Reports which are showing that the number of early marriage or child bride is on the increase has been giving
experts serious concerns. Among several factors responsible for this unfortunate development are lack of or
poor education and economic opportunity which make girl children vulnerable, writes FWANSHISHAK DANIEL

 

SO MUCH is taken for granted when
education is considered an end in itself
and as a solution to life issues; in this
particular instance to the problem of
early marriage and child brides. There
is so much “evidence” and so much
“data” supporting the correlation
between more education for girls and
improvement of social standing and
empowerment for girls. Education is
imbued with the almost magical power
to “lower maternal mortality, improve
children’s health, lower birth rates and
help women to find jobs – which in turn
boosts economies”. And whenever
such data and research are quoted,
the experts are careful not to mention
the rising rates of unemployment,
underemployment and the gross
inequalities and corruption that belie
the situation of girls and women in at
risk countries like Nigeria.
It is important that all stakeholders
acknowledge the role of poverty and
absence of opportunities especially
in education, agriculture and other
economic opportunities and link these
issues to the unfortunate perpetuation
of early marriages and child brides.
The crisis we face is not only in the
education sector. These girls, their
parents, their husbands and their
communities are all victims of a failed
system. There is the need to work
towards ending economic wastages
and continued marginalisation and
skewed allocation of wealth and
opportunities in our communities.
Other sectors of the economy and
the society will have toprioritise
education for girls as crucial to their
respective endeavours and part of their
sustainability plans. Lack of education
is not just hurting girls; but because
agriculture, health systems, small scale
businesses, justice and government
systems, and education all fail, girls
are mostly the opportunity cost in the
short term. In the long run, their lack
of education is what is responsible
for huge system failures culminating
usually in crimes, violence and
conflicts. So it is in the end a selfreinforcing
circle.
Our society should refocus attention
on education of girls and for all, not as
an end in itself, but as a system-support
and strengthening process focusing on
investing in agriculture, healthcare
delivery, business and economic
activities, justice and governance.
These sectors have to invest in
education not in the current traditional
sense of building more classes and

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toilets or in training more teachers or
even in school feeding schemes – but
in opening up more opportunities for
employment and investment. This will
clear the existing glut in the labour
market and give actual material value to
education.
Expanding opportunities in
employment and investments will
directly benefit education and the society
in many ways. In particular, it will help
in ensuring that previous investments in
education do not go to waste. It will also
help in strengthening and increasing the
yield and productivity of the economy.
Doing this will guarantee more revenue
and resources for further investment in
education and improve on the quality of
life and health of individuals and their
communities. It could also deescalate
tension and eliminate conflicts and war
and provide opportunities to measure
the quality of education against the
identified needs of respective sectors of
the economy.
Other benefits would include the
narrowing of the gender gap in
communities and other traditional
forms of inequality. It will further lead
to a significant reduction in diseases and
improvement in health care delivery.
It will enhance national security,
strengthen international relations and
the capacity for global partnerships and
make a new world possible.
Making this happen does not require
extra investment in education, at least,
nothing more than what is currently
being poured into desperate education
interventions that do not seem to be
yielding corresponding results. There
will simply be the need to form a
coalition of stakeholders in education
to look into a new areas of expanding
employment and business opportunities
as direct investment in expanding
education delivery. For example, current
businesses and philanthropic investment
in education can be channelled towards
providing remedial training and skill
acquisition for job placements for
women.
Community health interventions
should invest more in training local
women and equipping them with skills
and knowledge to manage community
health issues rather than recycling
existing manpower in the civil service
that do not reside in the intervention
communities.
Food and other relief interventions
in conflict areas must explore ways of
establishing viable agricultural and
economic opportunities in conflict
areas and train (refugees/displace
persons) beneficiaries to work in these
areas as part of their sustainability and
resettlement plans.
Companies and multinational
corporations can pay their taxes in
“employment slots” for women and
other disadvantage groups; this will
increase their production and open
up opportunities down the chain for
education.
Agro allied companies that import
raw materials for local production
can sign contracts with local/rural

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communities and farmer cooperatives
to produce and provide the needed
raw materials. This will ease of the
pressure on foreign exchange and
provide more employment in rural
areas. The additional revenue local
farmers get from these opportunities
can be used to provide education
for their children, support their
families, reduce over dependence on
government interventions; it can also
be taxed by the government to support
the education and other sectors of the
economy.
Government education departments
and agencies, international
development partners and other
stakeholders interested in education
can work with other economic sectors
to focus on investment opportunities
and employment drives as crucial to
strategy for eradicating early marriages
and child brides, as well as for conflict
management, improving community
health care and ensuring justice and
good governance.
For education to succeed and make
sense to the already disadvantaged
groups in the society, it must be seen
to be directly related to economic
empowerment, justice and equity.
Once this is done, societies will
embrace education not as an end in
itself but as a way to promoting the
choice of good values as well as for the
opportunities it provides them.
This will continue to improve
until people are educated enough
to want education as an end in itself
and respect for the rights of girls and
women become the norm. Unless clear
opportunities are made available, child
marriage and child-brides might just
continue to grow.

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Daniel is a Teacher and Teacher
Trainer in education and community
development.


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