Girl Child Education and Early Marriages: Between the Two Extremes (II) By Muhammad Mahmud
Posted On Jun 23, 2015
Unless we want to behave like real apes or parrots that only mimics after the master, I see no reason why we should rigidly insist on following a terrain whose milestones kept warning of dangerous bends and animals crossing while we can follow a smoother and safer road that doubles as a shortcut. Excepting that something sinister is surreptitiously laced within the agitation, what is seemingly wanted is education for the girls, obviously nothing suggests our girls could not acquire education when and if they are married, therefore insisting that the girls must not marry is a total bunkum. This is more glaring when we consider the ratio of the girls’ enrollment at schools and those married at school age. According to the United Nations 78 percent (of girls in Northwestern Nigeria) were (getting) married by age (of) 18.23. This points that most girls got married at the age they (might have) finished secondary schools. If most girls are married at that age, of what relevance is the call to shun marriage for school to the actual push against ignorance while most of the marry after finishing? The agitation should be on educating the girls whether they are married or not.
It is both befuddling and infuriating coping with the endless barrage of sentimental expositions about child marriage while the happenings around us belies them. I made some enquiries to know the frequency of girls being pulled out of schools and getting married off, as constantly averred by some, and the response shows near zero percent. I did this through contacting various schools coordinators demanding to know if there are such cases within the span of 4 years. Enquiries also made, within different parts of the north where I have contacts, and the responses shows that generally the practice is fast diminishing. It is not been claimed, by this, that such marriages are completely non exiting in the north, but the situation on the ground made one to wonder why the cry to high heavens over a fast waning practice.
Also, it is becoming clearer that there is no specific age that both sides have in mind while discussing child marriage? Recently, Nigerian lawmakers passed into law a Bill that pegged marriageable age just above 11 years of a girl child’s age. This is happening when some people thinks marrying girls at the age of seventeen is child marriage. Complicated as the issue is, the need for all to be on the same page when and while discussing lawful marriageable age is very vital in understanding each other and coming up with an encompassing roadmap towards development.
Another important thing about girl child/women education that kept one puzzled is the kind of disorganized or unorganized and spontaneous way and manner our females are leaning, or more appropriately the way they are been lead to learn. Despite the fact that millions of women have attended different schools and thousands have obtained different certificates, we often hear gibes that those who are “opposed” to girl child education are the the most vociferous opposers of male doctors attending to their wives in hospitals. Sound as this point seems to be, it exposes, on the other hand, a bigger irony.
What were the women learning all these years if we cannot have women gynecologists to attend to our females? Is this the kind of education we need, which will put males in a supposedly females’ work? If in all these years the hundreds of thousands of women graduates we have couldn’t take care of our women where the need arises, of what importance then is sending the women to schools while it is the men that still do their supposed jobs.
One is very much aware that we lack focus in planning our educational needs, or rather we failed to stick to those plans if they exist. We can simply see this taking into view the quantum of graduates from all levels of institutions, their respective fields of learning and our Allah given resources which we only need to get skilled manpower to tap. The incongruity is bewildering. Even in our universities, in the north, some subjects, that from a common sense perspective must be taught, are missing. Perhaps that could explain the glaring disharmony between the number of our female graduates and our situation in hospitals. It is long overdue for our leaders and thinkers in the north to re-strategize and put our region on the path to development through planning our education. The late Rimi administration in Kano made ground shaking achievements on this by, among others, boosting science secondary schools and sending citizen to different countries to specialize in various field needed in the state. Up to this moment, the people of the state are benefitting from that foresight.