Standing up for the girl child

There are approximately 16,823,822 girls aged 10-19 in Nigeria. In essence, one in every nine Nigerians is a young girl, so says the 2013 National Demographic Health Survey (NDHS) data. And those who enroll in school leave earlier than their male counterparts and in Northern Nigeria, only four per cent will complete secondary school, just as more than 75 per cent  of those aged 15-19 years in the North are unable to read a sentence, compared to less than 10 per cent among their counterparts in the South.

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In the face of this ugly narrative, amid other issues affecting women in Africa, eminent speakers, distinguished academics and participants converged in Abuja for a regional conference for African traditional and religious leaders on keeping girls in school in Africa.

The time has come for young African girls to be liberated from the clutches of illiteracy, HIV/AIDS pandemic, sexual trafficking and dehumanizing poverty, among others, by sending them to schools for personal development.

Ignorance in women in communities begets morally-decayed societies because education remains the most powerful instrument of social revolution and moral rebirth and women play a pivotal role in molding and shaping their societies.

Statistics indicates that the children of educated mothers are 50 per cent more likely to survive past the age of five years, while educated mothers are also more likely to send their own children to school. Almost 90 per cent women with higher education and 75 per cent of women with secondary education give birth in a health facility but only 10 per cent of uneducated women do so.

Eighty per cent of children whose mothers are educated are well nourished, compared to less than 50 per cent of children whose mothers are uneducated. Finally, if all girls in developing countries complete secondary school, under five child mortality would fall by 49 per cent, maternal mortality would fall by 66 per cent and the number of girls married off by age 15 would reduce by 64 per cent.

Abdulsalam Mahmud,