The Gender Dimension of Secondary Education: A Survey of Rivers State, Nigeria

This survey was done in 2005, and 6 years later, the figures have not changed dramatically in spite of several affirmative actions made by all tiers of Government.

By: Idumange John
Abstract: This paper examined the gender dimension of secondary schooling: A Survey of Rivers State, Nigeria. Using Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), the Jomtien Declaration (1990) and the Millennium Development Goals (2000) as conceptual framework, the paper discussed the imperatives of gender equity in secondary education against the background of the challenges and prospects. Data on school enrolment, completion rate and teaching manpower were obtained from secondary sources for the analysis. The survey showed that although the gender-gap was closing, the Gender Parity Index (GPI) was a far cry from the benchmark GPI OF 0.97 to 1.03 needed to achieve MDGs. In the 2004/205 academic session, male enrolment stood at 50.2% while female enrolment was 49.8%. The analysis revealed that the secondary school system in Rivers State has enrolment deficit. Among the 23 Local Government Areas of the State, the males dominated school completion rate in 12 LGAs while the females dominated in 11 LGAs. On the basis of these findings, it was recommended that girls should be given affordable if not free education at the secondary level through scholarships and bursaries. Involving stakeholders in gender advocacy and implementation of Structured Affirmative Actions will boost girls' access, participation and performance in secondary education. Training more female teachers and the use of gender-sensitive textbooks in the implementation of school curriculum would enhance female participation is secondary schools in Rivers State. The thesis of this paper is that the policy goals of secondary education are largely gender neutral hence there is thirdly any noticeable male-female disparity in access, participation and completion of secondary education.

Since the Beijing conference of 1989, there has been an increasing commitment globally towards gender equity in education. The main objective of the Beijing Conference was to allocate sufficient resources for and monitor the implementation of educational reforms; gender equality is vitiated by many factors, such as limited access to schooling, low female enrolment and high school drop out.

Before then the United Nations in 1975, proclaimed the International Decade for Women in recognition of the fact that women who constitute about 50 percent of the World's population have not been given a fair share of the resources and opportunities in all sphere of life. The critical importance of gender equity in education is also underscored by the Millennium Development Goals (MDG's), the Dakar goals set for Education for All (EFA) among other platforms. Gender equity is not only a development imperative but an essential human rights issue. The assumption is that if education is a basic human right, then quality education should promote equality of opportunities between sexes.

The 1997 Human Development Report (HDR) of the United Nation's Development Programme observes that “no society treats its women as well as its men”. The report furthers elaborates that gender inequality is strongly associated with Human Poverty Index (HPI), and substantial progress in gender equality has been made in only few societies, as women suffer the double deprivation of gender disparity and low achievement in education.

Further, the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (DESD) is a complex and far-reaching undertaking. The overall goal of the DESD is to integrate the principles of sustainable development into teaching and learning. This educational effort will encourage changes in behavior that will create a more sustainable future in terms of environmental integrity, economic viability, and a just society for present and future generations.

In spite of these declarations, gender equity has remained a daunting challenge. The Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE) observed many years ago that many more girls than boys are left out in the education system, and emphasized the need for countries in the Region to identify effective strategic intervention that will enhance the improvement of girls' participation (FAWE, 2001). The forum also identified factors such as low socio-economic status, long walking distances, poor policies that are not gender specific, socio-cultural attitudes and other school related factors as responsible for the disparity.

Data collected in 1999 from 154 countries showed that 115.4 million school age children were not in school and out of them 56% were girls. (UNESCO 2002), 94% of them came from the LCDS while one - third of them were in sub-Sahara Africa. Indeed gender inequity holds back the growth of individuals, the development of countries and the evolution of societies, to the disadvantage of both men and women, (UNESCO; 2004).

In pursuit of the MDG's, the goals for attaining gender parity Index GPI of between 0.97 and 1.03, but analysis done in 128 countries showed that until the year 2000, 56% of the countries mostly in sub-Saharan African and South West Asia was far behind. As at 2000, sub-Saharan Africa stood at the average GPI of 0.89 an indication that Gender Equity Recurrent for girls has become increasingly significant. In countries where enrolment is high, the trend has been that the participation and performance of girls lagged behind that of boys and thus been aggravated by high repetition rate; high dropout rate and low retention rate.

Conceptual Framework
The conceptual framework for this paper is provided by three related declarations of the United Nations, namely: Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948); the Jomtien Declaration of 1990, which stipulates that basic education should be provided for all children, youth and adults and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) especially Goal 3, which aim is to promote gender equality in primary and secondary education with the target of eliminating gender disparity in primary and secondary education, preferably by 2005, and in all levels of education no later than 2015 (United National Millennium Project, 2005).

The aforementioned declarations were reinforced by the Convention on the Right of the Child (CRC) in 1989, with states that children may not be excluded from any right, including education, based on race, sex, disability, economic status.

In 1990, the Jomtien Declaration Education for all (EFA) declares, “Basic Education should be provided to all children, youth and adults. To this end, basic education services of quality should be expanded and consistent measures must be taken to reduce disparities”. The Declaration also points out gender disparity and how to address it. “The most urgent priority is to ensure access to, and improve the quality of, education for girls and women, and to remove every obstacle that hampers their active participation. All gender stereotyping in education should be eliminated”. (World Declaration Education for All, 1990).

In response to the global commitment to bridge the gender gap in education, the Federal Government of Nigeria, through the Ministry of Education developed the Blueprint on Women's Education and made recommendation designed to mainstream programmes in the educational sector. The blueprint focused on bridging the knowledge and capacity gaps between males and females and sought to provide the necessary leverages to bring about gender equity in certain critical domains of education. The new thinking articulated in the Blueprint is that apart from formal education, the needs of girls are best met through the provision of techno-vocational programmes, mass literacy programmes, enforcement of primary education enrolment for girls and provision of female focused special education.

Justification and Context of the Study
Rivers State is the 5th most populous State in Nigeria. The 2006 National Population Census places the population of the state at 5,133,400 and of this population, 2,809,840 and 2,474,735 constitutes the male and female population respectively. Rivers State was particularly selected for the study because it is one of the most dynamic States in Nigeria, having the advantage of the heavy presence of oil and gas related industries. Accordingly, there is an increase in the influx of people into the State from neighboring States, including expatriates. With the increase in population, the demand for secondary education is very high. Paradoxically, however, the State is still classified as one of the educationally disadvantages States in Nigeria. In spite of the existence of 245 public secondary schools, there exist over 133 private secondary schools (Rivers State Government Newsletter on Private Schools, 2006) – an indication that the existing public secondary schools cannot accommodate the increasing demand for secondary education. Rivers State is one of the few states in Nigeria that has handed over 20 secondary schools to the voluntary agency/missions.

By virtue of the Rivers State Education Law: Return of Schools to Missions 2005, the State Government handed over in 2006, twenty (20) secondary schools to the missions in the following proportion: Catholic: 13; Anglican: 4; Methodist: 2 and Baptist 1. The basic justification for the exercise was the thought that educational standard have diminished along with plummeting finding fortunes of the schools. While operational efficiency of secondary schools has been largely ignored, the system has had to contend with overcrowded classrooms, high teacher-pupil ratio plummeting culture of discipline. The teacher force is poorly motivated resulting in low morale and this has been aggravated by lack of regular supervision, archaic methods of evaluation and lack of transparency in school management.


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Articles by Idumange John