(By Oluchi Nwafor)
“Offering women in Niger Delta the access to education is one sure way of giving them much greater power that would enable them make genuine choices over the kind of life they wish to live. However, as a region rich in oil production, they should actively be in politics to be duly abreast with the business of policy formulation and implementation that will enhance the standard of living of the people both in the region and Nigeria as a whole.“
IT is often said that when you educate a woman, you educate a nation. Education, according to Wikipedia is a form of learning in which the knowledge, skills and habits of a group of people are transferred from one generation to the next through teaching, training or research. It is a basic human right and as such has been recognised since May 1961 adoption of the universal declaration on human right by the United Nations General Assembly.
In the past, education was not necessarily a priority for women. According to the society, men were favoured over the women in terms of acquiring knowledge, not because of the men’s interest or abilities, rather because of the belief concerning what role men should play in the society. Women were limited to activities within the home to prepare them to be good mothers, obedient wives and sisters. These practices continued for over a 100 years after the introduction of Western education by Christian missionaries in 19th century, in Nigeria.
It is not surprising, particularly in Niger Delta area of Nigeria, where the culture and traditional practices make females second class citizen. Of course, educating women will not be a priority in such a place. The area, which is an oil rich region, endowed with numerous natural resources, has little recognition for female education. This has constrained them from contributing positively to the economy of the region and participating actively to nation building. The role of women in this part of the country has been limited to satisfying the emotional needs of men, tending to babies and preparing food, and yet in some societies on the Niger Delta, women are traditionally the breadwinners of the family.
There are many reasons why females are not deemed worthy to be educated. Some of which are; low value accorded by parents to female education, harmful practices, low quality learning environment, local beliefs and norms that impact negatively on female education, all of which have resulted in widening the gender gap in school enrollment.
However, even though these practices of neglecting to educate women have gone in the past, it is absolutely wrong and should be discouraged. By acquiring literacy, women become economically self-reliant and actively engaged in their country’s social, political and cultural life. When women are given the right to be educated, they end up becoming useful pillars of families and societies and when they occupy public offices, they tend to do better than their male counterparts.
This is seen in the likes of Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the minister of Finance and coordinating minister of the Economy; Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, the minister of Petroleum Resources; the late Prof. Dora Akunyili, former minister of Information and Communications, just to mention a few, who are contributing positively, and have earned both national and international recognition.
From the foregoing, it is evident that only few Nigerian women have participated and emerged in Nigeria’s political landscape, of which Niger Delta women are not included.
Offering women in Niger Delta the access to education is one sure way of giving them much greater power that would enable them make genuine choices over the kind of life they wish to live. However, as a region rich in oil production, they should actively be in politics to be duly abreast with the business of policy formulation and implementation that will enhance the standard of living of the people both in the region and Nigeria as a whole.
However, the benefit of female education goes beyond higher productivity for 50 per cent of the population, more educated women also tend to be healthier, participate more in labour market, earn more income, have fewer children, provide better health care and education to their children, and eventually improve the wellbeing of all individuals and lifts house holds out of poverty.
In eradicating illiteracy among women in Niger Delta, the government, non-governmental organisations and all developmental partners should make literacy available to women by providing low cost of educational system , and also set up adult education centres that will give women of any age the chance of attaining formal education. Parents should stop giving out their daughters’ hand in marriage at a tender age; they ought to encourage them to be properly educated.
For Niger Delta and Nigeria as a whole to achieve the goal of being among the largest economies in the world, Nigeria must rapidly educate her children, most of all, the girls.
Nwafor is a Mass Communication student, Rivers State Polytechnic Bori.
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