The problem also affects the southern states
Eight states in northern Nigeria have the country’s worst girl child education and health indices, the latest scorecard by a group of nongovernmental researchers, says. The report says Kebbi, Sokoto, Bauchi, Jigawa, Yobe, Zamfara, Katsina, and Gombe states have Nigeria’s worst girl child education, highest female illiteracy, highest adolescent girl marriage, highest under 15 child bearing, and highest risk of maternal death and injury.
The report is published by Africa Health, Human and Social Development Information Service (Afri-Dev. Info), in partnership with African Coalition on Maternal Newborn and Child Health, and Pan African Campaign Against Forced Marriage of Under Age Children. The scorecards underline the links between poor educational attainment for girls, forced marriage of underage children, and under age child bearing.
The 10 states with the highest number of girls not in secondary school are found in the North West, North East and North Central Geo-political zones of Nigeria, the report states. The five states from the North West are Kebbi, Sokoto, Jigawa, Zamfara, and Katsina while those from the North East are Bauchi, Yobe, Borno, and Gombe. Niger state is the only north central state in the category.
The same 10 states, along with Kano state, have the highest percentage of females aged between 15 and 24 years who cannot read or write.
The states also account for the highest cases of adolescent marriage and adolescent child bearing (15 to 19 years old). The highest number of women who gave birth before age of 18 years were found there. While the northern states take the lead, the report says, the problem is widespread, affecting several states in southern Nigeria. Ebonyi state in the south eastern Nigeria, for instance, was at number 12 for states with the highest percentage of girl children not in secondary school.
Similarly, for number of adolescent girls in marriage Bayelsa State came 13th, scoring worse than Adamawa, Benue, Taraba and Nasarawa states. Also, in the indicator of females aged 20 to 24 years who gave birth before age of 18 years, Bayelsa again placed 13th. In that category, Adamawa, Taraba, and Niger states scored better than Delta, Rivers, and, Anambra states, the report shows.
“The scale of the problem is self-evident, and these are the kind of problems that the Governors Forum should be giving their most urgent attention to – especially from those 8 Northern states where it is obvious that the educational, health and overall human development of girls is key to their development,” said Rotimi Sankore, Lead Advocate for the report’s publishers.
He said the evidence also underlined that poor educational attainment for girls, under age marriage and under age child bearing was not a northern or religious based problem – but a national problem.
“The fact that Ebonyi state for instance scores worse than some northern states on the percentage of girls in secondary school; or that Bayelsa where President Goodluck Jonathan was previously Governor scores worse than some northern states on both under age marriage and under age child bearing is evidence of this,” Mr Sankore said.
“We need evidence based policy making in Nigeria. The problem goes beyond Senator Ahmed Yerima. People like him only make headlines because we expect that a former state governor and senator should dedicate himself to creating an environment that protects underage girls from abuse and exploitation, rather than facilitating a negative environment.” He said concerns remain even for relatively best performing states such as Edo and Ekiti states