INTRODUCTION “ Real education should educate us out of self into something far finer–into a selflessness which links us with all humanity ” Scholars believe that in ancient India, the women enjoyed equal status with men in all fields of life. However, some others hold contrasting views. Works by ancient Indian grammarians such as Patanjali and Katyayana suggest that women were educated in the early Vedic period Rigvedic verses suggest that the women married at a mature age and were probably free to select their husband. Scriptures such as Rig Veda and Upanishads mention several women sages and seers, notably Gargi and Maitreyi.
Some kingdoms in the ancient India had traditions such as nagarvadhu (“bride of the city”). Women competed to win the coveted title of the nagarvadhu. Amrapali is the most famous example of a nagarvadhu. According to studies, women enjoyed equal status and rights during the early Vedic period. However, later (approximately 500 B. C. ), the status of women began to decline with the Smritis (esp. Manusmriti) and with the Islamic invasion of Babur and the Mughal empire and later Christianity curtailing women’s freedom and rights.
Although reformatory movements such as Jainism allowed women to be admitted to the religious order, by and large, the women in India faced confinement and restrictions. The practice of child marriages is believed to have started from around sixth century. Medieval period The Indian woman’s position in the society further deteriorated during the medieval period when Sati among some communities, child marriages and a ban on widow remarriages became part of social life among some communities in India. The Muslim conquest in the Indian subcontinent brought the purdah practice in the Indian society.
Among the Rajputs of Rajasthan, the Jauhar was practised. In some parts of India, the Devadasis or the temple women were sexually exploited. Polygamy was widely practised especially among Hindu Kshatriya rulers. In many Muslim families, women were restricted to Zenana areas. Women have a much lower literacy rate than men. Far fewer girls are enrolled in the schools, and many of them drop out. According to a 1998 report by U. S. Department of Commerce, the chief barrier to female education in India are inadequate school facilities (such as sanitary facilities), shortage of female teachers and gender bias in urriculum (majority of the female characters being depicted as weak and helpless). Conservative cultural attitudes, especially among Muslims, prevents some girls from attending school. The number of literate women among the female population of India was between 2–6% from the British Raj onwards to the formation of the Republic of India in 1947. Concerted efforts led to improvement from 15. 3% in 1961 to 28. 5% in 1981. By 2001 literacy for women had exceeded 50% of the overall female population, though these statistics were still very low compared to world standards and even male literacy within India.
Recently the Indian government has launched Saakshar Bharat Mission for Female Literacy. This mission aims to bring down female illiteracy by half of its present level. Sita Anantha Raman outlines the progress of women’s education in India: Since 1947 the Indian government has tried to provide incentives for girls’ school attendance through programs for midday meals, free books, and uniforms. This welfare thrust raised primary enrollment between 1951 and 1981. In 1986 the National Policy on Education decided to restructure education in tune with the social framework of each state, and with larger national goals.
It emphasized that education was necessary for democracy, and central to the improvement of women’s condition. The new policy aimed at social change through revised texts, curricula, increased funding for schools, expansion in the numbers of schools, and policy improvements. Emphasis was placed on expanding girls’ occupational centers and primary education; secondary and higher education; and rural and urban institutions. The report tried to connect problems like low school attendance with poverty, and the dependence on girls for housework and sibling day care. The National Literacy Mission also worked through female tutors in villages.
Although the minimum marriage age is now eighteen for girls, many continue to be married much earlier. Therefore, at the secondary level, female dropout rates are high. | | Sita Anantha Raman also maintains that while the educated Indian women workforce maintains professionalism, the men outnumber them in most fields and, in some cases, receive higher income for the same positions. The education of women in India plays a significant role in improving livings standards in the country. A higher women literacy rate improves the quality of life both at home and outside of home, by encouraging and promoting ducation of children, especially female children, and in reducing the infant mortality rate. Several studies have shown that a lower level of women literacy rates results in higher levels of fertility and infant mortality, poorer nutrition, lower earning potential and the lack of an ability to make decisions within a household. Women’s lower educational levels is also shown to adversely affect the health and living conditions of children. A survey that was conducted in India showed results which support the fact that infant mortality rate was inversely related to female literacy rate and educational level.
The survey also suggests a correlation between education and economic growth. In India, it was found that there is a large disparity between female literacy rates in different states. For example, while Kerala actually has a female literacy rate of about 86 percent, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh have female literacy rates around 55-60 percent. These values are further correlated with health levels of the Indians, where it was found that Kerala was the state with the lowest infant mortality rate while Bihar and Uttar Pradesh are the states with the lowest life expectancies in India.
Furthermore, the disparity of female literacy rates across rural and urban areas is also significant in India Out of the 28 states in India, 6 of them have female literacy rates of below 60 percent. The rural state Rajasthan has a female literacy rate of less than 12 percent. “As long as millions of girls are denied a basic education, we stand little chance of improving the lives of the world’s poorest people,” said UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy. “Education is not only the key to a young girl’s personal fulfillment, but it is essential for reducing poverty, stopping HIV/AIDS, and achieving all other development goals. Importance of girls’/women’s education Gender inequality in education is extreme. Girls are less likely to access school, to remain in school or to achieve in education. Education helps men and women claim their rights and realise their potential in the economic, political and social arenas. It is also the single most powerful way to lift people out of poverty. Education plays a particularly important role as a foundation for girls’ development towards adult life. It should be an intrinsic part of any strategy to address the gender-based discrimination gainst women and girls that remains prevalent in many societies. The following links will further explain the necessity of girls’/women’s education. * Education is a right * Cultural changes * Better health and awareness * Poverty reduction I. Education is a right Everybody has the right to education, which has been recognized since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in 1948. The right to free and compulsory primary education, without discrimination and of good quality, has been reaffirmed in all major international human rights conventions.
Many of these same instruments encourage, but do not guarantee, post-primary education. These rights have been further elaborated to address issues like quality and equity, moving forward the issue of what the right to education means, and exploring how it can be achieved. As a minimum: states must ensure that basic education is available, accessible, acceptable and adaptable for all. (4A scheme) The right of girls to education is one of the most critical of all rights – because education plays an important role in enabling girls and women to secure other rights.
II. Cultural changes Cultural and traditional values stand between girls and their prospects for education. The achievement of girls’ right to education can address some of societies’ deeply rooted inequalities, which condemn millions of girls to a life without quality education – and, therefore, also all too often to a life of missed opportunities. Improving educational opportunities for girls and women helps them to develop skills that allow them to make decisions and influence community change in key areas.
One reason for denying girls and women their right to an education is rarely articulated by those in charge: that is their fear of the power that girls will have through education. There is still some resistance to the idea that girls and women can be trusted with education. Education is also seen in some societies as a fear of change and now with globalization, the fear becomes even greater- fear to lose the cultural identity, fear of moving towards the unknown or the unwanted, fear of dissolving in the many others. III. Better health
Basic education provides girls and women with an understanding of basic health, nutrition and family planning, giving those choices and the power to decide over their own lives and bodies. Women’s education leads directly to better reproductive health, improved family health, economic growth, for the family and for society, as well as lower rates of child mortality and malnutrition. It is also key in the fight against the spread of HIV ; AIDS. IV. Poverty reduction Educating girls and women is an important step in overcoming poverty.
Inequality and poverty are not inevitable. “The focus on poverty reduction enables the right to education to be a powerful tool in making a change in the lives of girls and women. Poverty has been universally affirmed as a key obstacle to the enjoyment of human rights, and it has a visible gender profile. The main reason for this is the fact that poverty results from violations of human rights, including the right to education, which disproportionately affect girls and women. Various grounds of discrimination combine, trapping girls in a vicious downward circle of denied rights.
Denial of the right to education leads to exclusion from the labour market and marginalization into the informal sector or unpaid work. This perpetuates and increases women’s poverty. ” Need for women education Women empowerment can only be achieved through the provision of adequate and functional education to the women folk. This is crucial because no matter how rich or vast a nation is, without an effective, efficient, adequate and functional education for all its citizens (men and women) education which is relevant to its immediate needs, goals and objectives, such a nation would find it difficult to stand on its own.
The brand of education being advocated is that type of education in which is embedded the spirit of self realization and all that are needed for the country’s over all development like mass literacy, economic empowerment etc (Esere, 2001). The need for women education is also informed by the fact that purposeful occupational achievement and satisfaction is ensured by deep self-awareness and understanding which can only be achieved through the provision of effective and functional education and/or guidance and counselling.
This, has been noted is likely to guarantee women empowerment with its root based on women struggle to improve their status. The empowerment suggested is such that entails the process of challenging power relations and of gaining wider control over source of power. This, however, cannot be achieved without the provision of reasonable access to formal and functional education to the women folk. This is based on the premise that education has been adjudged to be a viable instrument of change in the positive direction.
In the spirit of Universal Basic Education (UBE), provision of formal and functional education is needed for the women folk, because: (i) It would empower them to know and ask for their rights to education, health, shelter, food clothing etc. (ii) It would empower them to fight against every form of discrimination against their folk, assert themselves about their right to equal treatment with their men counterpart as bonafide citizens of this nation, Nigeria. (iii) It would enable the women take decisions and accept responsibilities for taking such decisions concerning themselves. iv) It would give economic power to the women and there by enable them to contribute their quota to the economic growth of the nation. (v) It would empower the women scientifically through exposure to science and technological education for the challenges of the present technological age and information computer technology break through unfolding world wide. (vi) It would help women to reduce maternal and infant mortality through improved nutrition, improved child rearing practice, health care and prevention against killer diseases. vii) It would avail women with the opportunity of participating keenly in the world of sophisticated politics and governance as enlightened citizens. Problems against women education The bane for women education in Nigeria is entrenched in the nation’s new national policy on education which states inter-alia that: With regards to women education special efforts will be made by ministries of education and local government authorities in conjunction with ministries of community development and social welfare and of information to encourage parents to send their daughters to school (FGN, 1998, p. 4). The tacit reference made to women education in the national policy on education is contained in the primary education section of the document. It must be observed here that no further reference was made to the provision of women education in this all important document on education. Nagees (1995) opined that the absence of a policy statement on women education as reflected in the National Policy on Education (NPE), makes the NPE fall short of women expectations and it amounts to a total disregard for that section of the population in this country.
The plight of women, in terms of education is further compounded by the negative attitude of parents toward female education. Some parents are usually reluctant to send their girl child for formal education especially to higher levels like their male counterpart. Another problem closely related to this is the reluctance to acquire western education and misunderstanding on the part of the girls themselves about the values of the acquisition of formal education. In education, equity means equal access to good schooling.
According to Ocholi (2002), geography (in term of location) and families’ relative wealth have been discovered to also affect equity. For example, in Nigeria, in the last few years, the regression (toward male-female education in balance) in basic education is reflected in the fact that the net enrolment rate of girls in primary school is lower than the female literacy rate. Ocholi, noted that in 1995, 25. 09 percent of girls who should have enrolled in school did not.
It was equally observed that in 1995 the average primary school completion rates for boys and girls were 56. 3 percent and 43. 7 percent respectively. Most girls leave school due to inability to pay cost, among other reasons. It is however, an open secret today that Nigeria women are educationally backward when compared with their male counterparts. According to the 1991 national population census, women alone constitute 49. 7% of the overall population with 70% of this being illiterate.
It has been discovered also that 70% of Nigerian women 35 years and above are illiterate (Amazigbo in Nagess, 1995). The level of illiteracy is said to be thrice as high in the rural areas when compared with the urban areas. Three fundamental barriers have been identified by Awe (1990) to be responsible for low level of development and enhancement of women especially for educational advancement. These barriers are; I. Restricted access to education II. Reluctance to aspire and III.
Resistance to women advancement within a patriarchal system Restricted access to education by women in this country is profoundly rooted in history, religion, culture, the psychology of self, law, political institution and social attitudes which interact in several ways to limit women’s access to formal education when compared with their male counterparts. For example, it has been observed that Nigerian women are lagging behind their counterparts in developed and some developing nations due to the late start in educating them.
This is caused by our traditions and culture which are hostile to women. This tradition reduces them to kitchen manageresses and producers of babies. Thus, their education ideally, is expected to end in kitchen a condition which ironically is detested by many parents thereby discouraging their investment in girl-child education. Reluctance to aspire is another major problem against women education. This is the main manifestation of African wrong socialization which tends to impress upon the women folk the belief that certain subjects and professions are the exclusive preserve of men.
Our socialization at the same time confines women to certain roles (e. g. cooking, baby making, baby nursing, home keeping etc). This state of affairs is definitely a negation of the scientific discovery that women are not intellectually inferior to men. This is because of the fact that both males and females have 42 chromosomes in their genes. Furthermore, science has revealed that there are no innate biological or psychological reasons why girls should not do as well as boys if given the opportunity and if provided with adequate motivation (Oniye, 993; NCCE, 1998). Resistance to women advancement within a patriarchal system is a further manifestation of our cultural practices which overtly and covertly interact to hinder women advancement especially from educational viewpoint. This resistance is further engendered by cultural impediments imposed on women by her traditional assigned roles of housewife, mother, baby sitter, member of inferior sex, stereotyped gender victim, among others.
Thus, it is stated that the problem of resistance to women advancement are culture based and they include those brought about by homework conflict; ignorance on the part of many parents, erroneous belief that religion is against the provision of sound formal education to the girl child, gender stereotyping and stigmatization, socio-economic constraints and poor attitudes of some parent (NCCE, 1998). It is pertinent to note at this juncture that the greater access of men in Nigeria to education more than their women counterparts have very negative consequences on the latter.
In fact, it has been observed that this unwholesome situation is the principal factor that is responsible for the preponderance of women in lower positions in work organizations and less paid jobs. For instance, it has been noted by Oladunni (1999) that Nigerian women are found predominantly in such occupations as teaching, nursing services, agriculture, small scale food processing, secretariat duties, clerical duties note counting in banks, cleaners and middle level professional occupations.
Consequently, it has been opined that majority of them are therefore poor, impoverished and susceptible to attack by a number of debilitating diseases such as vesto virginal Fistula (VVF) etc. Other problems against women education include the familiar problems in Nigerian education like lack of funds, inadequate facilities, inadequate manpower, sexual harassment, conflicting societal role expectations, government policies and lack of political will power to implement the entire educational programme.
The inferiority complex observable in Nigerian women can be attributed to the influence of environmental manipulation. For example, through the traditional socialization process of the typical African society, women are made to accept negative self-fulfilling prophecy, stereotyping and stigmatization that they are members of a weaker sex.
At present, the forces which combine to hamper women education and development in Nigeria could be viewed broadly to include denial of access to education, early marriage, confinement to solitary living, subjugation by culture to accept choices forced on them, discrimination and harassment at work, political disenfranchisement from elective and political appointment and exposure to cruel mourning rites upon the death of their husband (Oniye, 2000).
Implications of lack of women education The quantity and quality of education available to Nigeria women will invariably determine the developmental pace of Nigerian families, children from such homes and the Nigerian nation at large. It has been noted that what Nigerian women are today and what they will be tomorrow depend on what plans Nigeria has for her women. Nigeria is craving for patriotic citizens to develop her potentials politically, economically, socially and technologically.
The actualization of these goals is dependent on the provision of functional education to the citizenry especially the women who, as mothers, are the teachers of the child in his/her first and last school (i. e. home). Thus, unless the mother herself is adequately enlightened, she cannot inculcate in the child the spirit and principle of true patriotism- a basic requirement for national development. According to Ajayi (1995), among the factors militating against the development of the spirit of true patriotism are: (i) Home indiscipline (ii) tribalism (iii) corruption in public life and (iv) lack of national ideology.
It has thus been argued that Nigeria cannot develop fully without mothers who are patriotic and sincerely committed to the training of the young ones in the patriotic norms. The spirit of true patriotism advocated a socio-ethical value which inclines a citizen to the enlightened and legitimate love of his home, community and native land. Educational Implication of poor women education Marital harmony has also been found to be dependent on academic/intellectual compatibility among the couples.
According to Ugbede (1997), marital conflict is heightened among couples who are educationally incompatible. It was observed that educational difference between the sexes further aggravate the social and economic differences between husband and wife. For instance, educated men now discover to their dismay that their uneducated wives are unable to fit into their social and public life in the sense that such wives are incapable of responding to the requirements of their husband’s new ideas, status, and official positions.
Another implication of the poor education opportunity for women is involvement in low paying ventures. It has been noted by Oladunni (1999) that because of societal stereotype and stigmatization on certain professions and subjects as the exclusive preserve of men and or women most Nigerian women have been forced into less paid jobs like teaching, nursing services, agriculture, small scale food processing, secretariat duties, clerical duties, note counting in banks, cleaners and middle level professional occupations.
It was thus submitted that some of the effects of this is that majority of these women are poor and impoverished. This is critical bearing in mind that there is a relationship between level of education and poverty with most of the illiterate women being poorer than the educated counterparts. According to Agbakwuru (2002a) education equips one with marketable skills thereby lifting the possessor up from the poverty arena.
Essentially, through education, the individual learns good health habits, principles and practices which promote healthy living and longevity as well as acquire marketable skills that confer economic power on the educated. Another implication of poor women education is that their lower access to education automatically denies them the opportunity and power of influencing significantly public policies and programmes unlike their male counterparts. It thus implies that women will continue to play second fiddle in the socio-political and economic scheme of things; they would remain marginalized and exploited.
It can thus be said that the poor educational opportunity for Nigerian women would rob them of two things, the ability to positively affect their children’s educational development and the opportunity to make meaningful contribution to their socialization process (and by extension the overall national development of the country). Conclusion It is clear from the submission of this paper that Nigerian women are educationally disadvantaged in terms of accessibility to formal education, participation in policy formulation and policy implementation especially in the education sector.
It could also be deduced that owing to our traditional socialization process Nigerian women have been misled into believing that aspiring for higher educational attainment is insignificant. After all, women education ends in the kitchen. The problems against women education are many but they could be summarized under three major headings namely; restricted access to education, reluctance to aspire and resistance to women advancement within a patriarchal system. So many implications are inherent in the poor state of education of Nigerian women.
These implications include the fact that the average uneducated Nigerian women would not be able to rise up to the challenges of being a wife and mother in this age of automation and intellectual advancement. Apart from this, she is equally susceptible to being employed or engaged in low paying jobs or ventures which would translate into poor/weak economic base for her and her family. The uneducated woman is not likely to be in any position to influence decisions, policies and opinion which are likely to affect her wellbeing and those of her family.
It has also been revealed that with poor educational attainment, the average Nigeria woman is likely to encounter marital instability as a result of imminent spousal incompatibility between the educated man and his uneducated or poorly educated wife. The revelations contained in this write up imply that professional counselors would have to be ever alert to combat the negative repercussions of poor education base for Nigerian women. Recommendations If education must serve the society, it must produce people who carry much more than certificates.
It must produce people, both normal and exceptional ones, with the right types of knowledge, ability and attitude to put them to work for the good of the society. It is therefore imperative that in order to improve the educational base of the typical Nigerian woman and by extension her socio-political and economic status, government, community leaders, parents, professional guidance counsellors and other stakeholders should take cognizance of the following recommendations: 1.
All stakeholders in women affairs and development should focus on the provision of formal education to women as well as improve their working conditions while at the same time facilitating their access to resources like land, credit and technology as a way of reducing unemployment/ underemployment among women. 2. The government and other stakeholders in women affairs and development should strive to create conducive enabling, socio-political and economic conditions which will discourage early marriage, societal preference for male children and the traditional belief that the position of a woman is in the kitchen. . Parents and opinion leaders should encourage the members of the female sex to be more enterprising in their educational pursuit as a way of contributing meaningfully to national development. 4. Government should be more forthcoming in terms of women empowerment policy formulation and implementation especially in term of legislating against obnoxious customs and practices which are detrimental to women’s optimal functionality and wellbeing, like legislating against harmful widowhood practices. . Government should fund counselling centers at all levels of Nigerian education system adequately to enable counsellors provide all round functional guidance and counselling to parents and other stakeholders. This is imperative if all concerned must be assisted to see the female child first as a human being with all assets capable of immeasurable achievements.