The Deputy Rector (Academics) of Kaduna Polytechnic, Dr Grace Jamila Bila-Jolaosho; former Senator representing Kaduna Central in the 8th Senate, Senator Shehu Sani and the National Association of Seadogs, Pyrates Confraternity (NAS/PC), have proffered a roadmap to ensure education for the girl-child and children with disability in Northern Nigeria.
They all spoke at the 15th edition of the Ralph Opara Memorial Lecture with the theme: ‘Quality Education for The Girl-Child and Children living with Disabilities in Northern Nigeria: Challenges and Way Forward’, organised by NAS/PC at Arewa House, Kaduna.
Dr Jolaosho, while stressing the importance of education as a fundamental human right, lamented that girls and children in Northern Nigeria face barriers such as education system, cultural practices, poverty, religious affiliations and negative social perceptions in accessing education.
She pointed out that in some northern states, the gender inequality in education is greater against the girl-child with or without disability, adding that children with disability are severely discriminated against.
“On the other hand, children and persons with disabilities suffer devaluation, discrimination and disconnection from family, community and society owing to misperception of their ability to study or perform any task meaningfully. As such most persons with disabilities are denied their human right to education so driven by circumstances to eke out being homeless as beggars, and vagrants. Similarly, the girl child suffers discrimination, early marriage, child labour, gender-based violence, gender stereotyping and teenage pregnancy,’’ Dr Jolaosho said.
According to her, while 12 states in Northern Nigeria have domesticated Persons with Disabilities Law and a general level of compliance, challenges in accessing education still persist.
Dr Jolaosho identified poverty and insecurity as other factors preventing children in Northern Nigeria from accessing education.
“Another challenge to quality education in contemporary Northern Nigeria is security, issues of banditry and kidnapping. Women and girls are the most affected in times of conflict and crisis being victims of horrendous acts of violence including rape, torture, human trafficking, and sex slavery. We are all familiar with the accounts of bandits and kidnappers capturing many girls from schools across the region with many still currently in their captivity. This situation has discouraged parents in such vulnerable areas from sending their children to school. In some rural areas especially, the activities of bandits and kidnappers have crippled the educational system since the safety of the teachers and the students cannot be guaranteed. The situation is so bad that essential workers do not want to be posted to the rural areas to carry out their legitimate duties. The situation has further aggravated rural urban migration and the internal refugee situation because many parents and guardians have relocated to urban centers in a bid to escape the insecurity,’’ she added.
For the way forward, she recommended that the hydra-headed monster of insecurity in Northern Nigeria and Nigeria as a whole must be tackled head-on, adding that the insecurity dimension of banditry and kidnapping are relatively recent developments in the region and if not arrested immediately, any investment in education, especially, as it affects the girl child and children with disabilities will remain a mirage.
‘’There is a need for continuous advocacy on the importance of availing the girl child and children with disabilities with quality education in Northern Nigeria. To this end, the media must take the lead in enlightenment of the public and creating more awareness against the militating challenges; beliefs and practices that encourage discrimination against inclusion of the girl-child and children with disabilities,’’ she added.
Speaking, Senator Shehu Sani lamented that education had been neglected in Northern Nigeria and has triggered insecurity in the region.
He bemoaned the fact that the failure to educate the nomads and the young children has been responsible for the series of insecurity in the region.
Sani, therefore, recommended investment in education to ensure that Northern Nigeria comes out of its present crisis.
The NAS Capoon, Mr Abiola Owoaje, said NAS/PC was concerned about the state of education for the girl-child and children living with disabilities in Northern Nigeria which prompted it to feature it in the 15th education of the Ralph Opara Memorial Lecture.
He described Opara as an outstanding Nigerian who joined Prof Wole Soyinka and five others to form the Pyrates Confraternity at the University College Ibadan, which has sustained the social advocacy posture of speaking for the voiceless.