Dr. Grace Jamila Bila-Jolaosho, the Deputy Rector (Academics) at Kaduna Polytechnic, along with former Senator Shehu Sani, who previously represented Kaduna Central in the 8th Senate, and the National Association of Seadogs, Pyrates Confraternity (NAS/PC), have joined forces to propose a comprehensive plan aimed at guaranteeing education for girls and children with disabilities in Northern Nigeria. At Arewa House, Kaduna, the 15th edition of the Ralph Opara Memorial Lecture organised by NAS/PC witnessed the voices of numerous individuals as they addressed the pertinent issue with the theme ‘Quality Education for The Girl-Child and Children living with Disabilities in Northern Nigeria: Challenges and Way Forward.’
Jolaosho emphasised the essential nature of education as a basic human right but expressed deep concern over the obstacles faced by girls and children in Northern Nigeria when it comes to accessing education. These hindrances include the education system itself, cultural traditions, poverty, religious associations, and unfavourable societal views. In certain states of the north, the gender gap in education is particularly severe for girls. Contrarily, individuals who are young and those who have disabilities face devaluation, discrimination, and alienation from their families, communities, and society due to the incorrect assumption that they are incapable of engaging in meaningful studies or performing tasks effectively.
Poverty and insecurity hinder children’s education in the region.
She stated that the denial of education as a basic human right leads to many individuals with disabilities resorting to a life of homelessness, begging, and vagrancy. Likewise, the discrimination faced by young girls manifests in early marriages, child labor, gender-based violence, gender stereotypes, and teenage pregnancies. Despite the domestication of Persons with Disabilities Law and a general level of compliance in 12 states of Northern Nigeria, the issue of accessing education remains a persistent challenge, as stated by her. Dr. Jolaosho highlighted poverty and insecurity as additional factors that hinder children in this region from obtaining educational opportunities.
Security concerns, particularly banditry and kidnapping, continue to pose a significant obstacle to providing quality education in present-day Northern Nigeria. In times of conflict and crisis, women and girls bear the brunt of the atrocities committed, enduring different acts of violence such as rape, torture, human trafficking, and sexual enslavement. The distressing reports of bandits and kidnappers seizing numerous schoolgirls from various educational institutions throughout the area are a harrowing reminder that many still remain in captivity. Parents residing in vulnerable regions have been dissuaded from enrolling their children in educational institutions due to this predicament.
Education plays a role in empowering nomads and young children.
Many essential workers refuse assignments in rural areas due to the dire circumstances, resulting in a worsened flow of people migrating from rural to urban regions. This situation, fuelled by parents and guardians seeking safety, profoundly exacerbates the internal refugee crisis, according to her explanation. To pave a path towards progress, she proposed a confrontation with the multi-faceted beast of insecurity lingering over Northern Nigeria and the entire country. She emphasised that the rising threats of banditry and kidnapping are comparatively new in the region, and unless promptly countered, all efforts to improve education, particularly for young girls and children with disabilities, will prove futile.
Continuous advocacy for quality education for girls and children with disabilities in Northern Nigeria is critical. The speaker emphasises that the media has a crucial role in raising public awareness and challenging discriminatory beliefs and practices that hinder their inclusion. Senator Shehu Sani also expressed his deep concern over the disregard for education in Northern Nigeria, attributing it to the rising insecurity in the region. He emphasised education’s critical role in empowering nomads and young children, highlighting their neglect as a leading cause of insecurity. Hence, Sani proposed that prioritising education and making substantial investments in it would be key to resolving Northern Nigeria’s prevailing crisis.
Related Article: NAS advocates education as a tool for peace
Lastly, Mr. Abiola Owoaje, the NAS Capoon, expressed the deep concerns of NAS/PC regarding the status of education for girls and children with disabilities in Northern Nigeria. This concern was the main driving force behind its decision to highlight this crucial issue during the 15th Ralph Opara Memorial Lecture on education. Opara was hailed as an exceptional individual from Nigeria, who, alongside Prof. Wole Soyinka and a group of five others, co-founded the Pyrates Confraternity at the University College Ibadan. This influential group has continuously maintained a strong commitment to serving as a voice for those who are not heard in society.