In 1965, UNESCO declared September 8 as International Literacy Day, yet, in spite of so much efforts put into education, the world is still massively full of illiterate people. Amongst the top ten illiterate nations, Africa has nine of her countries – Burkina Faso, South Sudan, Niger, Mali, Chad, Somalia, Ethiopia, Guinea and Benin. According to UNESCO, in Sub-Saharan Africa, as at 2015, about 33 million children were out of school with 18 million of them being girls. One fact that can’t be denied is that about one third of the global number of out-of-school children lives in West and Central Africa. In Sub-Saharan Africa, more than 1 in 4 children are excluded from education; 31% girls and 23% boys.
Out of patriotism, one may argue that these statistics are mere assumptions, but on taking a closer look at the challenges of education in Africa, one may also be tempted to say that these figures were underestimated. The leadership in Africa hasn’t done much to fund education in the continent. Most of the educational aids received from the west or international organizations are often diverted into other areas or embezzled, and due to that, illiteracy thrives in the African continent.
In this great continent, for any remonstrance, the female gets most of the beating and the bashing for many unacceptable reasons, and for these, most women are killed during civil wars and intertribal clashes. As if that isn’t enough, the girl child education is taken for granted as she isn’t treated as a valuable asset. When the girl dies, she’s gone forever, but when she lives without education, it is as good as dying because she becomes almost irrelevant to an ever dynamic world. The world is moving at an unimaginable pace; the gap between the male and female is becoming thinner and thinner – despite that, Africa still doesn’t educate her girl child due to an unbelievable level of ignorance.
Negative cultures, superstitions and misconceptions in religions have played active roles in under-developing the African girl child. The emergence of Boko Haram for instance, arose from the premise that western education is a taboo. With such beliefs, the African girl child gets raised in an awkward environment of abject ignorance. Ignorance has been the major setback in the holistic development of Africa as a continent, and when religion breastfeeds it, it descends into decadence.
As the world advances, there is the need for African leaders to have a genuine vision for the girl child education, and the will and commitment to follow it to the end. The problem with African girl child education isn’t the formulation of policies, but the determination to implement it. Every good international agreements, partnerships and conventions are easily endorsed by those who manage us, but when it comes to making it happen, they forget that they ever endorsed anything.
The best opportunities in the world are unearthed by quality education, and if those in strategic positions are sincere about making the continent truly independent, it must be realized that the only road to go is providing quality education for all, especially our future mothers. Without that, we’ll retreat into the days of the cave man, while the world live in skyscrapers!
Why should the African girl child be educated?
A change of perception and mindset
The argument for personal development is enough to spearhead the education of the girl child. It isn’t debatable that education affects the way a person sees things, and the way she sees things has an overall impact on her mindset. The African girl, if not educated, will continue to see herself as less human and inferior. If our leaders bow to greet Angela Merkel and Hillary Clinton, why shouldn’t they educate the African girl to be like one of those two, and many more who occupy the global stage? Our girls will have a better perception of themselves when they’re given better education. They aren’t less intelligent. They aren’t less brilliant. They only have less education. And it’s a shame that they do.
Education will put the African girl in a vantage position where she can see and be seen. If she can’t be seen, she can’t be hired. It was education that repositioned Fatou Bensouda. Fatou is from Gambia, and she’s the first African woman to be appointed as chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court. Education repositioned Leyma Gbowee, who was a joint winner of the 2011 Nobel Prize for Peace for her role in helping end the war in Liberia. Education repositioned Winnie Byanyima, who was appointed as Oxfam’s executive director. Winnie is from Uganda.
If we want the African girl child to thrive, we must give her the tool that makes everyone thrive, and that is quality education. Without purposeful education, she’ll remain in the dark, and assume that the dark is life. Globally, education is the main instrument of change. To oppress the people, leave them in ignorance. To score an own goal, be a leader that leaves your girls in ignorance. There’s always a boomerang for leaving people in the dark and leading them blind. Never trust the blind because where you don’t want them to go is where they go, and when they go, they incur costly eventualities. And guess who pays the huge cost of eventualities? YOU! It is cheaper to educate the girl child than wait for the consequence of her ignorance.
Become a global player
Many women from the west influence global decisions because they are global players – what increases influence is awareness. The world is beginning to balance the ratio of representation between men and women in various sectors, but in spite of the balance, the educated make the list. If the African girl child isn’t educated, her place will be taken either by the men or by women from other continents. The voice of the African girl will be muted until she’s given the vocal cord to express herself, and that vocal cord is education. The African boy can’t speak for the girl because only the girl knows how she feels, and must be in the position to air it.
Making a better contribution to the economy
In the report of the UK Women’s Business Council published in June 2013, it was found that by equalizing labor force participation rates of men and women, the UK could increase economic growth by 0.5 percentage points per year, with a potential gain of 10% of GDP by 2030. This goes to show the huge significance of the female in boosting the economy of any nation, continent or race. The quality of the labor force is enhanced by education. If the African girl child is educated, her positive impact on the African and world economy will be noticeable and appreciated. A culture, religion or superstition that relegates the importance of the girl child education does disservice to itself because it inadvertently tarnishes its own values. To expand the African economy, the girl child must be given unrestricted access to learn the art and science of mental development.
Improving the skills of the mother-mentor
It is obvious that the best and the first mentor an African child has is the mother. African mother hears from her child what the father may never hear. Children confide more in their mothers than their fathers. Based on limited knowledge and exposure, an African mother mentors the child, and that child goes in the direction of the advice. Some children have strayed or made wrong decisions because their mothers made certain suggestions out of ignorance, and they followed.
Education will make an African mother a better mentor. I understood the relevance of education from childhood as a result of being raised by a grandmother, who although didn’t go to school, but knew that illiteracy set her backwards. She wanted to learn how to write and speak English but couldn’t. But for every child she raised, she told unequivocally to embrace strategic thinking and innovative education. As I struggled through life and wanted to give up due to financial difficulties in school, the echo of the voice of my late grandmother kept resonating in my heart, mind and head. The challenges were inundating, but my resolve to beat the odds were bigger than the mountains of retrogression. The end of the story is that I am educated, not because I had the resources to, but because one African girl child educated her mind to know the consequence of ignorance. If that did a lot to me, how much more will the impact of a literally educated mother have on her child?
To challenge domestic violence
According International Rescue Committee (IRC), domestic violence is the most urgent, pervasive and significant protection issue for women in West Africa. In the UK Guardian newspaper publication of IRC report, it was stated that husbands, not strangers or men with guns, are now the biggest threat to women in post-conflict West Africa.
My question is what percentage of the informed African women make up the demography of the domestically abused? I don’t think there’s a lot because awareness makes you know your rights and the protections available to you. Education will help the African girl child challenge any form of abuse.
Again, according to the same newspaper report, in a small church in the outskirt of Monrovia, Liberia, a woman jumped to her feet with a smile on her face and cried out, “Women, O women! Don’t just sit down. Do something positive” and the group replied, “With force.”
That force is education. That force is information. That force will bring sensible emancipation from those who think the African girl child is an object to be battered and continuously battered.
Talking about female genital mutilation (FGM)
A couple of years ago, a Nigerian woman who was to be deported from the UK for illegal migration made excuses that she would be forced to be genitally mutilated if she went back home. I was vexed as I felt she was denigrating the image of Africa by using that as an excuse. As I posted my irritation on the social media, I was seriously lampooned by some UK based African women who have been victims of female genital mutilation. One of them, a television host, gave me a ring to enlighten me on what the true situation in Africa on FGM is. As I listened carefully, I became furious with how barbaric some of our beliefs and cultures are, and how we have refused to move on in spite of overwhelming scientific and medical evidences.
In recent years, the educated African women have joined the vanguard of those advocating that FGM should be criminalized and those found to be involved prosecuted. Unfortunately, the ignorant thinks it is a culture dated back to our ancestors and therefore, see nothing wrong with it. No African educated woman who is truly in the know will submit her new born girl to be genitally mutilated.
War against child marriage
Among the world’s current 700 million women that married as children, 125 million of them are Africans. About 39% of girls in Sub-Saharan Africa marry before the age of 18. At 18, they should be preparing to go to the university, but that is the age they start bearing children, yet someone keeps asking why Africa is the least developed of all continents.
How many educated African women give their daughters to marriage at age 18 or under? None, except if the person has undiagnosed mental issues. Educating the African girl child will make her come to terms with what should be and what shouldn’t be. Educating the African girl child will help her distinguish between a positive and staled culture. The girl child is a thick member of the demography of the African human capital. When she’s made to sit in limbo, and only consummated for the sole purpose of being a baby factory, we will all suffer the consequences of our depraved mindset.
Fine-tuning and advancing the already-existent entrepreneurial mentality of the African woman
It is no secret that the African woman is a great entrepreneur. If you go to the marketplace, most of those selling are women. Without education, she manages to do her accounting; supply chain management, production management and all that are required to make her little business thrive. What would she do if she adds education to her natural abilities?
I think the African education curricula should take our nature into consideration. Those who make decisions on what we learn shouldn’t copy hook line and sinker what obtains in the western world. They should look at our genetics and with brinkmanship; redesign what is digestible by our mental alimentary canal. By so doing, we will be more purposeful and useful.
The African woman is a natural entrepreneur. Give her education, and she will do far better in boosting the African economy.
Our girls will become intellectual exports
Educating the African girl child will make her an intellectual export rather than a sex slave. If you take away the African female workforce from the United Kingdom National Health Service, there will be an earthquake because a high number of the nurses and some of the other healthcare providers are African women. But the same cannot be said in Italy where majority of the black prostitutes are Africans. What would you like your girl child to be; an intellectual export or international prostitute? Your response must be determined by your action or inaction!
Improving her personal financial status
In Africa, some men know how to inject into the woman what makes babies, but never take responsibilities when the children are born. This therefore, leaves the woman to cater for her own children. Many women have become bread winners because of some men’s irresponsibility. Apart from that, the widows look after their children, maybe, because their late husbands didn’t leave much behind or left nothing at all. In certain situations where the man left something behind, his relatives jump on the assets and deny the woman access. Without education, the woman earns far less and is unable to improve her personal finance, and this has a direct consequence on her children.
Educating the African girl child is looking ahead and taking care of eventualities. You make the future suffer when you, one way or the other, deny the African girl child quality education. Between 2005 and 2015, there have been over twenty women world leaders. Wouldn’t you be proud of any of them if you were their parent? If you think you would, educate that African girl child!