May 7, 2009, 5:36 AM
The ongoing sub-regional conference on the Ambassador's Girls Scholarship Programme (AGSP) has brought to the fore yet again the need to redress gender imbalance in the education system. Until very recently, it was considered taboo to send the girl child to school. Even when a girl child was clearly cleverer than her male sibling was, it was the latter that enjoyed the benefit of education.
The misconception was - and still remains in some communities - that the girl child was a chattel to be 'sold off' in marriage when she reached puberty. Cynics even asserted that there was nothing tangible to be gained from sending a girl child to school. A girl's primary role, they insisted, was to bear children. In retrospect, this was a power relation sophistry that was meant to protect and preserve the supremacy myth of the patriarchal society. That explains why a great percentage of the educated elite in the country remains mostly male.
But there has been a significant improvement in the past two decades or so, particularly in the last ten years. In the past ten years, the enrolment of the girl child has soared to the discomfort of many a male chauvinist. Even more significant, it is on record that girls are outperforming their male counterparts in both internal and external examinations. This trend has helped lay to rest the widely held assumption of the male mental superiority; it has no basis in reality. Besides, women are now controlling many middle-cadre positions in the civil service, private sector and the corporate world (especially the banks). This is an indication that investment in the education of the girl child is worth the while.
The AGSP, as conceived, is designed to give the girl child access to education and to ensure that she completes her education without the impediment of tuition fees. So far, AGSP has given a total of 2, 292 scholarships to primary school girls. This is commendable.
Despite the foregoing, we hold that both the male and female child should be given equal educational opportunities. But because of the past inequality in educational access against the girl child, conscious and concerted efforts should be made to bridge the existing gaps. The preference being given to the girl child should be seen in this context.
"I said ... how, and why, young children were sooner allured by love, than driven by beating, to attain good learning."