Of Sokoto and Girl-Child Education
By Nurudeen Akewushola
Education is the bedrock of the society, any fundamental change in the intellectual and social outlook of the young minds in any society has to be preceded by proper education.
Child Marriage is a form of violence prevalent in Sokoto State hindering children from having access to sound Education. It’s most times perpetuated by the ignorance on the part of parents who give their teenagers out in marriage early thereby denying them access to education and other fundamental benefits.
In 2003, the Federal Government passed the Child Rights Act that outlawed any marital activity with any individual below the age of 18. But the law needs domestication to be effective in many Nigerian states. And Sokoto is not an exception. Over 17 years today, 11 out of 19 states in Northern Nigeria, including Sokoto, are yet to domesticate the bill.
Sokoto is one of the leading states in the North-west of Nigeria with an alarming rate of child marriage. Especially in the rural areas of the state, many school-age-girls are denied education, proper parental protection, and other basic needs rather, they are married off at their tender age.
There’s a saying that, if you educate a girl you educate a nation. Education allows her to be better prepared and equipped to handle the challenges life will throw at her. She will be able to make more informed choices in both her chosen career and personal lives, and she can participate actively in social and political decision-making. But the situation is reversed in Sokoto State, the young female is married off before they clock 18 without enabling them to have proper Education.
The growing menace of Girl-Child marriage is alarming, according to a UNICEF report, Nigeria has the highest number of child marriages in Africa, with 23 million girls and women married in childhood. The organization reveals that 43% of girls in Nigeria are married off before their 18th birthday. A similar report by Save the Children initiative showed that the prevalence of child marriage is highest in the north-west zone with 76 percent and lowest in the south-east with 10 percent.
The menace will not only harm the current generation, but it will also have great negative impacts on the incoming generations. A mother that doesn’t have quality Education which kind of Knowledge do we expect her to pass to her children? This is because the education of every child starts from the family and the mother is the first teacher and that is why mothers of the nation need to be well-grounded educationally.
Sokoto as a Muslim dominated community, religion taboo is the major obstacle obstructing the domestication of the Child Right Acts in the state. For instance, according to history, Aisha was betrothed to prophet Muhammad at the age of 9 contrary to the provision of Child Right Acts which prohibits parents from marrying off their children when they are yet to reach the age of consent ( 18 year old). They believe that the bill is western culture invented to undermine shariah law which gives the right to parents to marry off their children at any age that they think they are ripe for marriage.
One of the most common among the stereotypic notion in Northern Nigeria is the wrong belief that women’s “Education ends in Kitchen”. Another taboo is also the belief that the girl-child should experience her first menstrual period in her husband’s house, it’s believed that if a Girl-Child is married off early it will prevent them from pre-marital sex which is termed as sinful from in Islamic perspective.
Child marriage has a lot of health implications, most prevalent maternal diseases such as V.V.F. (Vesico Vaginal fistula), obstetric fistulas, and cervical cancer have been traced to childbirth.
It should be noted that just like Marriage is compulsory in Islam, the position of Knowledge in Islam cannot be overemphasized, we should try to find a common ground between religious belief and Child Right Act, it is important that Government works with religious and traditional rulers to promote advocacy and community engagement on the need to align the two to enable the pillars of the nation to have access to quality education.
On a final note, Girl-child education will foster national development. Education should be made accessible to the girl-child at all levels; advocacy and awareness programs at the grass-root level of the society should be organized regularly to enlighten people and restructure the image of the girl-child for national and global recognition.