Dollar and Naira bills [Photo Credit: NairaFX]

Is it true that it’s not profitable to educate a girl? In Nigeria, we hear this lie all the time, that educating a girl is a waste of money. She will be married off, they say, and her husband will reap the rewards. She may not be able to hold a job, they say, especially if it conflicts with raising the children, so why waste money on someone who will become a housewife? How many girls get poor education compared to their male counterparts because of this ideology that it is a bad investment? 

An investment is an action or process of investing money for profit. While it is necessary to state that all children deserve equal opportunities to be educated, there are some benefits or earnings if you will, that a family and the whole community enjoys when a girl receives a quality education. Here are five reasons why investing in girls is a great idea.

Poverty Alleviation

A UN study found that when women work, they invest 90% of their earnings back into their families while men invest about 35%. When a woman earns a reasonable wage, she secures her children and family’s future and contributes to the community and economy’s growth. Even with just Primary school education, a woman has better economic prospects and a greater chance of escaping poverty. Therefore, if there is a direct correlation with girls’ education and the wealth they can generate for their families and the community, isn’t it beneficial and even necessary to make sure our girls can read, write and graduate from high school? 

Healthy Communities

When we educate girls, teenage pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases, infant mortality rates, and maternal mortality rates significantly decrease. Knowing the implications of unprotected sex and learning the dangers in constructive ways empowers girls to deny peer pressures and influence each other to make wise choices. Literate mothers attend ANC visits; they adopt safe birthing methods that ensure their children’s lives. They immunise their children because they can understand the value. A study conducted by A.R Bado and A.S Susuman, reveals that when a child is born to a woman in Africa who has received a formal education, that child is about 20% more likely to survive until their fifth year compared to children of mothers who have not been to school; this is a shocking statistic. Wouldn’t it save time and resources not to have to hold community outreaches to convince women to utilise skilled birth attendants and immunise their kids? When we educate girls, we save resources and ensure healthier communities.

Social Capital and Institutions

Women are change agents. We have already established how they significantly impact their families and communities. When we educate girls, they are more likely to pay it forward by returning to their communities and affecting change. Whether it’s a Malala Yousafzai advocating for girl education or a Greta Thunberg fighting to save the planet, it’s undeniable the influence education has had on these young women and how they are shaping and changing the world. In Nigeria, we have so many challenges and the enormous untapped potential of girls all over our nation who deserve the chance to shape their world for a better tomorrow.

A Decrease in Child Marriage

This is a sore topic in Nigeria. This practice that irrevocably alters a girl’s life and thrusts her into a situation her mind and body is not ready to handle is one that must not be supported or continued. When a child becomes a bride, it almost always ends her education in a formal school setting. She misses out on all the opportunities already mentioned above. The implication of this is that the child-bride barely has the knowledge she needs to have a healthy family, and often becomes a mother while still being a child. How then can she properly care for her child when she needs care herself? Girl education ensures that a girl can break the cultural practices of early marriage and aspire to reach great potential for the benefit of many.

A Decrease in Support for Militancy

Nigeria has endured its fair share of ongoing terrorism and militancy, which is often supported and enabled by men and women. It’s heartbreaking when children are indoctrinated with such ideologies. Studies have shown that as women become more educated, they are less likely to support militancy and terrorism than similarly educated men. As a vulnerable group, women, and girls suffer firsthand the violence that comes with terrorism and militancy. However, they are strategically positioned to reject such ideologies with the right education.

There are many more benefits in educating girls, but these few speak to the heart of some of the challenges we experience in Nigeria today. We need to discontinue the misinformation that educating a girl is a waste of money. The failure to realise the potential wealth in supporting girls’ education, the exceeding health benefits, and social capital it brings substantially cripples Nigeria’s progress as a nation. What is believed to be a bad investment is actually the best investment, because as the adage goes, “when you educate a girl, you educate a nation.”