Education, girl child right not privilege ― Don

Education has been described as the right of the African girl child and not a privilege as school girls have been advised to claim their education and not just receive it.

This piece of advice was given by a Professor, University of Connecticut and Quinnipiac University, USA, Professor Bola Akanji, who is a retired research professor at NISER, Ibadan is also a Consultant, Gender and International Development to multilateral African organisations. She said this while addressing close to two hundred girls at the opening ceremony of the Girls’ Summit 2019 organised by the Women’s Research and Documentation Centre (WORDOC), Institute of African Studies, University of Ibadan.

The two day-summit themed “think, build, innovate” also had in attendance the Director of the institute, Dr Ismaheel Akinade as host, coordinator of WORDOC, Dr Sharon Omotoso, Mrs Esther Ololajulo, a WORDOC facilitator, and other volunteers of the Centre, as well as parents of the participating girls from different secondary schools in Ibadan.

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Professor Akanji said “A lot of people take their education just as it is handed to them, especially when they are privileged and they just pass through the system. “You just do what you are asked to do and do not question why you want that form of education. What do I want to make of my education; especially as a girl,  what do I want to be in my society with my education?.

She noted that in many schools and homes, girls are still told to tone down their ambition; they are tailored to go for the easy subjects and relatively minor courses. They are discouraged from being too ‘nerdy’ and they scare them from hardline courses like mathematics and core and applied sciences.

Claiming your education, she said, means determining for yourself what you want to make of your education. Setting your own standards, working hard to make sure that you get the best out of it rather than just walk through it to satisfy societal expectations. That is said to be receiving and not claiming it.

“Girls are as equal to other human beings in terms of their innate capabilities. Of 23 pairs of chromosomes that constitute your cell genetic makeup, only one pair determined your sex. That alone should not define what you can be in life. Girls should, therefore, be motivated to unleash the power within them to the best of their potentials and the best outcomes for society. This is what true empowerment is.

“Your education is a right and not a privilege. Your path in life must be your own choice; learn to find your voice and negotiate your position in any situation; don’t let anybody tell you you are ‘just’ a girl’. She lamented that even in the best of schools in her time, such interactions and motivation that the girls will be exposed to in the 2-days was totally lacking because “we were smart girls being told to just be good girls and little more”

Dr Jimoh enjoined the young participants to make the best use of the opportunity provided by WORDCOC.

The coordinator, Dr Omotoso in her opening remarks said the aim of the summit is to bring girls from all walks of life to learn, connect and share experiences while preparing them for the future.

She said “one of the visions of WORDOC when established was to have this kind of gathering where we talk about aspirations of women and girls. 32 years after its establishment, not that women and girls no longer face challenges, but things have improved; girls have moved beyond what was experienced in those days. But there is a need to keep pressing for change in innovative ways and build alliances along the way”. That is the goal of the annual Girls’ Summit.

WORDOC is a national institution for research, training and dissemination of information for women and men who are involved in the study of gender issues in all spheres of life, established in 1987 within the Institute of African Studies, University of Ibadan.

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