8 May 2011

Nigeria: Female Education Aids Poverty Reduction in the East

The South-eastern part of Nigeria has recorded significant reduction in poverty levels, thanks to wide spread education of females across various communities.

This observation made by the Nigeria Country Director of Ipas, Dr. Ejike Oji, is in contrast with the fact that the South-eastern part of the country has received the least allocation from the federal government of Nigeria.

But Nigeria is not listed among the countries where access to education has increased over the last two decades, although the UNICEF said, "Today, more children, and girls in particular are in school than ever before."

This was contained in a statement by UNICEF's Associate Director of Education, Susan Durston, to mark this year's Global Action Week that focused on Education for Women and Girls.

According to Durston, "The number of out-of-school children has decreased from 115 million to 67 million between 1999 and 2008, with notable increases in enrolment in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia."

Countries such as Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Mozambique, Nepal, Tanzania and Yemen have combined rapid increases in enrolment with improved gender equality. As a result, between 1999 and 2008 the gender gap in the out-of-school population narrowed from 57 per cent to 53 per cent globally.

Oji who gave further insight on the reason for the decline in out-of-school girl in south eastern part of Nigeria told Daily Independent that "it has to do with the cultural orientation of the predominantly Igbo-speaking group people known for their industrious nature."

In the region, most men, even the illiterates would rather marry graduates. This has resulted in over 50 per cent reduction in the poverty levels across the place, according to Oji.

Similarly, UNICEF has said making sure girls and women have equal access to quality education is key to sustainable economic development.

Currently 53 per cent of all children out of school are girls denied of the right to learn. According to the UNICEF statement, poverty, exploitation and armed conflict magnify the risk girls face even as they go to school, forcing many to stay home or drop out in fear of their safety.

"If the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are to be achieved by the 2015 deadline, we must step up efforts to ensure that more girls and women have the opportunity to learn. We have ample evidence that investing in girls' education yields high returns," Durston said.

The UN body said girls with access to education not only vastly improve their own lives but also bring change to their families, economies, and societies, adding that providing girls and women with a quality education is a highly effective tool to address poverty and fight disease.

It is a known fact that a woman is more likely to get a job and earn a higher wage if she has a basic education, just as one percentage point increase in female education raises the average level of GDP by 0.37 percentage points, according to UNICEF. It also disclosed that every additional year of primary school boosts girls' eventual wages by 10 - 20 per cent, and an extra year of secondary school by 15 - 25 per cent.

The 'Back on Track' programme of UNICEF works to bring educational opportunities during and after crises, including by establishing child-friendly spaces, which create an environment where children are protected from sexual exploitation and other kinds of abuse.

"Getting girls into school demands concerted action and political leadership. In addition, the rights and needs of girls also have to be addressed to ensure that they stay in school and receive a quality education," Durston said, adding, "Bolder steps must be taken on all fronts to ensure the successful transition from primary to secondary education and to make sure that girls can complete a full course of learning."

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