From a global perspective, the girl child is generally considered highly vulnerable to several societal ills, especially in developing countries where it is believed that effective policies and calculated efforts are needed to safeguard the girl child from the detrimental effect of violence, limited access to education, neglect, abuse, gender disparities, among other challenges.
There is growing concern all over the world that decisive and urgent actions need to be taken to address these challenges by creating an enabling environment that will promote proper development of the girl child.
Unarguably, education and empowerment initiatives have been identified as crucial vehicles that can be utilized to correct the many troubles of the girl child and also drive sustainable development.
This year, attention of governments, non-governmental organisations, policy makers and stakeholders again turned to issues surrounding the girl child as the world observed the International Day of the Girl Child on October 11 with the theme “Girls’ Progress = Goals’ Progress: A Global Girl Data Movement” in line with the United Nations (UN) declaration. Gender inequalities This special day is set aside annually to raise public awareness on girls’ right and highlights gender inequalities that remain between girls and boys all over the world.
According to the UN, “there are 1.1 billion girls today, a powerful const-ituency for shaping a sustainable world that’s better for everyone. They are brimming with talent and creativity. But their dreams and potential are often thwarted by discrimination, violence and lack of equal opportunities.
There are glaring gaps in data and knowledge about the specific needs and challenges that girls face.” Like other developing countries, the girl child in Nigeria is also faced with most of the challenges confronting girls all over the world. One appalling example is the case of the 276 girls kidnapped in a school in Chibok, Borno State. The sufferings that the girls have been exposed to while in captivity for more than two years further highlight the urgency required in addressing girl child issues.
The 2016 International Day of the Girl Child brings to bear efforts being made by governments in Nigeria towards educating and empowering the girl child. Worthy of note are the decisive initiatives undertaken by Osun State. When the present government under leadership of Ogbeni Rauf Adesoji Aregbesola assumed office on November 27, 2010 the Public education had been so badly managed that only pupils whose parents could not afford education in private schools were left in the public schools. The students, especially in primary schools were badly dressed and mal-nourished. School build-ings were in dilapidated state, students’ performance both at the internal/external examinations was abysmally poor; there were no instructional materials, while the tuition fees in the state-owned tertiary institution was outrageous.
However, the situation has since taken an optimistic tone particularly in line with current focus to prioritise girl child education. There are 622,726 students with 309, 488 females and 313, 238 males, which is a laudable feat as the average expectation for developing nations is that among students not enrolled in school, there are twice as many girls than boys and among illiterate adults there are twice as many women than men.
The governor overhauled education in the state by restructuring the education system into elementary (ages 6-9), middle (ages 10-14) and high school (ages 15-17) structure. He also constructed 100 Elementary, 50 Middle, and 20 High Schools during his first term through the O’School programme. His attention also shifted towards improving the nutrition and health of students in public school as the school feeding programme. O’Meals was introduced in line with the recommendation of the UN.
The government believes that a well-fed pupil is likely to be more attentive in class than his/her counterpart on an empty stomach. Findings reveal that the programme has impacted positively on school enrolment with an increase of 38,000 pupils, representing 25% within four weeks of its introduction. Enrolment of pupils increased from 155,318 on May 31, 2012 to 194,253 by June 30, 2012. By December 2012, government decided to extend the programme to cover pupils in primaries 1-4 (representing the Elementary School) bringing the total number of pupils being fed to 252,000. At inception, the cost of feeding 155, 318 pupils was N7.7m per day, N38.5m per week and or N169.4m per month. With the increase in enrolment to 252,000 pupils, the cost of feeding went up to N14.8m per day, N74m per week, and N325.6m per month.
On the economic front, O’Meals Programme has helped to improve the production capacities of farmer-suppliers of farm produce, and has empowered 3,007 women who were appointed as Food Vendors by the State to serve nutritious meals to pupils on school days. It is noteworthy that the Aregbesola-led administration spends N3billion naira per annum to feed primary 1 – 4 pupils in all the public primary schools in the State of Osun. Out of the 13 original pilot states that started the programme, only the State of Osun is still implementing the School Feeding Programme, in the whole federation.
Another significant feat recorded by Osun State in its quest to promote functional education is the sponsorship of 5 outstanding female school student in an exchange program in the United State in partnership with a non-governmental organisation, AWOW International Girls Leadership Initiative, which empowers and offers life skills training, global exposure and professional mentorship to young women. The 5 girls will attend the annual AWOW Summit & College Tour Leadership Forum for young women, scheduled to hold at the Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas, United State, with the theme ‘’ Leading the Future.”
The AWOW Summit aims to help advance the core goal and main objectives towards the attainment of the White House “Let the Girls Learn Initiative”, the Millennium Development Goal and the United Nations’ Gender Equality & Empowerment for all Women & Girls. Apart from the fact that the summit will enable the girls come together to share their experiences, knowledge, and make friends through cultural exchange, the girls would also have opportunity of scholarship for University Education in the USA, after their high school education. Statistics show that when 10% more girls go to school, a country’s GDP increases by 3% on the average and a child born to a literate mother is 50% more likely to survive past the age of 5.
Governor Aregbesola while speaking on state government’s commitment to education development, he said: “This is the continuation of our commitment to standard education. To us, education remains our priority and as a matter of fact, this government has invested hugely on this. “Our belief is that with well-equipped academic teaching and learning environment, coupled with state-of-the-art facilities, the state is on the right path to success. “That is why we are building brighter future for our children knowing that good education prepares nation for good leadership . We are turning around the public schools to bridge the gap between public and private education. “Our education policy has erased the superiority complex between private and public education as sanity has also been restored to public education system.”
The UN explained that girls’ education is both an intrinsic right and a critical lever to reaching other development objectives. Providing girls with an education helps break the cycle of poverty: educated women are less likely to marry early and against their will; less likely to die in childbirth; more likely to have healthy babies; and are more likely to send their children to school. When all children have access to a quality education rooted in human rights and gender equality, it creates a ripple effect of opportunity that influences generations to come. Girls’ education is essential to the achievement of quality learning relevant to the 21st century, including girls’ transition to and performance in secondary school and beyond.
Adolescent girls that attend school delay marriage and childbearing, are less vulnerable to disease including HIV and AIDS, and acquire information and skills that lead to increased earning power. Evidence shows that the return to a year of secondary education for girls correlates to a 25 per cent increase in wages later in life, the UN said.
Culled from: http://www.vanguardngr.com/2016/11/osun-tackles-girl-child-education/