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#BringBackOurGirls Statement

DAY 5, #DAY1000 GLOBAL WEEK OF ACTION OF CHIBOK GIRLS ABDUCTION

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DAY 5: ENDANGERED EDUCATION AND GIRL-CHILD VULNERABILITY

JANUARY 12, 2017

INTRODUCTION

Today marks Day Five of our Global Week of Action to commemorate the 1000th Day of the abduction of our Chibok Girls.

It is important to remind our fellow citizens that when our initial 276 daughters were forcefully taken from their secondary school in Chibok on the night of April 14, 2014, several rights and liberties were severely threatened. The first is the right to security for every individual while the second is the right to education.

The very meaning of Boko Haram – western education is sinful – was brutally demonstrated on the night of April 14, 2014 and has been executed across the Northeast region in scores of other locations including Buni Yadi, where 29 boys were brutally murdered at the Federal Government Secondary School, Potiskum where 33 students were killed by a bomb blast, and Yobe where over 40 students were allegedly shot by terrorists.

TERRORISM, EDUCATION AND NATION-BUILDING

The raison d’être of every government is to persistently raise the standard of living or quality of life of its people.  Successful countries are those that have developed and in so doing raised their citizens’ quality of life over the decades of its existence. That is why Singapore for example, is cited often as a model of some sort among countries like ours with which it gained independence in the 1960s. As you know already, whereas Singapore has managed to harness all its governance capabilities to produce an impressive nearly $60,000 annual income per capita for her citizens in 2014, Nigeria’s is some $2300. This is made more stark by the fact that at the beginning of their journey to national development, their income par capital was not that significantly different at just about $300 for Singapore and $100 for Nigeria.

Nigeria has, in the last decade especially, been grappling with multi-dimensional threats that have attained existential proportion. The severity of the effects of the destabilizing forces have created worries about the long term sustainability of the nation of diverse people, cultures, ethnicities, religions, geographies, endowments and possibilities. At the heart of resetting the button is to prioritize the education and empowerment of our girls. A girl-child soon becomes a woman and where women go, a nation goes.  When we secure our girls and women, we secure our future. Indeed, our girls are our future!

However, when our schools were attacked and our children were murdered and abducted the silence around these events was deafening. It is forgivable if such silence is interpreted as a passive complicity on the attack of quality public education for the majority of hard-working Nigerians for whom education is the critical stepping stone out of poverty and towards true empowerment and development.

Last April our Movement and a host of education specialists discussed several issues around education at a workshop entitled “Endangered Education”, which we convened to mark the two-year milestone of our Chibok girls’ abduction from their secondary school.  Education has proven itself as the bedrock of human progress. It improves the status of citizens of any society, providing each individual with the capacity to function and contribute to economic development with inter-generational benefits that stabilize the future. In other words, contributing parents give birth to contributing children who, in turn, care for those parents as they age while giving birth to their own contributing children. Human development is therefore a key feature of stable societies.

Little wonder that countries with lower Human Development indicators tend to be more brittle and prone to conflict. The lower the human development score of society, the higher the level of poverty, and in a viciously cyclical way, widespread poverty becomes a causative factor itself for lower human development and a trigger for conflict and insecurity of all types.

This is precisely where we as a nation have found ourselves. It has been argued that the disenfranchisement marked by having low or no education and a lack of economic opportunities contributed to the rise of those who threaten our peaceful existence. The overall unemployment (11%) and underemployment (18%) level is rising further. The annual average level of unemployment and underemployment for the youthful segment of our population at 40% instructs the need for bolder actions. Consider that Nigeria is a youthful country with 63% of its population under the age of 25 and then consider that half of them are girls. That should immediately throw up a discussion on what the future of such a country would be without harnessing such a large army of citizens who are not part of the productive process but especially not deliberately focusing on the girls as a key part of the inclusive development agenda for Nigeria.

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Evidently, human development is a driver of prosperity since it helps create the basis for economic and social mobility in a society. Where human development is low, it becomes a driver of poverty. Nigeria’s Human development score stands at less than .5 out of a possible 1. It is certainly one of the major explanations for the disconnect between huge oil revenues and more than a hundred million poor citizens of Nigeria. Southern Nigeria has consistently higher scores for human development, gender development and empowerment. The North East has the lowest human development, followed by the North West Nigeria. The average poverty level in the three northern zones is 73.8% compared to an average of 63.3% in the South according to a report published by the British Council Nigeria, in 2012.

THE GIRL-CHILD VULNERABLILITIES

The plight of the girl-child in Nigeria is one that requires urgent action. Sadly, the vulnerability of the girl-child is further deepened in view of recent seemingly unending situations they have to grapple with.

The abduction of our Chibok girls, in itself, is one that exposes the high risk that girls, particularly those in the North East part of Nigeria, face as they dare to seek education. This is in addition to extreme interpretation of Islamic injunctions, which is targeted at to a vast majority of illiterates – especially children, many of whom are girls, with a view to radicalizing and indoctrination them. The killings, maiming, and kidnapping of educationists further validates the stretch to which education is endangered, resultant of which Nigeria is ranked as one of the top 10 countries with high rate of out of school children, many of whom are girls.

Furthermore, harmful cultural practices – like breast ironing and Female Genital Mutilation – are some unfavourable circumstances the girl child is faced with in Nigeria. Sadly, coerced and forcible marriage has been on the increase, including that of 14-year-old Habiba Isiyaku – a sad tale which has left her parents in deep sorrow and agony as they hope for the return of their daughter. Unfortunately, this comes as one of the many cases that became public after Ese Oruru – the young girl from Bayelsa State who was criminally taken away from her family; and married off without the consent of her parents. This leaves one wondering how many of such cases are unreported; or yet to make it to the media. Girls should be allowed to be girls — not brides.

The continuously increasing cases of rapes, sexual molestation, domestic violence, psychological abuse, among several others, are some of what has made the girl child vulnerable in Nigeria, which must be tackled in any country striving towards development, where the girl-child will play a critical role.

GIRL-CHILD EDUCATION MATTERS

The number of girls with access to school and completing primary and secondary education in the South is higher than in the North and this is a major contributor to higher levels of poverty in the latter region of Nigeria. In a study, “Girl Child Education: Rising to the Challenge” by academics; Grace Nmadu, Solomon Avidime, Olugbenga Oguntunde, Binta Abdulkarim. and   Mairo Mandara, published in the African Journal of Reproductive Health in 2010 found that: “Northern Nigeria’s high gender inequity in education places the majority of young girls at a severe disadvantage.”

The cross-sectional study examined enrolment, dropout, and primary school completion rates in three communities in Kaduna State. It found that less than half of young people (6 – 25 years) living in northern Nigeria are currently enrolled in school and the majority of students are males (60%). The analysis found that there are nearly twice as many boys graduating from primary school as girls, and the dropout rate for boys is just about half (3%) of the dropout rate for girls (5.4%). As few as 20% of women in the northwest and northeast of the country are literate.

Before the insurgency, abductions, the killing of students, and the decimation of schools, inequality and its root cause could be traced to unequal access to education. When it happens with girls it is worse because it has a double effect. The girls who are not educated are exposed the soonest to child marriage and are unprepared to raise children themselves, being children also. Hence society multiplies the number of individuals without the skills to lead a good life each time a girl child falls through the cracks of an unconcerned society. The researchers concluded that “a high level of out-of-school girls seen in this study has grave implications that are detrimental to the society as a whole and which can affect girls” lives negatively in all ramifications.

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Women with formal education are much more likely to use reliable family planning methods, delay marriage and childbearing, and have fewer (and healthier) babies than women with no formal education. The effect is particularly pronounced for secondary school. Women with a secondary school education tend to have better knowledge about health care practices, are less likely to become pregnant at a very young age, tend to have fewer, better-spaced pregnancies, and are more likely to seek antenatal care, postnatal care, and skilled attendance at delivery. The effect is profound: for each additional year of schooling provided to young women, fertility declines by 10%. In fact, is has been estimated that one additional year of school for 1,000 women would avert two maternal deaths.”

What then are the implications for the millions of children and young people who find themselves either in the hands of terrorists, displaced, malnourished, injured, orphaned or even all of the above?

PROPOSALS FOR DIGNIFYING THE GIRL-CHILD IN NIGERIA

Our movement is deeply concerned about the negative consequences of violations against the girl-child and the barriers they face when pursuing education.  This is because uneducated girls easily slip into the margins of societies; ending up less healthy, less skilled, with fewer choices, and remain ill-prepared to participate in the political, social and economic development of their communities. As under-educated women, they will remain at higher risk of poverty, maternal mortality, child mortality, HIV/ AIDS, sexual exploitation, and other forms of violence. Improving basic education, especially female education, has a powerful influence on both mortality and fertility. Indeed, the close relationship between education and demographic changes has clearly emerged in a number of recent empirical studies. A wide range of theoretical analyses from different disciplines confirms that education improves health and reduces fertility.

1.    END ABDUCTION AND FORCEFUL CONVERSION OF THE GIRL-CHILD

As with the case of our Chibok girls, we have been bewildered with information of singular abductions and forceful conversions, as with the case of 14-year-old Ese Oruru. Now, with the unresolved alleged case of the abduction of Habiba Isyaku on August 16, 2016,.and her forceful, unconstitutional marriage to her alleged abductor – Jamilu Lawal – an aide of the Emir of Kastina, Abdulmummuni Kabir Usman), we demand that the government of Kastina State must, as a matter of urgency, see to the recovery of Habiba and her immediate reunification with her family considering that Habiba is a minor and lacks the willpower to consent to a marriage.

We call on the government and traditional rulers especially in Northern Nigeria to align with the recent message of the Emir of Kano, His Highness Muhammadu Sanusi II to the effect that such repression of rights of under-aged girls does not have a place in modern societies. Just a few days ago, the Emir of Kano made the following comments:

“Women are married in Northern Nigeria at a tender age, thereby leading her to lose her life, the child, and the indices are there for each state.

“Some people attributed the death and challenges to God, but we know that God does not dislike us. Why is it that the indices are worst in the north?

“I call on our Imams to address this. It is a shame that the UN had to come and tell us how to look after our children. We are the ones to do it, and we should not wait for the UN.”

Our Movement wishes to join with all parties to table a dialogue on this troubling issue which is fast becoming recurrent. In the meantime, we demand the immediate release of Habiba Ishaku by the Governor of Katsina, the Emir of Katsina and the Emirate.

2.   ALL STATES MUST ENFORCE THE CHILD RIGHTS ACT TO END EARLY MARRIAGE OF THE GIRL CHILD

The Federal Government must revisit the adoption of the Child Rights Acts by all states of the federation to ensure uniformity of promotion and protection of the rights of children, especially the girl child. By so doing, the age of marriage as stipulated by the Child Rights Acts, and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is adhered to, contrary of which must attract necessary sanctions or punishments.

3.   ENFORCE THE VIOLENCE AGAINST PERSONS PROHIBITION (VAPP) ACT

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Enforcement of the Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Bill such that ensures protection of the girl-child against all forms of violence. In furtherance to this, prosecution of offenders must be conducted appropriately and within reasonable time.

4.   END ALL HARMFUL CULTURAL PRACTICES AGAINST THE GIRL-CHILD

All harmful practices impeding the empowerment and progress of girls and women across the nation must end!

Our society must be mobilized by the Federal Government, along with State Local Government and traditional rulers to audit all the practices that harm women. Some of these practices are allegedly religious, cultural, social, political, economic, and environmental.

Growth is only possible when all barriers that impede it are removed.  It is time to allow girls and women of Nigeria to grow unimpeded.

5.   PROSECUTE ALL OFFENDERS THAT HARM AND IMPEDE THE EMPOWERMENT OF THE GIRL-CHILD

Using the Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Bill, the Child Rights Acts (CRA), and other existing legal instruments, the Federal Government should ensure the prosecution of all convicted offenders, who committed crimes stipulated by Law against the girl child, so as to protect other girls; while serving as deterrent to others possible offenders

With the above, and other actions the government deems fit, we would be positioning the girl child as responsible members of their families and communities, as well as positive contributors to nation building.

6.   PRIORITISE THE EDUCATION OF ALL OUT-OF-SCHOOL GIRLS

Our Federal and State Governments should develop a Strategic Plan to Bring All Out-Of-School-Girls across the country into schools. Financing such a plan should be given priority in Education budgets.

7.  COMPLETE THE RECONSTRUCTION OF ALL SCHOOLS DEVESTATED IN THE NORTHEAST, ESPECIALLY THE GOVERNMENT SECONDARY SCHOOL, CHIBOK AND INSTITUTE THE MAXIMUM PACKAGE OF SAFETY ACROSS ALL SCHOOLS AS PLEDGED IN THE SAFE SCHOOL INITIATIVE

As our society wrestles to end the insurgency that has cost over ten thousand lives and led to the abduction of many a girl-child that should be in school, the urgent crisis of education in the North must be tackled head on. If even before the Terrorism scourge, as pointed out by aforementioned data, the girl-child in the North was at the margin of human development and invariably economic attainment, imagine how deeper a gap the unsafe conditions for education in that region has created. Since the unresolved tragedy of our 219 school girls of Chibok, it is reported that many more families are refusing to send their daughters to school.

The maximum guarantee of safety of schools across the nation but particularly in the terrorist affected communities is mandatory by Federal, State, and Local Governments in order to ensure that education is not endangered because families feel that it endangers their children — especially girls — to seek knowledge.

8.   LAUNCH AN EMERGENCY PLAN TO REPOSITION EDUCATION IN NIGERIA

All evidence point to the fact that Education has been in crisis since this was last pointed during the 2006-2006 Education Reforms. It has since degenerated more and now Education is seriously endangered. It is past time the Federal Government commits absolute political will, leadership, intellectual capacity, financial strength and partnership with other levels of government as well as business sector and civil society and the academia to rescue Education. Save Education NOW!

CONCLUSION:

The tragic irony is that one of the reasons parents send their girl-children to school is to help delay marriage and child bearing while they acquire life skills for a better life. Rukiya Abubarka Gali’s parents while rejoicing at the return of their daughter yesterday, must be regretfully wondering like not a few other parents, whether it was worth it after all, to have made the choice for knowledge for their daughter.

That our Chibok girls are still in terrorist captivity 1005 days after they were abducted for turning up in Government Secondary School, Chibok, to acquire education for their future is the greatest evidence of endangered education in Nigeria. The only statement that the Federal Government can make to demonstrate that education is the bedrock of the development of the Nigerian people is to rescue our Chibok girls today. Anything less is not acceptable!

Signed:

For and on behalf of #BringBackOurGirls

AISHA YESUFU
OBY EZEKWESILI

Aljazirahnews