graduating student in the school. Having completed her undergraduate course in Computer Science, she earned an impressive Cumulative Grade Point Average (GPA) of 4.98/5.0.
The results provide more proof that men’s stranglehold on Nigeria’s educational terrain is loosening. Take a look at the statistics of admission and completion rate and you will see the sign that women are coming.
Recent studies and statistics released by such bodies as, Federal Ministry of Education (FME), National Bureau of Statistics and International Organisation for Migration have revealed that this traditional role is changing, and more female children are getting educated.
Statistical report by the National Bureau of Statistics in 2014, details the gradual rise in enrolment of the girl-child into primary, secondary and tertiary institutions. The report said, for primary schools, it increased from 45.7 per cent in 2010 to 47.9 per cent in 2013. Percentage of females enrolled in secondary schools increased from 45.3 per cent in 2010 to 47.3 per cent in 2013.
The proportion of girls enrolled was above 50 per cent in Akwa Ibom, Anambra, Bayelsa, Kogi, Lagos, Ogun and Rivers in 2013. Conversely, the rate decreased for boys from 54.3 per cent in 2010 to 52.1 per cent in 2013. The rate for boys was above 60 per cent in Sokoto and Zamfara states.
The completion rate in primary and secondary schools slightly dropped for girls from 46.7 per cent and 47.1 per cent in 2010 to 46.6 per cent and 46.8 per cent in 2013 respectively. For the secondary completion rate for girls, it was highest in Anambra (63.5 per cent) and lowest in Zamfara with 22.8 per cent.
Though, enrolment into tertiary institutions across the country is still male dominated, the number of female students has continued to rise steadily. In 1960, 7.7 per cent or 196 of the country’s 2,545 university students were female. By 1990, women comprised 27 per cent of nearly 181,000 students admitted to universities.
In the past, female education was largely frowned at, because it often ended in the kitchen. Women were relegated to the level of mere agents of domestic engagements at home, with considerable reproductive roles. They were made to believe that motherhood is the principal purpose of their existence. Thus, they were expected to produce children, cook, mend and wash clothes and take care of men and be subordinate to male authority. While parents struggled to educate their male children, the female were married off or pawned for debt. Therefore, sending girls to school may interfere with their marriage, which they consider to constitute the primary mission of a female child.
Considering limited resources, families preferred to spend their meagre resources on their male children, instead of the female, who will become wives to other men and will no longer bear their family names.
Experts, who weighed in on the dominant place of men in the country’s education, noted that there was a general preference by parents for male children based on the traditional practice that they would succeed their fathers and sustain their family, as well as the patrilineal system, which conferred rights of inheritance on the male.
Already in place in some states in the northern part of the country is the Cash Transfer Programme (CTP). The scheme was introduced in 2014 to break the cycle of poverty through human capital development. The CTP alleviates poverty-related issues, which are key barriers to girls’ enrolment and retention in school.
Though, in most of the states, education is officially free, as there is no tuition paid for schooling, there are other hidden costs of education, which have been known to prevent parents from enrolling their girls into school. The provision of cash transfer is to offset the costs (direct and opportunity) of sending girls to school and keeping them there.
According to Dr. Chioma Nwogbo, a medical officer at the Domus Marie Clinic, Lagos, “the medical profession used to be male dominated in the past, but when I was in school, in about 50 students that make up the class, 35 of us were females. The women were even doing better and the best were females. I think with the advance in science and technology, parents are realising now that they need to also train women, because theyhave found out that female children actually take care of the family much better than the men. Women strive so hard and put in their best to give financially support even while they are career driven. Women are very industrious and multi-tasking.”
Mr. Babatunde Gaudonu, a psychology lecturer at the Lagos State University, Ojo, said, “change in cultural belief and infiltration of western culture in our system have also contributed. Parents, then, preferred to educate the male children than the female, because of the end result — Females will get married and face their families, while the boys would continue the lineage.”
He added, now, “there is a lot of awareness about the usefulness of a girl-child to the development of the society, especially, those who were blessed with only female children. Everyone now believes that every child is useful to the family, whether male or female.”
According to Funke Osae Brown, publisher of the online magazine, The Luxury Reporter, “women are becoming more aware of the need to educate themselves. And mothers are also encouraging their females to get education, because of their own life experiences. The way the world is going, a woman can no longer depend on the man. She needs some level of financial independence. The contemporary woman is more aware of the fact that education is key for enlightenment and to be able to achieve certain life goals.”
Dr. Dayo Olagunju, an education consultant in Abuja, attributes the loss of interest in tertiary education by the male to the deteriorating economic situation in the country, and many of them no longer regard hard work as essential.
He also condemned the situation where people whose sources of wealth are questionable, are given titles and awards. According to him, this attitude has led to the erosion of culture of hard work. In the words of Olagunju, “the male folks who see themselves as carriers of more responsibilities now opt for quick ways of making it big and get recognition in the society.”
Olagunju said, “university was once a place, where young people went to for knowledge, but today, the university has shifted from that idyllic vision of preparing young people for intellectual development to a place, where everything is about getting a job.”
He continued, “when young people believe that the easiest way to become rich or prominent is not the long and tedious way of higher education, they would most certainly choose the shorter ones.”
He advised that there is need for value re-orientation to make youths appreciate the true purpose of education. He also said the nation’s reward system needs to change to make intellectual attainment attract better national appreciation than is currently the practice.
The education consultant also blamed the high cost of education, as making a lot of young boys to drop out. He said after the struggles in the higher institution, a lot of graduates end up roaming the streets in search of non-existent jobs and those, who manage to get some, find the ones that are not relevant to their field of study.
Femi Olaokun, a psychologist based in Ibadan, said, “go to cyber cafes, you will see men, whose job is nothing other than scam. They are there 24 hours, weaving one new fraud or the other.”
According to him, “those who do not visit the cyber cafes have laptops at home, which they work with. Hardwork is not for them, but making it big. Nigeria is bound to be the loser on the long run.”
The Vice Principal of Universal Secondary School, Calabar, Mr. Livinus Okprike, said, “poverty is very endemic in the country, so, parents weigh their options.”
He noted, “you discover that the male children feel that since they are going to be the head of their families, if money is not there for them to proceed to tertiary institutions, they divert to trading or learning one craft or the other so as to ensure that their younger ones or maybe the female members of their families could acquire education.”
He continued, “this happens, especially, when the father and the mother are not financially strong to cater for all the children, the male children take up that responsibility.”
While stating that female children have finally identified their place in the society, he stressed, “before this time, there had been general perception that, if you are a female child, your education ends in the kitchen. They were deprived of so many things a child should have access to. In some cultures, they do not go to school, rather, they are sent to the streets to hawk and bring money to send the male children to school, but now, things have changed; the girl-child has now identified her own potentials. They now feel they are the ones to go to school.”
Oprike continued, “the Child Right Act passed in Cross River State during Liyel Imoke’s administration has equally changed people’s orientation in the state. Parents who used to think that female children should not go to school, have started sending them to school.”
When asked if he sees it as a threat in the country’s curriculum growth, he said, “no. I see it as a natural thing. It is not only in the schools system, even at churches you see women outnumber men. Unlike in those days when we had only male presidents, now, female presidents are emerging in conservative Africa.
“This is everywhere, I can even use my school as a case study. In a class of 20, you would have five boys and about 15 girls. I believe the girls have decided to take their place in the society.”
According to Nkechi Okonkwo, a literature teacher in Anambra, “female education is on the rise, because people now know the importance of the girl-child in societal development.”
Nkechi, who is from a poor background, the first of her parents’ 12 children, said in her class, “there were quite a number of female students. They were more than males, because in a place like Anambra, it is the women who go to school, while the men trade.”
Fate played a good one on Nkechi, whose father is a peasant farmer, and mother, a firewood seller. Her parents could not afford to send her and her siblings to school, because of poverty. When she came to Lagos to baby sit, her guardian sponsored her education to higher institution.
Though, he has not observed such change in the society, a teacher in one of the tertiary institutions in Calabar, Mr. Obi Takurs, said it could be as a result of the poor economy.
According to Takurs, “it is common knowledge that boys probably find it difficult to cope with resources from their parents. You see, times are hard; a lot of parents are not able to cater for the education of their children. If a boy and a girl are waiting by the roadside and somebody is driving by, most likely, the girl will get a lift. It goes the same way in terms of school fees and other challenges, where you have two children, a boy and a girl and you are not able to meet with the challenges of their education, the chances are that the girl can help herself more than the boy, because in the society, men tend to be lenient on girls than they would to the boys and going by this it could cause the boy to drop, because the resources of the parents are not enough.
“Then again, if it is true, the boys are more adventurous than the girls. You know naturally, when you have two children, a boy and a girl, the boys are more adventurous and if they are more, the chances are that by the time they start, even in the primary schools, the boys would want to start something they can make money from. The male child wants to see how he could sell pure water and make money, do some carpentry work and make money. They want to try certain things and if they are not stopped by their parents that might push them out of academics.
“But the girls are not like that. They have a calmer sex than the males. If the boys are not controlled by their parents, because of adventure, which is in them naturally, that could cause most of them to drop out of schools.”
A female teacher in Calabar, Miss Uduak Okopedeghe, in her view, said, “I think parents have a role to play in this issue. Parents could decide for the children, most especially the male child to go and lean a trade after attaining up to Primary Six. The parents have the responsibility to instill in them the path to take as they are growing up.
“Like in my family, my father decided that come what may, we should all go to school and become graduates. Today, I can attest to that fact, we are all graduates in my family, three girls and four boys…”
Though, a rise in female enrolment in tertiary institutions is noticeable, there is still much gender inequality in Nigerian education. There is need to give equal gender opportunity to education so that education in Nigeria is not all male affairs as the females dominate the markets, the farms and the homes to make more babies and increase poverty in the land.
Nwogbo said there is always an intellectual downside to being a woman. According to the lady, “when you look at the gender equality women fight for, there are some organisations, where women earn less, even when they occupy the same position, as the men, because they are seen as the weaker sex.”
Okopedeghe added, “the implications for women in life aspiration, first in terms of the home front, most women are not submissive anymore, because they are taking up positions hitherto reserved for men, which often lead to broken homes. The children suffer as a result, because they are kept at the mercy of maids. Their husbands suffer too. And of course, when a woman is out of marriage and finally retires from work, she suffers psychological depression.”
By raising confidence in female education, discouraging all cultural and traditional practices, which enhance gender inequality, government giving financial assistance through scholarships or bursaries to female students and educating parents and the general public will bring about a change towards women education.
Hope Afoke Orivri, a journalist with the News Agency of Nigeria, said, “civilisation is the drive for the growing number of female in school.”
On what could be reason for the rise in female interest in professional courses, Gandonu said, “the world is dynamic, so are the human beings living in it. However, technology is geometrically advancing beyond our comprehension. Our behaviour some years ago was determined by the norms and traditions of our society. Some decades ago, women were even seen as materials you could just use and dump or throw away, hence more focus on the male child, especially, when it comes to training and education. Today, we have been exposed to the culture and traditions of the Western world, which has relegated our culture and traditions to the background.”
He said, “the manpower need of the society is another factor. The awareness has been created that there is nothing a man can do that a woman cannot do better; so females have awoken from the slumber of culture to the reality of civilisation and technology, this has really increased the pursuit and yearning for good life and living. Lastly, they (female) want to be at same level with the male counterparts at all cost; the issue of gender equality is a serious factor.”
Gaudonu said, “going through our primary and secondary schools, the number of girls involved in Jets and other science-based competitions are higher than the boys. Girls are very good mathematically, just as the boys. Mention those courses that are science and mathematics based that have few girls studying it? Today, in a class of a 100 students, you are sure to find almost 65-70 females.”
Osae Brown said, “they are now becoming more aware of who they are and the fact that sciences is for everyone, regardless of gender. They know that the old mantra of science is a male subject no longer holds water. The limitation is actually with you as an individual. You can achieve whatever you want regardless of your gender. What you need is a functional brain and the drive to achieve your goals.”
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