How Societal Norms Hinder Formal Education For Boys, Girls In Northern Nigerian

Abuja – Indoctrination goes a long way in determining the personality of an individual because parents and families have the most direct and lasting impact on children’s learning and development.

As the first educators of their children, parents play a crucial role in their children’s educational journey. Whatever they inculcate in them, it becomes their way of life.

No wonder children, especially those from the northern part of Nigeria detest western education with a passion. They are made to believe that western education is for non-Muslims and it is sinful, which is the very meaning of the word, “Boko Haram”, which has now gone from being a mentality to a terrorist organisation.

It’s pertinent to define education: “Education is a systematic process through which a child or an adult acquire knowledge, experience, skill and sound attitude geared towards making an individual civilised, refined, cultured and educated.”

Meanwhile, Islamic education as presented by Islamic scholars, is not merely a creed, it is a way of life and a life to be lived. It is religion that is adherent to acquisition of knowledge of any sort whether art, science, technology or theology.

However, many children from the northern part of the country don’t see anything good in formal education because of the knowledge their parents have inculcated in them.

Sampling opinion of some of the Almajiri boys on the streets of Kano on whether they will like to get off the streets and learn in the four walls of the classroom, Ibrahim Sodiq, an 11 years old boy, said through an interpreter that he cannot and will never go to school. “I go to Arabic school and there is no need for western education; its a sin.”

According to him, “I am not from Kano, I came from Katsina state, I go to Arabic school in the morning and in the afternoon I go out to ask for alms and look for food to eat and the following day I start my day again.”

Similarly, Abubakar Abdullahi, 12, who also spoke through an interpreter, said nothing good can come out of western education as it is a sin and is against Islam.

According to him, “I will not go to school for any reason, even if I am offered scholarship to school for free,” adding that free education cannot lure him to go to school, “because it is a sin and I cannot be involved in it.”

Also speaking through an interpreter, 14-year-old Muhammed Dogo, said that he prefers Arabic education to formal education because it is a way of life. He also said many of the children prefer it, “We all meet in Arabic school and when we depart we go our different directions seeking for alms.

“Most of us are not from Kano; our parents brought us here to learn Arabic. We sleep in the mosque and whatever we make from our begging we use to start small businesses like selling pure water and other little things to make a living. I’m happy with the way I am living because it is in line with the tenet of my religion.”

Meanwhile, a middle-aged man, Mr. Abubakar Jubri, said: “I am a northern and a devoted Muslim. Even though I attended Arabic school, my parents also enrolled me in school and today, I’m a university graduate and gainfully employed. This is what I wish for my children too.

“Until parents begin to see reasons to train their children in both Arabic and formal education, the number of out of school children will continue to increase.

He regretted that most parents transport their children to other states of the country for Arabic education at age four or five and that these children are left on their own to hustle and fend for themselves.

They don’t expect that children back home for years and they don’t show them any parental love and will expect them to bring something home.

He, however, opined that if those children at that age are sent to school, they will grow up to known the benefit of education and in turn fulfill their potential and become great personalities in life and this will be a kind of generational cycle because the educated parents will want their children educated.

Contrary to Mr Jubril’s response on why they allow their children to grow up in the street as beggars, Mrs Silifatu Ibrahim, who also spoke through an interpreter, said it has been like that before she was born and “will continue to be because its our tradition. We belief in Arabic education for our children, when they graduate we celebrate them. It brings joy to the parents.

According to her, “When a child (boy) is about four years old, the father will take him to another state for Arabic education, this children are accommodated by their teachers or in the mosques but they go out to fend for themselves.

Speaking on why the gap exists, UNICEF, Communication Specialist, Mr Geoffrey Njoku, said the demand issues are rooted in the socio-cultural and economy such as early marriage and gender norms in many parts of Nigeria.

Mr Njoku further hinted that, social norms, some cultural practices, beliefs keep children out of school and deny them the right to education and grow into their full potentials.

According to him, gender norms keep many girls out of school. The traditional low value placed on female education is rooted in gender roles where the expectation is that girls will grow and end up in the kitchen of their husbands, so there is no need to educate her.

Buttressing Njoku’s assertions, Mrs Azuka Menkiti, UNICEF Education Specialist, while speaking on the topic: “Gaps in Education Access in Nigeria: A Situation Analysis and what UNICEF is Doing”, said in northern Nigeria, “It is widely believed that a girl is supposed to see her first mensuration in her husband’s house. Thus these girls are married off between the ages of 10 and 11.

“Similarly, most girls who are privileged to go to school find it extremely difficult to compete favourably well with their male counterparts.

“These girls are meant to do the household chores before and after school with little or no time for reading or doing her assignments.

“When she gets to school the teacher may scold her for not doing her homework and the poor girl within a minute recalls all the house chores she does before and after school hours and teacher did not give her any benefit of doubt to explain herself. She broke into tears and gradually began to lose interest in education.”

Mrs Menkiti however opined that early marriages are still a common traditional practice which negatively impacts on girls’ enrollment and retention in school.

She added that, parents have naturally shared roles that sound like this: girls are to fetch water, cook, do the laundry, sweep, watch plates and all that. What does the boy do? After all its a man’s world, they will say. If the girl will remain in school, all these must be addressed.

The post How Societal Norms Hinder Formal Education For Boys, Girls In Northern Nigerian appeared first on Independent Newspapers Nigeria.

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Author: Toyin Adebayo