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When people hear the word ‘education’, they tend to assume that it is limited to going to an institution to master a craft or learn the art of reading, speaking, and writing. This shows that the gospel of quality education is not being propagated as it should be. Learning is not limited to the four walls of a classroom. It is more than learning to speak, read or write; it is a must-have life-transforming tool with a lasting impact on individuals, families, communities, and the world. Both boys and girls have the right to education, and going to school is a step to take in the right direction.

This article aims to shed light on education in its proper form and some barriers to education we have noticed in communities we have visited, not to criticise anyone for their perception towards education.

Education: Types and Definition

Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.

Nelson Mandela

Education is giving and receiving knowledge in a home, school, religious institution or other places. It is also the transfer of values and application of knowledge to develop skills or characteristics needed to survive. The three (3) main types of education are:

  • Formal Education: This learning occurs on primary to tertiary school premises. Qualified teachers give instructions and test the knowledge of their students to evaluate their learning progress. Formal education is structured for professional, technical, and vocational training.
  • Informal Education: This includes teaching and learning about things outside of academics. It occurs in the home when parents teach their children how to speak their mother language and life skills like cycling, fixing a light bulb, loading the washing machine or preparing a meal. Informal education does not need special planning and can be gotten through books, daily interactions with people, regular practice and
  • Non-formal Education: Skills acquisition, youth and adult literacy classes, fitness programs, interventions, community education, and all other structured learning programmes that do not need a typical school curriculum are forms of non-formal education. It is very flexible and done to develop specific abilities in people.

The presence of the three types of education makes the quality of education.

Barriers to Quality Education

Education is undoubtedly a fundamental human right, but sadly, millions of children are still out of school worldwide. Many out-of-school children are begging for alms on the street, helping their parents make ends meet or just sitting idly at home when they should be in school. Although there is conflicting data on the number of school-age children out of school in Nigeria, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has recently recorded the number of out-of-school children to be 20 million, with about 60% as girls.

Some of the factors that affect the quality of education are explained below:

  • Poverty and Lack of Infrastructure: Our basic needs include food, water, shelter, and clothing. So, what happens when individuals do not have their basic needs met? They lose out on the chance to get proper education because food, clothing, and shelter are more of a  priority for them, not educational resources or school. Some communities do not get attention from the Government as they should, leaving their schools without facilities for quality teaching and learning. Many young girls who have started menstruating in underserved areas have poor menstrual hygiene because they have no access to clean water and safe menstrual products. This affects their well-being and, ultimately, their ability to learn.
  • Discriminatory Gender Norms: Some people still believe there is no point in sending girls to school beyond the primary level or encouraging them to build a career because “the place of a woman is in the kitchen.” In communities with many uneducated people, gender discrimination influences access to quality education negatively. Gender-based violence is another hindrance to quality education. Children who are physically or verbally abused will find it challenging to learn in either formal or informal settings. Tackling gender-related issues and creating a conducive learning environment improves education quality. Every child, boy or girl, is unique and deserves to be educated because it is their right.
  • Insecurity: The country’s constantly increasing state of unrest has hindered access to formal education for many Nigerian children of late. People are afraid to allow their children to go to school for fear of being abducted or killed by bandits. Teachers are also doing their best to avoid abduction or getting killed by unknown gunmen. Learning is better done in a stable environment with peace of mind.
  • Cultural practices: when it comes to cultural traditions and education, the girl child is usually the primary victim. Young girls are forced into marriages and exposed to trafficking schemes instead of being sent to school or allowed to learn a skill. Some contract HIV/AIDs, among other long-term health risks associated with ill practices like genital mutilation. It is devastating to know that these practices remain rampant in some states in Nigeria.
  • Disability: Ignorance and stigmatisation has made disability a barrier to quality education when it should not be. Children with special needs usually require particular interventions and an inclusive environment to thrive. When learning disorders are not detected at a young age, neurodivergent children will find it challenging to learn in a conventional classroom setting because of the special attention they require. When school buildings are not ramped, physically challenged children will not have access to the school building as they should. Children born into families that cannot afford to send them to special private schools have to depend on the Government or other non-governmental establishments to intervene.

Although there are many factors affecting access to quality education, poverty, lack of infrastructure, gender issues, insecurity, disability, and cultural practices happen to be the leading barriers. There are several ways to overcome the obstacles to quality education mentioned above. The Government has a huge role to play in reforming the educational system. Still, by donating to support the underserved and enlightening people about the importance of quality education in nation-building, individuals, civil, and corporate societies can also step in.

On cultural practices, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie says, “culture does not make people; people make culture” we as individuals could fight to change what we see as norms in our society. We should strive to send our male and female children to schools for proper education.

Education is one thing no one can take away from you.

Elin Nordegren

How to Empower A Child

Empowerment schemes are not a new thing in our society. Individuals, profit and non-profit organisations, Government and non-governmental bodies, corporate bodies, and religious institutions provide support for people through different initiatives as a way of ‘giving back’ to society or for a greater reward. 

While drilling boreholes, digging wells, and donating food, sanitary pads, and clothing items are very good, this post highlights Quality Education, among a few others, as an effective empowerment tool for boys and girls.

Empowerment helps children understand their rights and develop confidence early in life. Here are some practical ways to empower children around you:

  • Access to Quality Education: Education is not limited to the four walls of a classroom. It is more than learning to speak, read or write; it is a must-have life-transforming tool with a lasting impact on individuals, families, communities, and the country. Both boys and girls have the right to education, and going to school is a step in the right direction. You can also buy them educational books, encourage them to learn a skill, offer career counselling, and organise events where professionals in different fields talk about their failures and successes. Empowerment through education can also be in the form of:
    • Health Education: talk about harmful practices that can affect their well-being and teach them body autonomy. Make them understand that they own their body and not anybody else. Helping children understand that their body is their body makes setting boundaries and speaking up easier. 
    • Leadership/Character Education: Values and strong character must be instilled in children at a young age if you don’t want them to become irresponsible adults. Responsibility, gratitude, respect, empathy, and time management are some things that must be taught at a young age.
    • Sex Education: it is okay to teach children about sex and reproductive health, so they don’t learn from the wrong channel. There is a level of confidence that comes with understanding your own body; you can help children build that confidence by not avoiding conversations about sex and reproductive health. 
  • Advocate for Equity: It is no news that some people believe girls do not need to go to school because they think girls are caretakers of the home and baby makers. We still see many families investing more in the overall development of their male children while doing little to nothing for the girl child. This should not be; every child is exceptional and deserves life-changing opportunities irrespective of gender, race or religion.
  • Be Sensitive to Their Needs: Avoid treating all children the same way. Children, like adults, experience challenges in each developmental phase. Pay attention to little details and lend listening ears as much as possible; you might even help a physically or verbally abused child get the needed help. You can also make a child feel confident and empowered by choosing your words carefully. 
  • Be a Respectful Adult: Respect is reciprocal! Everyone deserves to be respected, and that includes children. Adults must watch the way they address children irrespective of their moods. Being older is not a licence to treat or talk to children anyhow. 
  • Set Good Examples: Children quickly pick up healthy and unhealthy habits around them. It is in their nature to always try new things, so you must position yourself as a good role model.

Children must be equipped with the knowledge and skills to make healthy decisions for themselves and become agents of positive change in the world.

One Voice Initiative sensitises young girls and women to use reusable pads as a sustainable means of menstrual hygiene. We also empower communities through a human-centred approach leveraging research, policy, and practice for innovative, sustainable and inclusive programming.

Join us if you believe that Quality Education is vital to achieving all other Sustainable Development Goals. Together we can empower people to effect social change—email info@oviwce.org for more information on the partnership, sponsorship, and volunteering opportunities.

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