• Monday, July 15, 2024
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BusinessDay

Health advocates warn Nigeria on poor girl-child education, underaged marriage

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Human development and health advocates warn of bleak future for Nigeria if girls’ education, health and overall human development are not urgently improved.

In a report released by Africa Health, Human & Social Development Information Service (Afri-Dev. Info); Africa Coalition on Maternal Newborn and Child Health, and Pan African Campaign Against Forced Marriage of Under Age Children, there is a link between poor girl child education and poor development indices and there are impending consequences for Nigeria unless something is urgently done to arrest the situation.

Scorecards underline the link between poor educational attainment of girls, forced ‘marriage’ of underage children and under age child bearing.

From the report, eight states including Kebbi, Sokoto, Bauchi, Jigawa, Yobe, Zamfara, Katsina, and Gombe have the worst performance across all indicators on (1) Lowest girl child education; (2) Highest female illiteracy; (3) Highest adolescent girl ‘ marriage’; (4) Highest under-18 child bearing; (5)Highest under-15 child bearing placing them in the highest risk category for maternal death and injury.

Scorecards underline that although worst performing states are from the North it’s a serious national problem affecting all states – For instance, Ebonyi State at number 12 (57.8%) for highest percentage of girl children not in secondary school – scores worse than North Central, North East and North West states – such as, Nasarawa 56.7%; Benue 56.4%; Adamawa; 53.1%; Kaduna 45.3%; Plateau 45.3%; Kogi 36.4%; and Kwara 35.4%.

Similarly, for a number of adolescent girls in ‘marriage’ Bayelsa State, (The state where President Goodluck Jonathan was previously governor) is at number 13 (with 23.8% of girls in ‘marriage’) scoring worse than Adamawa 20.4%; Benue 20.2%,;Taraba 18.1%; and Nasarawa 16.1%.

Also in the indicator of females (aged 20 to 24 years) but who had a live birth before age of 18 years – Bayelsa is again at number 13 with 31.7% scores worse than Adamawa 30.5%; Taraba 29.3%; and Niger 24.9%. These three Northern states in turn score better than Delta 22%; Rivers 19.9%; and Anambra 18.9%.

Human development and health advocates have therefore called for urgent national and state level action including improved policy and investment by the presidency and national assembly, in state governors and state houses of assembly.

Speaking on the scorecards, Rotimi Sankore, lead advocate for the groups, stated that “The basic ability to read and write is absolute minimum condition to function in a modern society, to escape from poverty and to contribute to community, national and African development.

“But the evidence also underlines very strongly that poor educational attainment for girls, underage marriage and underage childbearing is not a northern or religious based problem – but a national problem.

“The fact that Ebonyi State for instance scores worse than some northern states on the percentage of girls in secondary school; or that Bayelsa where President Goodluck Jonathan was previously Governor, scores worse than some northern states on both under age marriage and under age child bearing is evidence of this. We need evidence based policy making in Nigeria.”

Kemi Ajumobi with wire reports