It’s no longer breaking news that Nigeria is in economic meltdown, and in order for the country to emerge from the ‘dark tunnel’ a long-term significant marshal plan must be secured. Every growth and development, like so much else, starts with education as the keystone to competition in development. This article is written at a time of global economic downturn as well as the slowdown in the domestic economy in Nigeria. It was inspired by my participation at the National Assembly Consultative Forum with Civil Society Organizations on the 2016 Budget organized by the President of the Senate Senator (Dr.) Abubakar Bukola Saraki, as well as the recent Stakeholders Consultative Forum on the 2017-2019 Medium-Term Frame Work and Fiscal Strategy organized by the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma.
In his presentation during the Stakeholders Consultative Forum on 2017-2019 Medium-Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Held on 25th July 2016 at the State House Banquet Hall Abuja, the Honorable Minister of Budget and National Planning Senator Udoma Udo Udoma disclosed thus: “Nigeria’s GDP growth rate for 1st quarter of 2016 was -0.36% indicating a slowdown in the economy. There are indications that Q2 growth rate may likely end up in negative”.
Keeping up with the high end technology and the global economics breakthroughs so often seen in some Countries means we need in Nigeria a strategy which is not only agro-business, solid minerals, building & Housing but most importantly a strategy that is education-focused. We need one, but we do not have one. As acknowledged by the Minister “situations have been tough, revenues have been down, and as the global economy is down turned, the domestic economy is currently experiencing a slowdown”, it is evident that in a country like Nigeria fraught with violence, poverty and hunger, Education is one of the ‘silver bullets’ that can contribute to meaningful improvement in peoples’ lives in most of these areas and enhance the economy of the country as well. Human capital theory suggests that just as physical capital (machines) augments people's economic productivity, so human capital acquired through education improves the productivity of individuals. Studies of the sources of economic growth demonstrate persuasively that education plays a major role as a factor in the rise of output per worker.
One do not have to be a rocket engineer to work out that if we want a country and economy that can compete with other nations, our future generations of mothers must acquire an education that is affordable and competitive. Yet, the education of girls has been slipping down for long. The situation has deteriorated to such an extent that Nigerian girls struggle to compete with girls of other nations. It is no wonder the country’s domestic economy is no longer able to keep up with other countries. The picture becomes increasingly bleak as reports by the UNICEF recognized that the literacy rates have “stalled” with other countries performing better. The national literacy rate for females in Nigeria is only 56%, compared to 72% for males. Surely as a nation, we are failing our girls. Consequently, Nigeria is lagging in economy because it is running underutilized resource which is women. May I ask how possible is it for a bird to fly with one wing?
The World Bank in White (2013) pointed out that if the gap between male and female employment is closed, it would help to increase GDP in America by 9%, Europe by 13% and Japan by 16%. When women are given the opportunity to be educated, it will help to increase the workforce of the nation. Similarly, the activities of women in the various economic sectors of the economy have the potential of contributing to an increased GDP. This is because their contribution will help to argument the effort of their male counterpart in securing a higher GDP. In other words, “investment in female education can yield ‘growth premium’ in GDP trends and narrowing gender gap in employment can boost per capita income. There are no prizes for guessing that if women are educated the country is not going to win the competitive race for nationally leading, secure long-term economic growth. We are failing our own country.
However, it is not possible to try and emulate and create a carbon copy of the economic strategy seen in other counties as there are many cultural differences which have to be taken into consideration; after all Nigeria can’t be forcedly to be America, British etc. As a nation, we must be original and innovative in our approaches which will fit the cultural backdrop of the Nigeria-based approach. This is not about changing society to fit the economic system; it’s about changing the economy system to make a better Nigeria.
What I considered an alternative Pathway to reflating the economy out of recession to a sustainable and inclusive growth path is a strategic girl-child education marshal plan. Girls need to be enrolled, stay and succeed in school with an internationally competitive ability to be productive. According to Lawrence Summers; “investment in the education of girls may well be the highest-return investment available in the developing world. In addition to total economic growth, women's education also increases the equitability of the distribution of wealth in a society. Increased women's education is important for achieving this as it targets the impoverished women, a particularly disadvantaged group”.
But I ask the questions, why would it not be effective to ensure girls are enrolled, stayed and succeed in school? Why should we not reward effort of successful girls in the same manner we would to their male counterparts? What is wrong to recognizing successful girls who had to overcome extreme barriers in order to acquire education and to women who make a genuine difference in the lives of other women? Surely if anything this will at least increase productivity and then when has that ever been a bad thing to do?
Despite all these, one thing remains necessary: Government must support the education of girls in areas where it is currently lacking and reduce the gender gap as this is how the sustainable growth of the economy will be nurtured. I would suggest that the Relevant Stakeholders examined how educating girls would enhance national development economically through appropriate empowerment programs. Education, formal or non-formal, is the foremost agent of empowerment, and girls’ educational status in any nation correlates with its level of development. The higher the level of women educational status, the more developed the nation. Therefore, government should ensure that the use of girls’ education programs towards national development be a matter of national top priority which demands the attention and genuine commitment of the government at all levels and every responsible member of the society as well.
Along this line, I feel inclined to put across the following recommendations which could be brought into play for the realization of the noble goals of women and girls’ contributions to national economic development in Nigeria.
Education (most especially of girls) should be one of the government top priorities. An enabling environment should be created by the government for Nigerian women to rekindle their hope and faith in the ability of the system to provide avenue for development for its people irrespective of sex, age, ability, religious inclination and other mundane considerations. The Nigerian government should ensure the removal of all artificial and institutional barriers based on religion, culture or traditional co freely in national affairs particularly at the political and economic levels. Government should partner with women organizations to ensure that institutions of society are not deliberately structured to place hindrances and constraints on the paths of women. The Ministries of Women Affairs, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Youth and Social Development, Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism, National Orientation Agency, National Emergency Management Agency should have a focus on fundamental challenges of the women and girls understanding that laying a solid and stable foundation for the girl child is a vital link in the overall development and advancement of the society and the humankind. Every women and girls’ initiative whether in the city or rural areas, should be effectively utilized as an avenue to educate the illiterate ones among them on skills, knowledge and values that will help them to improve their social, economic and political life style. They should considered partners for the implementation of annual national budget. Girl children should be provided with strong motivation to enroll, stay and succeed in schools, overcome the paralysis of illiteracy and acquire a proper awareness of their potentials, rights and higher responsibilities in society. Literacy programs should be incorporated with life skills components so that women can be well equipped to perform their roles more effectively.
Girls Education Mission International
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