The Challenge of Girls’ Education in Nigeria

By: Nnamdi Eseme, Women Deliver Young Leader

As Nigeria celebrated Children's Day on 27 May, one cannot help but lament the challenges facing girl’s education in the country. Nigerian girls face many challenges in their bid to acquire an education, from threats from terrorist groups to gender norms. Nigeria has recently come under intense international scrutiny following the declining levels of education, especially among girls, and the increasing insecurity. While various efforts have been made by the government, private sector, and international organizations, very little has been achieved in reversing this disturbing trend.

On April 14, 2014 over 200 school girls were abducted from their dormitory in the Chibok area by the Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram. Boko Haram considers western education, particularly of girls, blasphemous. This act of terror brought widespread condemnation from all over the world leading to the social media campaign #BringBackOurGirls. However, cries by families of the abducted school girls and others concerned people have not persuaded the terrorist group to release the girls. The girls have been held in the infamous Sambisa Forest and, a year later, most of the girls are still missing as rescue efforts by the Nigerian military have proven unsuccessful. According to the leader of the terrorist group, some of the abducted girls have been sold into marriage while the remaining girls serve as sex slaves for his men. In a video released, the girls were shown being forced to renounce their faith and it is rumored that some of the girls are being coerced and used as suicide bombers, a development that has only brought more pain to the families of the girls and Nigerians as a whole.

This act of terror drew international attention to the threats girls who seek an education in Nigeria face on a daily basis. The influence of Boko Haram has continued to spread through Northeastern Nigeria, bringing terror to more and more states. It has instilled dread in the minds of young girls and parents, many of whom now opt not to send their girls to school for fear of them being targeted by Boko Haram.

Despite the callous efforts by the terrorist group to discourage all forms of western education in Nigeria, especially for the girl child, some girls are still determined to acquire an education. I spoke with a 14 year-old female junior school student in one of the government schools in Abuja, Nigeria about her desire to acquire an education. While most of her peers have relocated to a safer part of the country, she said she wants to continue her education in Abuja despite the dangers because she is continuously inspired by the story of the Pakistani teenager, Malala Yousafzai. Even after being targeted and shot on October 12, 2012 by members of a terrorist group who renounce educating girls, Malala continued to campaign for the universal education of girls. Malala’s story of striving to achieve her dream of an education against all odds has inspired another brave young woman in Nigeria.

According to a 2011 report by the United Nation's Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), there are 10.5 million out-of-school children globally - of which girls account for 57%. Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for the highest number of out-of-school children in the world. This is disturbing and must be corrected if we are to achieve universal education. With Nigeria having just concluded her general elections, it is hoped that the new administration of government headed by Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, will reverse this disturbing trend and girls will return to school to safely receive a quality education.

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