If there is anything that has been giving the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), FHI 360 and UKAID sleepless nights, it is how to grow the Nigeria’s basic education sector, particularly for girls in the north. Deputy editor, Martin Paul, writes that the research on effect of female teachers on the girl-child’s’ enrolment in school is another milestone for consideration.
In the past three or more years, the feasibility of the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) has been very pronounced in the drive to reposition the country’s education system, particularly in the north.
Having conducted several researches and launched programmes of action, Nigeria has begun to witness changes in addressing issues relating to out-of-school children and indication has emanated in the increase in school enrollment all over the country.
There is no denying the fact that the school drop out in the south and east, the almajiri system in the north and the area boys’ syndrome in the west, are now historical as the number of those affected has reduced tremendously.
In view of these, the Fund, recently took to the streets of seven states of the country to research on the effect of female teachers on girls enrolment in schools.
In collaboration with UK aid and FHI360, the Fund commissioned an international consultant to facilitate assessment of its new concept, “Communication for Development” (C4D) in Basic Education in the states of Kano, Bauchi, Niger, Sokoto, Oyo, Ebonyi and Bayelsa.
Suffice to state that the research uncovered hidden factors that for long had put education of female children at bare in many states.
Under the C4D programme, it was discovered that the presence of a female teacher is an added advantage for increased enrolment of female children in schools across the nation.
Although the C4D programme would require an approach to promote positive and measurable behavioural and social change, it is also a process that requires time to plan and implement.
In the same way, access to basic education being a varying factor from each state, quality remain a huge issue as girls in the north are not encourage to go to school.
Other factors that have discouraged girls enrolment in schools include, but not limited to poor facilities, funding by respective state governments, gender discrimination, insecurity and safety.
Additionally, the research team also discovered that patriarchy and male possessiveness are inhibiting girls from going to schools, just as some parents see investing in girl education as unwise.
Particularly in the north, the tem still found out that the traditional home-bound roles of women still thought sacrosanct , thus feeling that education a girl is making her marital home more economical that the partanal or maternal background.
The good news, however, is that girls enrolment could be encouraged and propelled by engagement of more female teachers in schools. The fact being that their presence would ward-off influence from the male teacher dominated schools.
“We find that the higher the percentage of all teachers, who are female, the higher the enrolment rate of female students in rural schools. This shows the impact of having female teachers on girls’ enrolment in rural areas is apparent at the lowest margin, where more than 80 per cent of all teachers are male.
The qualitative data strongly support this correlation, where rural parents strongly prefer female teachers for their daughters because they are role models, they prepare girls for the future and the provide safety and security”.
To examine girls’ retention, the team also looked at promotion rates from grade to grade. “We estimate that the inclusion of at least on female teacher in rural schools, relative to similar schools with no female teachers, has a positive effect on girls’ promotion rate”.
In the rural schools, there is an absolute behavioral changes, girls feel comfortable where there are more female than male teachers and the team stated that female students “aspire to be like their female teachers, which may motivate them to continue schooling”.
Thus, the quest to eliminate gender gap in male dominated school teachers and student, is still hanging in the balance as a huge number of 58, 121 female teachers is required to feel the space in the states where the research was conducted in the north.
The phenomenon shows a huge different in the urban schools, where 79 per cent of the schools visited have at least a female teacher whereas 21 per cent have no female teachers at all.
The report stated that like in rural schools, female teachers in urban schools are influential to enrolment, retention and transition of female students in schools.
The report affirmed that girls are more likely to response to learning under a female teacher, whilst both boys and girls identified positive characteristics associated with female teachers that could have influence in their learning.
Similarly, the historical shortage of educated women or those trained as teachers, summed another problems on increasing female teachers in schools.
“The most fundamental problems with increasing the number of female teachers in rural schools, identified by a broad range of respondents, is that historically, many families have not sent their girls to school, leading to a shortage of educated girls becoming female teachers and other professionals in the community”, the report started.
How these problems could be solved depends on a number of factors and the researchers recommended that there is the need for the training of more teachers, particularly for the rural schools.
The female teacher training scholarship scheme and other incentives should be introduced, implement to encourage female students take teaching as a profession.
To ensure retention of female teachers in schools, rural postings should be made more attractive to the female teachers, just as they should be helped to navigate their roles as caregivers and professionals.