Hiv Aids And Girl Education In Nigeria Education Essay

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Education has been described to be an important tool in the battle against HIV/AIDS. "Without education, AIDS will continue its rampant spread. With AIDS out of control, education will be out of reach". (Peter Piot, Global AIDS report 2008). He described the relationship between AIDS and the education sector as circular - "as the epidemic worsens; the education sector is damaged, which in turn is likely to increase the incidence of HIV/AIDS". Aids can affect education in so many ways but also, education has proven to be a very good tool in fighting the disease. The length to which schools and other education institutions' are able to continue to function will act as an influence to how well the affected communities eventually recover from the epidemic. An important way to reducing the HIV/AIDS incidence is through peer education. This is a process where an individual that has received information about the spread of the infection reach their peers using the familiar language(s) (Slangs). (Olasusi. et al 2002). Research has proven that people are more likely to change their behaviours or attitudes if they see and believe the messenger been passed is similar to what they face or concerns and pressures they presently have. Hillary Mason Advocates for youth 2003 in her write up "Peer Education: Promoting Health Behaviors" said "Peer education draws on the credibility young people have with their peers, the leverages, power of role modelling, and provision of flexibility in meeting the diverse needs of today's youth. Peer education can support young people in developing positive group norms and in making healthy decisions about sex".

Education of girls does not only bring the immediate benefit of empowering girls, but it is seen as the best investment in a country's development. "Educated girls develop essential life skills, including: self confidence, the ability to participate effectively in society, and protect themselves from HIV/AIDS, sexual exploitation to name a few. Girl's education also helps in cutting children and maternal mortality rates, contributing to national wealth and controlling disease and health status. Children of educated women are more likely to go to school and, consequently, this has exponential positive effects on education and poverty reduction for generations to come". (UNICEF, 2007)

Bridging the gap between boys and girls education in Nigeria and the rest of Sub- Sahara African had been the focus of many projects and policies of the governments and Non- governmental organizations for several years. It is said to be known to be the best investment in development; but it is sad to say that a large number of young girls still do not attend school. The global figure for out-of-school children is estimated at 115 million children of primary school age in 2001/02. Globally, 61.6 million girls of primary school age were not in school, accounting for 53% of the total number. The greatest absolute numbers of out-of-school children were found in sub-Saharan Africa (45 million) and South Asia (42 million). (Children Out of School: Measuring Exclusion from Primary Education UNESCO 2005).

In Nigeria, girls' access to basic education, especially in northern states, has remained low. Figures put it as few as 20% of women in the North West and North East of the country are literate and have attended school. The 2006 National School Census (NSC) revealed a net enrolment ratio (NER) of 80.6% suggesting that a substantial proportion (19%) of children of primary school age (6-11 years) are not enrolled in primary schools nationwide (UNICEF 2007). This represents about 5 million Nigerian children aged 6-11 years old that do not access primary education. The Net Attendance Ratio is at 60.10%, translating to about 40% level of non attendance among primary school age children. In the Northern part of Nigeria, where girls' enrolment rates are already low, it is likely that those who do not participate in education are girls. (Unicef Life Skills, 2007).

Current studies also show 64% or more of young people in developing countries who are living with HIV/AIDS are female.  However where prevalence rates are low, young men usually have higher rates of infection than young women; while in countries with higher HIV infection rates, young women typically surpass young men of the same age.  For example, in Lesotho, where the estimated HIV prevalence is 31 percent 15-49 year olds, 11 percent of young men and 25 percent of young women are infected. All these are attributed to the disparity between the girls and boys education. (Unicef Life Skills, 2007).


Nigeria among other third world countries is lagging behind in meeting the millennium development goals of getting equal numbers of girls and boys into primary and secondary education by 2005. Girls' primary school enrolment figures are improving in almost all DFID-supported countries in Africa and Asia but those with the furthest to go are Nigeria, Pakistan and Yemen. (DFID fact sheet 2009). To correct this disparity in access of the girls to education, the Nigerian government with the support of DFID and Unicef launched "Girls Education programme in 2004. Since then, DFID's £37.1m support for UNICEF's Girls Education Project (GEP) has increased girls' enrolment in six northern Nigerian states with the worst disparities between boys' and girls' enrolment in primary school. The first phase of the project has helped to increase girls' enrolment by at least 15 percent. The project also enabled communities to become involved and more recently supported young women from rural areas to enrol as trainee teachers through scholarships. It is anticipated these women will help to address the shortage of women teachers and help make schools more attractive to girls. The project is co-financed by Nigerian state governments and this model has been replicated in other states. (DFID fact sheet 2009)

Why are girls in Nigeria not attending school? Two main reasons could be attributed to this; Social and Economic factors. In Nigeria, especially in the northern regions, there is deep seated biases flamed by religion and traditions passed from one generation to the other that a girl child should only be seen and not heard; girls are married out early for economic reasons and where they remain at home they are reduced to nothing other than a maid serving the male ego. For the girls who managed to get into school, most of these schools lack adequate classroom space, furniture and equipment, and are often too remotely located. Many Nigerian parents, especially in large families with limited resources, enrol their boys in school rather than girls. Some parents also keep their daughters out of school due to misinterpretation of the Islamic religion.

Poverty is the second main cause of underdevelopment in African. With almost 70 per cent of the Nigerian population living below the poverty line, girls are often sent to work in the markets or hawk wares on the streets. This has been found out to be the main attributes to early marriages and teenage pregnancies which also prevent girls from going to school or drop out before reaching primary six.

These young girls are forced into commercial sex or sex in exchange for money, food or shelter. This usually happen with older males who most of the time are usually more sexually experienced and are more likely to have contracted STIs or HIV/AIDS (UNAID Global AIDS report 2008). Surveys have shown that fewer girls than boys, aged 15-19, have basic education of how they can protect themselves from HIV/AIDS. Unfortunately, these women constitute the majority of the worlds poorest. Their inability to access life skills-based education, economic resources and opportunities for growth puts them in a vulnerable position.

The overall effect of the HIV/AIDS pandemic has taken every opportunity further beyond the reach of girls 'affected by the disease and education which is supposed to be one of the key defences against the spread and impact of AIDS has failed to achieve its aims.  An evidence for this is constantly growing. In countries with high epidemic rates, it is found out that young people with higher levels of education are more likely to use condoms and less likely to engage in casual sex than their peers with less educational background.

The benefits of education depend critically on the quality received and attainment at the end of that period of the education (DFID). Their survey shows that statistics on staying in school for girls and progression to secondary school and learning outcomes are highly significant. Many of the wider benefits of investing in girls' education are only achieved after a number of years of schooling and progression to secondary education.

The potential costs of not meeting international commitments on gender equality in education based on the principles of Human capital theory include:

Missed opportunities to increase per capita economic growth

Missed opportunities to lower fertility rates

Missed opportunities to reduce child mortality rates

While the potential benefits to girls and women of achieving gender equality targets in education include:

Higher earning potential

Better protection from HIV/AIDS and domestic violence

Greater political participation and influence

(CIDA (2009) Gender Equality and Education Program Tip Sheets (Draft)



A nation's wealth is measured by its physical and human capital stock. The focus before now had been on economic researches, factors affecting the enhancement of human skills to name a few. It has now become apparent that the world's focus is leaning towards the study of investments mankind is making in himself to enhance standard of living/economic productivity.

Thus Human Capital Theory was born. The theory is based on the premise that peoples learning capacities are comparable to other natural resources involved in the production process. When it is effectively exploited the dividends are enjoyed by the enterprise and the society at large.


Based on the work of Schultz (1971), Sakamota and Powers (1995) and host of other scholars; Human capital theory rests on the assumptions that formal education is responsible and very important in the improvement of the production capacity of a Population. They came to the conclusion that the level of education of a society is directly proportional to its' level of productivity.

Human capital theory emphasizes on how formal education increases the level of innate cognitive stock of economically viable human capabilities. Gary Becker in his paper (Human Capital & Poverty 1996) said "It has been estimated that human capital-education, on-the-job and other training, and health comprises about 80 percent of the capital or wealth in the United States and other advanced countries. Even if such estimates are somewhat exaggerated-and if there is any exaggeration, it is not large-these estimates clearly indicate that human capital can be neglected only at a country's peril". Thus, the importance of human capital to growth could perhaps be illustrated by the outstanding records of China, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, South Korea, and other fast-growing Asian economies. Babalola (2003) in his study also argued that the rationality behind human capital theory is based on three arguments:

The new generation must be given the appropriate parts of the knowledge which has been accumulated by previous generations

They should be taught how existing knowledge should be used to develop new products, introduce new processes, production methods and social services

Be encouraged to develop entirely new ideas, products, processes and methods through creative approaches.

Most economist agree that it is the quality of the human elements not capital or its material resources that ultimately determine the pace and character of its economic and social development


One of the criticisms of the theory was; to what extent does education, or other forms of human investments have direct improvement on occupation and income. Livingstone D.W in his paper "The limits of Human Capital Theory" said since the 1970s it had been found out that even though the schools' enrolment rates have continued to increase the average incomes have stagnated, unemployment rates worsened and underemployment of highly schooled people had been recognized as a social problem. Thus, Human capital theory needed readjustment. All attempts made to repair the theory according to Livingstone failed because none of it tried to account for a growing general gap between peoples' increasing learning/knowledge base and diminishing suitable jobs. Fagerlind & Saha (1997) came to a conclusion that education in general and schooling in particular cannot of its own achieve the desired societal goals without taking structural reforms. They said "the more political the goals of education, the more problematic the outcomes.


It is a general consensus that education plays an important role in the development of any nation. It is also agreed that allocation of resources on education should be expanded to the point where the returns to marginal investment is equal or greater than the marginal cost. It is a known fact education is a very expensive venture; thus a realistic distribution of resources had to be put in place with the hind sight of the developmental needs of individual countries.

Fagelind & Saha (1997) argued that in developing countries at least, educational demand must be well tuned to the economy in order to bring the cost and its benefits to a realistic level. Also it is believed that; it is economic reforms and not improved learning practices that holds solution to the gap between education attainment and availability of jobs (Livingtone). Kanstrup-Jensen Annette in her (Educational Constraints and Resources study among Ethnic Minority Groups in the Lao People Democratic Republic) came to a conclusion that, "If the country is to survive in the world of globalization, the methods and contents of educational training also need to change. To solve this, the concept of indigenous education was adopted". The characteristic of indigenous education is that "learning is for life", a process that is not confined either to a schoolroom, a fixed curriculum or a timetable, and does not end with exams showing academic results. The ultimate goal of indigenous education is "to integrate the individual into his society" (Ocitti 1994 p.22).

Human Capital theory is based on the assumption that individuals can affect their value in the labour market by choosing to or not to take advantage of educational opportunities and training. If they do, they increase their human capital and that will then increase their value to their employers. Human capital theory suggests employees should be treated as individuals with specific sets of skills and abilities, so it emphasizes competence-based pay as an effective remuneration system. The theory states; "this leads to a very meritocratic system and helps to achieve equal opportunity based on talent and ability, and regulated by a market economy". Critics argue that one of the major problems with the theory is that it assumes that everyone has the same chance to invest in their human capital, whereas, in reality, people have different life opportunities that are outside their control from birth, not least because of the relative wealth or poverty of their parents. In other words, human capital theory is not as meritocratic as it might first appear. (">human)



A right has been described as a special advantage gained either by reason of birth or particular status. This "special advantage" might include gaining a liberty, a power, an entitlement, or immunity. This might include one's status simply as a human being, a particular gender, a minority, animal, a child, or citizen of a country. This general notion of "right" applies to legal and moral contexts. Moral philosophers are said to be principally concerned with rights that are not simply created by political institutions. In this sense, a moral right is a justified constriction upon how others may or not act.

Rights have two central and political senses; rectitude and entitlement (Dworkin 1977: xi, 90). In the sense of rectitude we speak of the "right things to do" things being right or wrong. This according to Dworkin focuses on the standard of conduct and draws attention to the-duty bearer's obligation to do the right things (Morals). Simply put, "those who live in glass houses do not throw stones". In the case of entitlement we typically speak of someone simply having a right. By contrast to rectitude, entitlement draws the rights-holder's attention to the special title or privilege to enjoy that right.

This comes with the assumption that the individual concerned has an idea about the privilege and knows how to seek redress if that privilege is withdrawn or obstructed.

Over the years people and countries have fought hard to find a way of preserving the rights of themselves and their societies. The French came up with the idea of drafting a law which was called the Human right declaration. Human right declaration could be traced back to the 17-18th century. The American declaration of independence in 1771 and the Frenchs' human right declaration drafted by Emmanuel Joseph Sieyes and adopted by the Constituent Assembly on Aug. 26, 1789. The French declaration listed the "inalienable rights" of the individual (a list of duties was, after some debate, omitted by its framers). The rights to "liberty, property, security, and resistance to oppression" and the rights to freedom of speech and of the press were guaranteed. The document asserted the equality of men and the sovereignty of the people, on whom the law should rest, to whom officials should be responsible, and by whom finances should be controlled. Many of its provisions were aimed at specific abuses of the ancient regime. The declaration had immense effect on liberal thought in the 19th century.


The League of Nations general assembly adopted the declaration to the right of the child on November 26th 1924. By the present declaration of the Rights of the Child, commonly known as the Declaration of Geneva, men and women of all nations, recognizing that mankind owes to the Child the best that it has to give, declare and accept it as their duty that beyond and above all considerations of race, nationality or creed: The child must be given the means requisite for its normal development, both materially and spiritually.

The child that is hungry must be fed, the child that is sick must be nursed, the child that is backward must be helped, the delinquent child must be reclaimed, and the orphan and the waif must be sheltered and succoured.

The child must be the first to receive relief in times of distress.

The child must be put in a position to earn a livelihood, and must be protected against every form of exploitation.

The child must be brought up in the consciousness that its talents must be devoted to the service of its fellow men.

(United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights)

In 1948 the United Nations signed the Human rights declaration; one common law that will be binding on all member nations. Other laws that were drafted and signed there after took their cues from this including the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Convention against Discrimination in Education (1960), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966) and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (1981). These treaties establish an entitlement to free, compulsory primary education for all children; an obligation to develop secondary education, supported by measures to render it accessible to all children, as well as equitable access to higher education; and a responsibility to provide basic education for individuals who have not completed primary education. (Unicef/Unesco 2007)


The right to education is high on the agenda of the international community. It is affirmed in numerous human rights treaties and recognized by governments as pivotal in the pursuit of development and social transformation. This recognition is exemplified in the international goals, strategies and targets that have been set during the past 20 years. The Education for All goals were established at Jomtien (Thailand) in 1990 and reaffirmed at the 2000 World Education Forum in Dakar (Senegal). In the Millennium Development Goals, established in 2000, the Worlds' governments committed to achieving universal access to free, quality and compulsory primary education by 2015. In "A World Fit for Children", the outcome document from the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Children in 2002, participating governments reaffirmed these commitments and agreed to a range of strategies and actions to achieve them. More ambitious targets have been established in many regions. (Unicef/Unesco 2007).

In Nigeria the government made girls' education a priority again in its' strategic plan for 2005-2007 because of its' tremendous impact on other aspects of human development. Various initiatives were launched like the strategy for the acceleration of girls' education in 2003 and a year later Girls' education project. All of these programmes were set to achieve this through improving the quality of life of girls in Nigeria by a collaborative approach to girls' education. The project takes an inter-sectoral approach, including interventions in the fields of health, water and sanitation and income generation activities. It focuses on six Northern states where many girls do not go to school at all and many drop out at an early age. Even though the recorded statistic of the programme indicates positive change in number of girls that now attend school but overall the programme have failed to reach the millennium goal target of reducing the disparity between the boys' and girls' education not later than 2015.(Unicef 2007).

On a positive note it is the existence of the laws on the right of the child that has made the nations of the world to achieve what they have been able to achieve and there are constant improvement to the laws and benefits available to them.


The right to education requires a commitment to ensuring universal access, including taking all necessary measures to reach the most marginalized children. (Unicef/Unesco 2007). This has not been the case with children either having parent living with HIV or they are positive themselves. Children whose parents were terminally ill usually leave school to care for their parents and siblings. In families where there had been death of several family members due to HIV/AIDS has led to the total vulnerability of such children in most cases. This mean they have to work longer hours which most time are virtually impossible due to their own health which has a knock-on effect on money available to support for schooling. The stigma associated with HIV exposes these children to various abuses either verbal or physical which in most cases makes it difficult for such children sufferers to communicate what they are going through to their teachers for fear of negative consequences' that may arise from such action. Children HIV sufferers usually have lengthy absence from school due to ill-health, poor access to essential medicines, and AIDS-related stigma and discrimination. (Human right watch 2005).


Even though it was on record that a lot have been done by the United Nations and other world bodies in making sure that there are universal laws that governs the right of children and their development; but not a lot had been done to make sure that all Nations that signs to the law obey them. An example of this is Somalia which does not have a government at the moment due ravaging war in the country and the United States of America which still executes children for various offences they interpret to be detrimental to the American state.

Secondly, though a lot of money had been committed to the various education projects and goals by the world bodies, they have failed to put into serious consideration the uniqueness of various Nations involved most especially in Africa and Asia thus solving the perceived problems rather than actual. This have let to many of the set objectives not been realized. A typical example is the implementation of the International Monetary fund's agenda on GDP by setting a ceiling the wage bill. This insistence has been mentioned as part of the problems of teacher shortages in the countries looked at in the survey (Actionaid 2007).

Makau Mutua in his book ("Human Rights: A Political and Cultural Critique" October 2008) argues that the human rights enterprise inappropriately presents itself as a guarantor of eternal truths without which human civilization is impossible. He contends that in fact the human rights corpus, though well meaning, is a Eurocentric construct for the reconstitution of non-Western societies and peoples with a set of culturally biased norms and practices. He went on to say that "if the human rights movement is to succeed, it must move away from Eurocentrism as a civilizing crusade and attack on non-European peoples". Only a genuine multicultural approach to human rights can make it truly universal. Indigenous, non-European traditions of Asia, Africa, the Pacific, and the Americas must be deployed to deconstruct-and to reconstruct-a universal bundle of rights that all human societies can claim as theirs. (Human Rights: A Political and Cultural Critique" October 2002)


HIV/AIDS had been a serious setback for Africa. All governments' efforts to combat the disease have failed so far. This failure have put so much pressure on the limited resources available in all these countries; which has made it extremely hard to address the extraordinary barriers to education faced by children who are orphaned or otherwise affected by HIV/AIDS (Unicef "Life Skills"). These children most time have to leave school to work long hours to survive because of the loss of the bread winner in the family to HIV. Where there are little resources available it is the male child that gets the privilege of going to school while the girl child either is married off early to a rich man to raise some money for the family to survive on (Unicef/Unesco fact sheet 2007) or she enters into prostitution in exchange for food clothing and shelter. The relationship usually are with older males most of who are usually more sexually experienced and are more likely to have contracted STIs or HIV/AIDS. Surveys have shown that fewer girls than boys, aged 15-19, have basic knowledge about how to protect themselves from HIV/AIDS (UNAID 2002 "Young people in a world of AIDS").

It evident from the projects DFID and UNICEF jointly sponsored in collaboration with the Federal on promoting girl education in Nigeria that staying in school for girls and progression to secondary school and learning outcomes are highly significant. Many of the wider benefits of investing in girls' education are only achieved after a number of years of schooling and progression to secondary education.

A human capital argument has been that past investment in higher education failed to yield the expected payoffs to national development in many regions of the world. Investment in higher education was downgraded in Africa in favour of basic education in the period immediately following structural readjustment programmes in the early 1980s (Fred Edwords. "The humanist magazine Nov/Dec 1998") and this has contributed immensely negatively to the growth of education in Nigeria. Also, a child infected with HIV is considered as poor investment under the human capital approach to development. To them investing on such child will bring negative returns to the economy because he/her most likely may not live long and if they do they will be too weak to contribute anything meaningful to the society.

From the right theory point of view ensuring equal access to education for AIDS-affected children does not require giving them "special treatment" in the provision of basic education, or singling them out as the only population at heightened risk of poor school outcomes. Some of the educational barriers associated with HIV/AIDS, such as difficulties paying school fees or having to

provide household labour, also afflict children affected by diseases other than HIV/AIDS, as well as children living in extreme poverty or otherwise prone to discrimination or social exclusion. ("Letting them Fail" Human right watch- Volume 17 No 13 (A) October 2005).


It is paramount that there is no quick fix to the issue Africa is facing either on education, eradication of HIV/AIDS or development in general. All the answers to the problems are within than without. In the view of this, i recommend that the various African governments' can:

Develop and find ways of stopping direct and in-direct discrimination on girls' access to education.

The various African governments should review relevant legislations and clearly state those to ensure the rights of girls living with or without AIDS are not subjected to any form of discrimination(s) in accessing education and other social amenities.

Ensure that all promises made by the Nations on rights to free primary education and review school policies and practices are fulfilled.

Governments should live up to their promise of providing free primary education to all children whatever their gender or state of health. Also, they should remove/discourage with promise of sanction all written or unwritten policies that places one gender over the other or excludes a child based on their health/social status.

Encourage more community-based organizations involvements in education.

Governments should encourage community-based organizations to help in reaching the vulnerable groups. School officials should also review their policies on pupils' registration criteria, so as to ensure they do not place obstacles in the way of girls accessing education

Enact and find ways of enforcing laws that shields parents/caregivers of HIV children sufferers or all female families from abuse.

The various African governments' should identify and immediately remove human rights abuses which are usually culturally entrenched such as property grabbing, early marriage, girls inheritance ("Inheritance are exclusively for male child/children"), unequal access to social amenities, including healthcare, or anything that could prevent parents and caregivers' the ability to provide for their children.