Photograph — The Japan Times

In Nigeria, education is meant for all. In fact, it is the fundamental human right of every child, whether boy or girl, able or unable to acquire basic education.

The subject of girl child education in Northern Nigeria has become a major cause of concern for many governmental and non-governmental organisations. According to United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), 40 percent of Nigerian children aged 6 to 11 do not attend any primary school with the Northern region recording the lowest school attendance rate in the country, particularly for girls.

As education is a process of facilitating learning, or the acquisition of knowledge, skills, values, beliefs and habits, parents in the north prefer their female children attend Arabic schools rather than western schools. Likewise, the ratio of girls to boys in schools in the northern part of the country is one to three in most states of the region.

In the past, with a great need to tackle the low enrollment in schools in the Northern Nigeria, the government established special schools called the remodeled Almajiri initiative that sought to integrate Islamic and urban education for indigent children. However, this scheme is still faced with problems of over population, lack of accommodation, shortage of teachers, lack of modern teaching and learning materials, obsolete curriculum and so on.

To this effect, on Thursday, the International Institute of Islamic Banking and Finance, Bayero University, Kano held its 3rd conference where the Emir of Kano, Mallam Muhammed Sanusi II told wealthy Northerners to use their riches to help and enhance the community by investing in schools that will educate girls and discourage early marriage rather than build mosques.

In his speech, Sanusi said he comes across people who want to build a new mosque as opposed to a new school. In his words, ‘we’ the northerners keep building mosques and our daughters are illiterates.

He stressed that over 50 percent of girls between the age bracket of 18 and 20 given out in marriage in the north cannot write or read, emphasising that the state has enough mosques and there is no need for new ones. Instead, funds should be used to build schools to educate the girl child in the village.

The Emir said there should be laws that prevent early marriage and enforce girl-child education as this practice has caused more harm than good for the girl child. Looking at the medical data on maternal health, girls who get pregnant below the age of 15 and 18 are five times and twice as likely to die as girls who get pregnant at the age of 20 respectively. As a result, the level of literacy in this part of the country is relatively low while the rate of divorce and domestic violence is on the rise.

Some may criticise the Emir of Kano for marrying an underage himself. Barkindo Aliyu Musdafa, the Lamido of Adamawa, officially gave his daughter to Sanusi at the age of 18 years but it was stated that the union will effectively be on hold until she completes her studies in the United Kingdom at the age of 21, a pointer to Sanusi’s belief in female education in the northern Nigeria.

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