One Campaign: Counting Gains Of Educating Nigerian Girl Child

Seeing as 130 million girls are out of school worldwide, the education of the girl-child has become a source of worry for many around the globe. AGBO-PAUL AUGUSTINE writes on the efforts of the One Campaign and how it has been working with global celebrities to project the need for the education of girls around the world.
Nigeria’s population is about two per cent of the world’s population, but she accounts for 10 per cent of the global maternal death rate, meaning that 158 Nigerian women die from pregnancy or childbirth-related illnesses daily.
Child mortality statistics is even grimmer: Nigeria contributes one in every eight child deaths globally. Daily, the country loses about 2,300 children under age five to diseases. In most of these cases, the deaths are preventable.
Several studies have found that these cases are far most prevalent in rural areas, populated by poor, uneducated or under-educated women, highlighting the part which proper education of the girl- child could play in halting and reversing this tragic trend.
Experts believe that more educated women are less likely to be exposed to the factors that lead to the deaths of millions of women and children yearly. The impact is great, because women in Nigeria play vital roles in managing their health during pregnancies, while caring for children.
Studies have shown that children of mothers with secondary or higher education are twice as likely to survive beyond age five, compared to those whose mothers didn’t go to school. Also, some studies on maternal mortality have estimated that one additional year of school for 1,000 women would avert two maternal deaths.
According to the UNESCO, improvement in women’s education was responsible for half of the reduction in child deaths between 1990 and 2009. A child born to a mother who can read is 50 per cent more likely to survive past age five. This is understandable, because educated mothers are better equipped to learn and gain knowledge about good healthcare practices; they tend to avoid becoming pregnant at a very young age; they tend to have fewer, better-spaced pregnancies. They also are more liable to seek ante-natal care, post-natal care and use reliable family planning methods.
It is on this premise that the #GirlsCount Campaign by ONE, a global campaigning and advocacy organisation that promotes development policies to fight extreme poverty, deserves the attention of the Federal Government. The evidences are overwhelming that efforts towards educating all girls in all nooks and crannies of Nigeria would prove most effective in the bid to reduce maternal and child mortality to the barest minimum.
A report titled, “Poverty is Sexist: Why Educating Girls is Good for Everyone,” recently published by ONE, highlights the implications of allowing 130 million girls to remain out of school globally. With the report, ONE is drawing attention to the crisis – and opportunity – around girls’ education and demonstrating why educating girls is a smart investment.
The reasons are not far-fetched. The report shows that educating a girl for a day costs less than a loaf of bread or a newspaper but the benefits are overwhelming. It notes that educating girls to the same level as boys could benefit developing countries to the tune of at least $112bn a year and helps stabilise societies that are vulnerable to extremism. Also, educating every girl to secondary level in sub-Saharan Africa could help save the lives of 1.2 million children each year.
Other relevant facts in the report include that in sub-Saharan Africa, fertility rates fall to 3.9 births for women with a secondary education compared with 6.7 for women with no schooling; a dollar invested in an additional year of schooling, particularly for girls, returns earnings and health benefits of $10 in low-income countries.
One also found uneducated women to be at high risk of poverty, maternal mortality, child mortality, HIV/AIDS, sexual exploitation, and other forms of violence and that improving basic education, especially female education, has great influence on both mortality and fertility.
The report states that: “Women with more education make more informed decisions about their lives. They tend to have smaller families, compounding the economic benefits, but also have access to information around pre-natal care, hygiene, immunisation and nutrition, all of which play a vital part in reducing the leading causes of death in children under five.
“Educated girls also tend to marry later; the chances of marrying below the age of 18 decline significantly with each stage of education, reducing the risk of maternal and child deaths. If every girl completed a primary education in sub-Saharan Africa, maternal mortality could fall by a dramatic 70 per cent – in part, because women with more education tend to have fewer children.”
Several other interventions by the Federal Government and international organisations have yielded little results. This certainly is not unconnected with the fact that a large percentage of girls and women in rural areas have remained uneducated.
Last year, while recruiting the Sultan of Sokoto, AlhajiSaadAbubakar III, into the Federal Government’s campaign aimed at reducing maternal and child mortality, the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, lamented that Nigeria’s maternal and child mortality rates were among the highest in the world, comparable to that of war-torn countries like Afghanistan.
“What we want is a situation where our women would survive when they carry babies in their wombs and, also, that the children they deliver should survive. No woman should die, just because she wants to give birth,” he said.
If the minister elevates the bid to greatly reduce maternal and child mortality to a Federal Government’s priority goal, then committing to taking action on the demands of the #GirlCount campaign would be a way to go. The campaign to get every girl educated is certainly an undertaking that will see maternal and child mortality rates drop drastically.
Source: Features

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