By Victor Gai
Education is the life wire of the society. The society they say is as developed as its education which implies that the higher the standard of education in the society, the higher the level of living and general well-being of that society.
The standard of education in Nigeria is not as impressive as that of some other countries around the world. The educational sector in the country has suffered decay in infrastructure, workforce and service delivery and this has impacted negatively on the social, economic and political development of the country.
Consequently, Nigeria has been battling with the phenomena of brain drain, capital flight as a result of the exodus of our best minds to foreign countries in search of greener pastures, ethnoreligious crises which are mostly as a result of ignorance, poverty, and bad governance. All these factors can be attributed and are correlated to the poor state of education in the country.
The northern region of the country takes the biggest burden of the deteriorating state of education in the country mostly due to attitude, culture, and tradition, religion, and poverty.
The north was trailing behind other parts of the country before independence until in the twilight of freedom when nationalists of Northern origin like Sir Ahmadu Bello, Tafawa Balewa struggled to put the north on a rising trajectory of educational development like the other parts of the country.
It did pay off with the establishment of elementary, secondary and Tertiary educational institutions in the region such as the famous Katsina Middle School, Barewa College Zaria, and the quintessential Ahmadu Bello University Zaria. These schools were well complemented by missionary schools in the region.
The north then became self-sufficient in workforce needs for its civil service.
But one vacuum noticed in the educational system was the gender gap in educational opportunities in the region which was due to cultural, social and religious factors.
Religiously, northerners most especially the Muslims believed that the woman is subject to her husband and therefore must not be heard.
Culturally and socially, the place of the woman restricted her to the home while the man was viewed as the sole provider. Most parents see the woman as a potential wife and mother who needed not to be trained in school since she would eventually end up in her husband’s house where she would not have a say. Therefore, the society saw the training of a woman as costly, wasteful and unnecessary, the free education policy notwithstanding.
But this trend has changed the world over and in Nigeria and the North, in particular, it is no more business as usual.
The efforts of nationalists like Sir Ahmadu Bello, Tafawa Balewa, Aminu Kano, etc. broke the ice and the cultural barrier with the establishment of the first women college in Nigeria- the Women Teachers College Katsina.
Today, due to the overwhelming consciousness and awareness in the northern society, created by women activists and the international conventions on gender equity, women are not only educated but have been contributors to the social, economic and political development of the region.
Even though the north is still lagging behind regarding girl- child education, some states have performed creditably well in comparison to others.
Taraba state, in particular, is in the front line of girl child education. The enrollment is high, and the state can boast of four female model primary schools and one girl only public secondary school.
According to officials at the Ministry of Education, arrangements are in top gear to establish more female high schools given the high rate of girl child enrollment into schools.
According to an analysis of the latest Taraba state Annual School Census and the enrollment of public and private schools for JSS and SSS by sex, there are 463,630 males and 330,940 females. By this figure, there is a 41.65 percent female enrollment.
Private primary schools enrollment by sex shows the following: Below 6 years: Male-8460, Female-7790; 6 years: Male-7296, Female-6702; 7 years: Male-7052, Female-6336; 8 years: Male-6056, Female-5448; 9 years: Male-4853, Female-4147; 10 years: Male-2778, Female-2299; 11 years: Male-6922, Female-8460; Above 11: Male-7790, Female-7296.
Based on the above statistics, the total sum of male enrollment stands at 51,207 while female enrollment stands at 48,478. By percentage, there is a 48.63 percent girl child enrollment in private primary schools in Taraba state.
An investigation by this reporter to schools within Jalingo, particularly within the highly conservative Hausa/ Fulani and Muslim neighborhood, shows a high number of girls in primary and secondary education.
According to Mr. Kamai, Director of Planning, Research and Statistics in the State Ministry of Education, more awareness is being carried out in collaboration with communities on girl child education, and from all indications, it is yielding results. As a matter of fact, the impressive statistics on girl child enrollment presently was a positive response to the efforts of the government in this respect.