GENDER INEQUALITY IN EDUCATION: Pervasive in Nigeria, Barriers, Benefits and Recommendation.
Gender defines and differentiates what women and men, and girls and boys, are expected to be and do (their roles, responsibilities, rights and obligations).
Equal access to good quality education, resources, and opportunities regardless of gender equality including economic participation, decision making and the state of valuing different behaviors, aspirations and needs defines gender.
While there are very distinct biological differences between boys and girls and these can create different needs and capacities for each, these differences do not in themselves lead to or justify unequal social status or rights. The distinct roles and behaviors that are defined for boys and girls, and men and women in a society may give rise to gender inequalities, i.e. differences between men and women that systematically favor one group.
Gender can be a key determinant of who does what, who has what, who decides, who has power, and even who gets an education or not. In many societies, boys are seen as the ones who should be educated, while girls are not.
UNICEF states that Gender equality means that women and men, and girls and boys, enjoy the same rights, resources, opportunities and protections. Gender inequality arises when one group is seen in a society as having more rights than the other.
How Pervasive is it in Nigeria?
Burden on education has become overwhelming in Nigeria as a result of population growth which has put pressure on the country’s resources, public services and infrastructure with children under 15years of age accounting for 45per cent of 171million. The rate of primary school enrolment has increased in recent years, but net attendance is only about 70 per cent but Nigeria still has 10.5million out-of-school children especially in the northern states –the world’s highest number (Unicef Nigeria).
About 60per cent of out-of-school children are girls. Many of those who do enroll drop out early. Low perception of the value of education for girls, lack of security in schools a typical example is kidnapping of the Chibok and Daptch girls, sexual violence, unsafe roads leading to schools, lack of female role models, traditions and culture of not valuing girls, discrimination and not allowed to continue school if they become pregnant or forced into child marriage are among the reasons.
Educating females and males produces similar increases in their subsequent earnings and expands future opportunities and choices for both boys and girls. However, educating girls produces many additional socio-economic gains that benefit entire societies. These benefits include increased economic productivity, higher family income, increase in the likelihood that they will look after their own wellbeing along with that of their family, improved health and survival rates for infants and children, active participation in decision-making and are less likely to suffer from domestic violence and access to better economic opportunities, provides empowerment and enables them to have control over their lives and exert influence in society.
Education has over the years focused on access and parity while insufficient attention has been paid to retention and achievement or the quality and relevance of education. Providing a quality, relevant education leads to improved enrollment and retention, but also helps to ensure that boys and girls are able to fully realize the benefits of education. Also however, governments and donor agencies have focused primarily on increasing female access and enrollment, with insufficient attention paid to the quality or relevance of education for girls or their retention and achievement rates.
If primary school enrollment and completion rates are high, but the quality of education is low, then “education has not conferred the skills and knowledge that are the source of the hoped-for greater earnings, better health, and more engaged citizenship” (Levine et al. 2003). Attaining gender equality in education means that boys and girls will have equal opportunities to realize their full human rights and contribute to and benefit from economic, social, cultural, and political development.
Addressing gender inequality in education, governments and donor agencies must more effectively address the systemic barriers to girls’ educational success as an essential education strategy as well as investing more in girl child education.