First Lady, Mrs. Patience Jonathan has said that Nigerians must ensure that a significant percentage of the country’s young people, especially girls, should acquire university education. “There is a popular saying that if you educate a man, you educate a person, but if you educate a woman, you educate a nation,” she said during a visit to the University of Lagos, UNILAG, last weekend.
“Parents must pay adequate attention to the education and welfare of our children, because education is the key to human capital development and the basis for national development. This is an area that Mr. President and I are very passionate about, because we were once teachers ourselves,” she added.
Mrs. Jonathan’s call for girl-child education is crucial because of the sorry state of girl-child access to education in the country, even at the basic level. Out of Nigeria’s 10.5 million out-of-school children – the highest in the world – six million are girls. 70.8 per cent of young women aged 20-29 in the North-West zone are unable to read or write.
Experts believe that due to the fact that these girls are deprived so early of an education (including the access to information and knowledge), they remain bereft of the purchasing power necessary for adequate diet, healthcare, skills, or even recourse to support in emergencies, all of which would enable them rise above abject poverty.
Her words: “The building of the 15-storey female hostel is a worthy course because it will reduce the number of those living outside the campus. Education is the key to human capital development, hence the quality of education will determine the type of leaders we will produce in the future. We must ensure that the girl-child acquires education, because when you educate a woman, you educate a whole nation. Education is the best we can give our nation. As you pass through the school, let the system also pass through you.”
On standard of education, she urged government to increase the quality of education to compete favourably with their counterparts globally. According to her, “with sincere commitment, we can bring back the good old days when teachers were respected.”
Besides, Jonathan also called upon unions in the sector to resort to dialogue as a means of resolving issues that might arise, no matter how difficult they might be. “There is nothing God cannot do,” she said, “I am talking to you as a mother would advise the children whom she loves. Mr. President and I were once students; we want the best for all Nigerian students.”
It would be recalled that the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, only called off its six-month strike last December. The strike embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics, ASUP, has kept most polytechnic students at home for 129 days.
Mrs. Jonathan’s visit to UNILAG also highlighted other concerns in the tertiary education sector, one of which is the unavailability of campus accommodation in universities across the country to cater for majority of university students.
Speaking at the event, the Vice-Chancellor of UNILAG, Professor Rahamon Bello stated that the institution’s 40,291 students have over the years, suffered accommodation problem apart from the over 16,000 Distant Learning students who scramble for 8,500 available bed spaces.
Bello, who pointed out the importance of the 15-storey building to the institution, said it was designed to accommodate 1,900 out of the 17,934 female students saying the project will assist to reduce the number of female students who live off-campus.
Meanwhile, Professor Bello has described the First Lady’s commitment to women as encouraging and worthy of commendation.
On his part, the Pro-Chancellor of UNILAG, Professor Jerry Gana, noted that the foundation-laying event should be celebrated because it is the first 15-storey building on any campus in Nigeria. (VANGUARD)