Photo of the Week: Educating girls in Nigeria

When this photograph of schoolgirls at Waziri Mazadu Primary School in the town of Dass, Nigeria, was taken in 2007, school enrollment and completion rates in basic education were low due to economic disparities and social inequities. In 2012, the last date for which complete data is available, only 72 per cent of primary-school-aged boys and 68 per cent of girls were attending school in Nigeria. And once children reached secondary school age, those numbers fell to 54 per cent for both boys and girls.

Education is free and compulsory in Nigeria. So what accounts for this glaring inequity in school attendance – and the resistance to education in general?

Underlying causes include local beliefs, poverty and early marriage, especially for girls; but clearly the importance of education needs to be seeded at birth. With an adult literacy rate of 51 per cent, it is small wonder that priorities need to change. And yet, with the recent abduction of 300 girls from Chibok Secondary School, who wants to send their daughter to school, only for her to be at risk of kidnapping, forced marriage or sexual violence?

Malala Yousafzai, the courageous girls’ education activist from Pakistan, is no stranger to extremism. She, along with friends in 2012, was shot by the Taliban for advocating for girls’ education. While she continues to recuperate from life-threatening injuries in the United Kingdom, she has found her voice on behalf of those girls whose ethnicities, religions, parents and societies undermine girls’ right to a say in their futures.

Malala has joined hundreds of thousands of other girls and women globally who have collectively raised their voices – again – this time not only to reinforce the idea that education is for girls and boys alike, but more importantly, to #BringBackOurGirls, to their families and their schools, where they will hopefully recover and not lose faith in a system that is perhaps their only hope for the future.

Susan Markisz is a UNICEF Photographer and Assistant Photography Editor

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  1. Parents and the society at large should see the importance of girl child education as this will bring forth development.