By Lawrence Audu
The solution to building a sustainable and viable African economy lies in the education of the girl child. This is so because, exploits of African women in the likes of Mo Ibrahim Prize winner, Mrs Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Mrs Amina Mohammed, Dr Ngozi Okonjo -Iwela and others who have been given the opportunity of attaining education are making across the continent, have shown that, with the right opportunity, women have the potential of turning things around.
The limited access of girls to formal education in sub-Saharan Africa has well-known historical precedents. According to UNESCO estimates, 130 million girls between the age of 6 and 17 are out of school and 15 million girls of primary-school age—half of them in sub-Saharan Africa— will never enter a classroom.
The Western and patriarchal perspective ignores the essential value of African women in the public and economic spheres of society. Women who had a Western education could only choose the nursing profession, or have a related job in the health care sector, teaching, and marriage. These options still exist today.
All of these factors, practices and traditions have limited the social demand for women’s education in sub-Saharan Africa. Their persistence leads us to ask the question: What are the factors that limit the educational opportunities of girls and women in Africa today?
Many barriers have however been identified as reasons for the low enrolment of girls in school including; the cost of education, distance to school, violence at school, gender, poverty and early marriage and pregnancy.
Armed conflicts and insurgency have in recent times affected girl’s enrolment as many have been abducted from their schools by insurgents and forced into early marriage and subjected to some other kinds of trafficking.
Aside from these, religion has added its own fair share in keeping girls out of school by introducing among others, non-indigenous education, that is, exogenous in sub-Saharan Africa; Since the education of girls was then envisaged only to the extent that it favored the development of Islam or Christianity and the consolidation of religious communities; while the Western school provoked resistance at its beginning, because the idea of sending girls seemed absurd to the natives.
When the colonial administration took charge of teaching, the education of women did not matter. When women’s education was finally incorporated into the development programs of indigenous communities, the type of education provided was aimed at developing domestic virtues.
African women trained are only to become good housewives, and good mothers mainly for the benefit of a new class of employees and for the benefit of the church.
This is how the idea of wife, mother and housewife, confined to the home and economically dependent on her husband in African culture is born.
So long as girls in Africa are not educated, Many will continue to hold the opinion that the African woman has yet to live up to their full potentials because, they are often overlooked as the African culture and religion have played their parts in denying them opportunities.
When girls are not schooled, it perpetually promotes of the lower status of women and keeps them inferior men. A girl who does not go to school will have a harder time making her voice heard. She will not be able to participate actively in the decisions of the society in which she lives.
Similarly, girls’ lack of schooling does not allow them to escape poverty. This situation may be perpetuated in the next generation because an uneducated girl cannot understand the value of giving her children a quality education. And yet; Each year, a girl on the school bench increases her future income by 10 to 20 percent.
The lack of education for girls is a real lack for the development of the countries because if one increases by 10% the attendance of the school by the girls, the gross domestic product (GDP) of a country increases on average by 3%.
An uneducated girl will have more difficulty accessing and following prevention and care recommendations and advice for herself and her children.
Identifying the girl child irrespective of tribe and religious background as Africa’s hope is a concept that must be embraced and promoted by all because, when girls are educated, It gives them a recognized economic power across borders when they grow into adults, frees them and their husbands from certain beliefs and most often favoring a reversal of roles.