News / Africa

In Nigeria, Child Brides, Child Workers Denied Education

Young Nigerian school girls walk near a bus park. Often girls are forced to give up their educational aspirations (File Photo).
Young Nigerian school girls walk near a bus park. Often girls are forced to give up their educational aspirations (File Photo).
Heather Murdock
In parts of Nigeria, activists say it is increasingly common for girls to drop out of school to be married as young as 12 or 13 years old.  At the same age, other girls hit the streets, hawking goods in the markets.  In Abuja the girls say if they had the chance to go to school they could be doctors or lawyers, but more often they are barely able to survive.
 
Thirteen-year-old Yalwa is at home alone and noticeably pregnant.  Her husband, in his 30s, is at work pushing goods from the market in a wheelbarrow.  
 
Her ghetto home has no running water, sporadic electricity and no door to speak of.  But that is not what Yalwa wants.  
 
She says what she wants is to go to school.  Before she was married she dreamed of being a doctor or a midwife.  At her parents’ house, Yalwa and her siblings sometimes ate only once a day.  She thought if she got married, her husband, with only one mouth to feed would help her go to school.  But it did not turn out that way.
 
Activists say stories like Yalwa’s are increasingly common in Northern Nigeria, which is growing poorer among insecurity and natural disasters.
 
National Association of Nigerian Female Students President Saratu Musa Makawa says when little girls get married, it is not just educational prospects that they lose.
 “Early marriage and there are a lot of complications that accompany that on to women.  Apart for the psychological and sociological effect it also has a medical side effect on the lady,” Makawa stated.
 
Last week, the United Nations reported that between 2011 and 2020, more than 140-million girls around the world are expected to become child brides and are far more likely to die in childbirth or give birth to a stillborn baby than mothers over 18.
 
But in Nigeria, it is not just marriage that robs young girls of their education, childhood and health, says Makawa.

At the Kaduna Central Market in Northern Nigeria, men shout as they make deals and hawk their goods.  Among the sellers are throngs of girls, peddling everything from vegetables to slippers, sometimes as young as six-years old.
 
Makawa says the girls are in constant danger of rape, sexual harassment or just harassment, increasing the rate of unwanted pregnancies, abortions and abandoned babies.  
 
Like Yalwa, the girls, she says, just want to go to school.
 
“All this sexual abuse, harassment of women all starts from hawking on the streets," Makawa explained. "But if these girls would be taken to the four corners of the classroom they will come out and be something great.”

Makawa says for the girls in the market, the problem begins at home. “When you trace it back to the house you find out that the parents do that so as to earn a living for themselves,” she added.
 
Aisha Yusuf, of the aid organization Support Health and Education for Development, says education for girls is often not considered a priority because of the patriarchal nature of the local society, which prioritizes educating boys.  
 
The result, she says, is bad for everyone.
 
“It negates our development and it also affects the child’s upbringing.  I mean the female child will always grow up to lack self-esteem," said Yusuf. "To lack the ability to project the nascent or the latent talents that God has given her.”
 
She says the solution begins with convincing parents to pay more attention to their daughters’ educations.  But activists say as long as most Nigerians live on less than $1 a day, many children’s dreams will be crushed one way or another.  


Ibrahima Yakubu Contributed To This Report From Kaduna, Nigeria

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Troops Depart

Afghans are grappling with how exodus will affect country's fragile economy More

Video Scientists Say We Need Softer Robots

Today’s robots are mostly hard, rigid machines, with sharp edges and forceful movements, but researchers at Carnegie Mellon University say they should be softer and therefore safer More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs