Nigerian girls are not enrolled in school due to poverty, early marriage, crowded classrooms, culture and poor infrastructure, said experts, government and religious leaders who spoke on “Girls’ Education” Thursday at a packed Town Hall meeting of about 3,000 people in the northern Nigerian city of Sokoto.
“It is fundamental that girls go to school,” said Hajia Amina Namadi Sambo, the wife of Nigeria’s vice president. “All radio and TV stations should work to spread the message about the value of girls’ education.”
Educated girls are three times less likely to get HIV/AIDS, have smaller, healthier families and earn 25 percent more income, according to Dr. Ladi Adamu of Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria, who addressed a VOA-USAID sponsored two-day training for Nigerian journalists.
The Town Hall and the related training launched a VOA Hausa Service initiative aimed at reporting on education issues in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation. Future Town Halls will be held in Kano, Abuja and Bauchi later this year.
Poverty is one of the major reasons parents do not enroll their children, male and female, in school, according to Rukayya Rufai, Nigeria’s minister of education, whose remarks were delivered by an aide. Although Nigeria is committed to universal basic education, many parents cannot afford school supplies and uniforms. Moreover, boys in northern Nigeria are often favored over girls, who assist with domestic chores.
In northwest Nigeria, for example, only 37 percent of the students enrolled in primary school in 2008 were female, according to the National Statistical Abstract. That number declines in secondary school.
Educating girls has the strong support of religious leaders including Alhaji Muhammed Sa’ad Abubakar, the Sultan of Sokoto and the spiritual leader of Nigeria’s Muslims. “Our schools must be girl-child friendly and able to accommodate the basic needs of our female children,” the sultan said earlier. “The employment of more female teachers in our educational system is also vital as they serve as role models to their female students.”
VOA’s education project is supported by USAID. Nigeria Mission Director Ray Kirkland told the Town Hall participants that girls’ education contributes to the benefit of society. He quoted the saying that if “you educate a boy, you educate one person; if you educate a girl, you educate the world.”
Also speaking at the Town Hall were Peter Clausseen, public affairs officer of the U.S. Embassy in Abuja; Gov. Aliyu Magatakarda Wammakko of Sokoto State and Aliyu Mustapha, managing editor of VOA’s Hausa Service.