Woman’s Access to Education
Education is considered as a fundamental aspect in the growth and development of different economies. High levels of technological development and globalization of market economies (Oghiator, 2005) have facilitated this. These developments have necessitated the need for advanced training and skills to be able to operate and function in different areas of expertise. Therefore, the role of education is to help men and women realize their rights and potential in political, economic, and social platforms (Obasi, 2006). Education has also been considered as one of the powerful tools that can help societies emerge from poverty by developing skills and techniques on how to manipulate their environment in ways that will help in the improvement of their wellbeing within the society (Olujuwon, 2011). Despite the presumed importance of education in the society, there are communities, countries, and societies in which education is characterized by instances of gender bias and racial segregation. Gender bias has been considered as an essential aspect of discriminating against women on the education platform. In some societies, discrimination against women and girls has characterized the way of life while in other communities programs have been initiated to help women in accessing education (Olujuwon, 2011).
The main objective of this paper is to provide an insight on women education in Nigeria and the United Arab Emirates. In addition, the paper will also assess the challenges and benefits of women access to education in these countries. In addition, the paper will also highlight different ways that Nigeria and the UAE can implement to improve their ability of women to access education (Olujuwon, 2011).
Women’s Access to education in Nigeria
Women education in Nigeria at a glance
Nigeria is one of the most developed countries in Africa. This has been attributed to economic growth that the country has been experiencing in the industrial and in the oil market. The position of Nigeria in Africa is essential in the determination of the country’s ability to achieve Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in relation to the position of women in the society. About 123 million people do not have sufficient access to education in Sub-Saharan Africa. About 65 million of these individuals are females (Olujuwon, 2011). About one in every four women in Sub-Saharan Africa is Nigerian. This is an indication that the ability of women to access sufficient education in Nigeria hence the need to establish functional strategies in women education (Olujuwon, 2011).
Nigeria has continued to perform poorly in matters related to gender equality. This according to the 2010 report on Gender ranked Nigeria at position 118 out of 134 countries when measured according to gender equality Index (Olujuwon, 2011). Gender discrimination especially in employment position has been cited as the major cause for the dwindling performance in girls Child education in Nigeria (Olujuwon, 2011). This is because at every education or employment level, women in Nigeria earn relatively less than their male counterparts. In some situations, men with relatively lower levels of education earn more than women with highest levels of education. In addition, there is a relatively high dropout rate of girls in Nigeria and this explains why in Northern Nigeria more than 60% of girls are unable to read or write (Olujuwon, 2011).
Since 1980, Nigerian government has been developing initiatives aimed at tackling gender disparity in the education sector. Despite the efforts by the government, there have been challenges in the ability of the government to ensure successful implementation of its policies due to cultural and traditional complications (Oghiator, 2005). In relation to the ability of women to access education, Nigerian policy has been evolving towards gender equality. Some of the policy initiatives that the government has continued to establish include the Blue Print on Women’s Education of 1986 and the Universal Basic Education Act of 2004(Obasi, 2006).
Barriers to women’s access to e4dcutaionin Nigeria
Traditional and cultural practices have been cited as the main factors contributing to low access to education among women in Nigeria. In most countries especially those in sub-Saharan Africa and in some countries within Asia, Education was considered as a preserve of the males. The females in these societies were viewed as inferior beings subject to the rules of men. The opposition of formal education in traditional African society was more for girls compared to that of men (Obasi, 2006). This was due to the belief that women education was to revolve around the kitchen and their traditionally accepted role of child rearing and family care. Despite the popularity of these beliefs in traditional African communities, the modern and contemporary Nigerian society is characterized by peculiar cultural practices that have been considered to be hostile to the liberation of women. These practices include early marriage, forced marriages, and wife inheritance among other practices. These practices are an indication that women in Nigeria are victims of cultural exploitation (Oghiator, 2005).
There are also other factors that have negatively affected the ability of women to adequately access education in Nigeria. Religion for instance has been characterized as one of the leading forces in discrimination against the ability of women to access education. This is because of the existence of different religious sects whose doctrines teach that women must never be allowed to access western education (Obasi, 2006). The Boko haram sect in Nigeria for instance has constantly advocated against western education for women. this has not only limited the ability of these women to gain adequate access to education it has also decrease the possibility that more women in northern Nigeria will gain high levels of literacy and lift the society from abject poverty (Olujuwon, 2011). Women from the North who seek western education have been subjected to different acts of physical violence. The threat of violence by Boko Haram has been successful in preventing women in Nigeria from accessing formal education. Radical religious teachings have also facilitate the destruction of schools in Northern Nigeria hence limiting the ability of members of this society to seek adequate education for their professional and personal development (Olujuwon, 2011).
High levels of illiteracy among parents and guardians have also been cited as contributing factors to the dwindling levels of education among women in Nigeria. There are parents in some areas in Nigeria whose levels of illiteracy do not allow them to understand the role and importance of girl-child education in the contemporary society (Obasi, 2006). According to 2010 study on the illiteracy levels among parents and guardians in six geopolitical zones in Nigeria, about 60% of those interviewed were illiterate (Olujuwon, 2011). The only way through which parents and guardians in any society can realize the importance of education, especially for the females, is by taking them through education and demonstrations conducted on matters related to its essence. High levels of illiteracy in any society can be used in explaining the reluctance among members of the society to engage their children in formal and western education. Such parents do not understand the growing trends and the levels of competition in the world and this explains the pessimistic nature of women education in different parts of Nigeria (Olujuwon, 2011).
Poverty has been considered as an essential contributor to the quality of education that women in any society can access. In Nigeria, despite the country level of economic growth, many families are still living in abject poverty. According recent study on poverty statistics about 45% of Nigerian population live below the poverty line (Olujuwon, 2011). This is an indication that of the 150 million people in Nigeria about 66 million struggle to meet their basic needs such as food, shelter and clothing (Olujuwon, 2011). In such societies, education is considered as some form of luxury that can only be accessed by those whose basic needs are sufficiently catered for. In addition, in these societies, public education institutions are poorly equipped hence denying those with the ability to access education a chance of quality education. Such individuals are considered less competitive in the job market (Obasi, 2006).
Possible solutions to the challenges facing women’s access to education in Nigeria
There is need for the government of Nigeria together with other stakeholder in the education sector to introduce policies and initiatives aimed at promoting women’s access to education. These can be programs that advocate for the inclusion of women in major employment positions, provision of better facilities to accommodate the divergent and dynamic needs of women (Oghiator, 2005).
There is need for community-based organization and the government to advocate for equal opportunities for both men and women to access education especially in areas that are characterized by male dominance and chauvinistic behavior against women (Oghiator, 2005). Through such initiatives, it will be easier for members of the community to comprehend and understand the essence of educating the girl child within Nigeria. In addition, through such advocacy practices it will also be easier for different religious sects such as Boko haram to understand different aspects of religious neutrality to formal education (Obasi, 2006).
Women’s access to quality education in Nigeria can also be enhanced through the introduction of literacy programs for parents and guardians. This will be one way through which the government of Nigeria and other stakeholders will be improving on the reputation of education form the perspectives of previously illiterate parents (Olujuwon, 2011).
Woman’s access to education in the UAE
Women education in the UAE at a glance
Access to education especially among women was extremely limited since the establishment of UAE in 1971. The government through different initiatives ensured an enormous transformation in the education sector. This has been facilitated by numerous investments that were to cater for dynamic and divergent education needs for its population (Aswad et al, 2011). In the current society, UAE has been able to provide a comprehensive education package targeting both male and female members of its population in equal measure. The comprehensive education initiative covers the education needs of children from elementary school to the university level. This is an indication that public education in UAE is free at all levels (Ibrahim, 2011). The country also celebrates an extensive and highly developed private sector in education, which provides its services to both female and male students in equal measure. In addition, students in UAE also have the ability to access higher education service abroad under government scholarship programs (Ibrahim, 2011).
The ability of women to access efficient education in the UAE is in line with the country’s vision 2021, which puts education as the main priority to the government. The intention by the government to prioritize on high level education standards is attributable to the need to develop human capital, which is an essential enabler in the country’s efforts to establish a differentiated knowledge based economy (Aswad et al, 2011). Women have been considered to play an instrumental role in the development of the country’s economy. This is due to their ability to excel in different academic fields and their ability to comprehend matters related to technological and institutional development that have characterized economic growth in the contemporary society (Ibrahim, 2011).
The focus of UAE government on matters related to education has been enhanced by the decision by the government to allocate about 21% of its 2014 budget to education. These budgetary allocations are aimed at improving on the quality of education by providing adequate facilities and sufficient levels of expertise in the education sector (Renn, 2014). The government through the Ministry of Education has been able to ensure equal access of education services for both men and women in UAE through a series of five year plan successive education policies that are aimed at ensuring an improvement in the education system especially in the way teachers facilitate their lesson and the techniques through which students acquire different skills (Renn, 2014). However, such initiatives, the government aims at ensuring that the education system is characterized by the acquisition of innovative and operational skills. These skills are meant to be applicable in the job market especially in the ability of the students to provide proactive leadership as part of their job description.
Factors enhancing women’s access to education in the UAE
The availability of a plethora or women organizations in the UAE can be said to be a leading cause to the ability of women to access quality education in the country. These organizations advocate for the realization and accommodation of the interest of women in the process of developing polices. The General Women’s Union (GWU) remains crucial to women empowerment (Aswad et al, 2011). Through this movement and other movement women empowerment has been placed as an essential part in the realization of any government strategy. In addition, through the services of GWU, women have been sufficiently represented in different levels of government. GWU has been responsible for among other responsibilities the suggestion of new laws and the amendment of existing laws in ways that favor women in the UAE (Aswad et al, 2011). GWU therefore has been responsible in ensuring that women acquire equal access to education by ensuring that government policies are not biased against women. In addition, women in employment positions have also been provided with opportunities of advancing on their professional and career objectives due to the availability of opportunities for further studies (Ibrahim, 2011).
Constitutional and legal protection has been cited as a major factor that enhances the ability of women in the UAE to access quality education. According to the constitution of UAE, every citizen in the country is entitled equal opportunities in all sectors of the society. The government is charged with responsibility of protecting every citizen and the provision of services such as education to enhance their wellbeing politically, economically and socially (Ibrahim, 2011). According to the UAE constitution women, enjoy equality as citizens of the country in terms of their legal status, access to social welfare, healthcare services and education (Aswad et al, 2011). One of the major motivating factors for women in the UAE is equal access to employment opportunities and payment packages as those of men (Ibrahim, 2011). Women in this society are not only empowered by the ability of the government to provide these services but also by the willingness of different sectors of the economy to embrace and integrate the skills and abilities of women in the job market. Women in this society are therefore motivated to engage in different academic endeavors in ways that promote individual wellbeing and that of the society (Aswad et al, 2011). Equal opportunities that the constitution accords, to both male and female, have made the economy and political platforms highly competitive for those interested. Women in this society understand that their ability to gain any development in their political or economic careers is highly dependent on their ability to engage in academic activities and their ability to embrace skills acquired in education and apply them in the job market (Ibrahim, 2011).
The introduction of women empowerment programs focusing on education have been used as platforms of encouraging women in the country to get involved in different education initiatives. Through these programs, more women than men in the UAE have been enrolled in different education institutions. Education is therefore considered as a stimulus for women in this country (Renn, 2014). Women in this country excel in at the local and international universities under government scholarships. Government scholarships in the education sectors have facilitated women in ways that enable them outperform men at every education level. The UAE according to data by the United Nations is ranked among the most developed nations in terms of the provision of quality education opportunities for women (Ibrahim, 2011). This explains why since the establishment of the country in 1971 the number of women registered in education institutions has been experiencing an exponential rise. According to 2007 education statistics in UAE, more than 70% of those registered in public universities were women (Aswad et al, 2011). This is an indication that in the UAE the levels of literacy are relatively higher compared to countries such as Nigeria. The government and the society understand the essence of quality education in terms development of the country’s economy.
Social change in terms of cultural demands and the position of women in the UAE can also be cited as reasons for high standards of education among women in the country. Traditionally the position of women was dictated by religious doctrines and social norms. In this society, their mothers on how to become wives socialized girls. They were never encouraged to seek any form of education (Aswad et al, 2011). However, with globalization and the integration of market economies, women like men have a role to play in the development of the country’s economy. This explains why they are currently being empowered to further their studies and improve on their careers. These changes in the society have also facilitated the ability to women to engage in different areas of expertise that encourage personal and professional development especially while seeking employment opportunities (Ibrahim, 2011).
Despite the success associated with the ability of women in the UAE to access education, there are also challenges that characterize access to education. For instance, UAE is characterized and largely governed by laws attributed to the Islamic faith (Ibrahim, 2011). This means that despite the liberal nature of the country, the position of women will always be determined by the Islamic faith. This faith has been cited as a limiting factor for women especially in relation to the expectations of womanhood. There are professions that are considered as a preserve of men and this has been considered to limit the types of courses that women in the UAE can enroll or engage in. it is a fact that more women in the UAE are enrolled in institutions of higher learning compared to their male counterparts. However, despite their plurality, these women are populated in limited courses hence limiting their ability to acquire employment upon completion of studies (Aswad et al, 2011).
Possible solutions to the challenges facing women’s access to education in the UAE
There is need for the government and different stakeholders within the UAE to initiate measures and techniques on how to empower more women to enroll in courses that have been considered as a preserve of men. This will improve on the diversity of the market in terms of skills. In addition, it will also be a technique through which women will diversify into novel areas of employability hence improving on their competitive nature in the job market (Aswad et al, 2011).
There is need for the government to initiate community sensitization programs aimed at empowering members of the society to embrace the possibility that women just like their male counterparts can be engage in activities that are technical and relatively physical (Ibrahim, 2011). Through this approach the government and the relevant stakeholders will have the enhanced the possibility of social change on the cultural factors that have been used to identify women as inferior and relatively weak members of the society. This will also be an approach aimed at empowering every members of the community to access equal opportunities provided by the government in terms of access to quality education (Renn, 2014).
Education plays an essential role in the development of an economy and the improvement of life standards of different members of the society. Women in different societies have been subjected to different forms of discrimination in relation to access of quality education. In Nigeria, existing cultural beliefs and the inability by the government to establish effective education policies can be said to be the major contributors to the limited ability of women to access quality education. In addition, low literacy levels and high levels of poverty can be said to be factors that are exacerbation the situation of women education in the country. The UAE is ranked among the most developed countries. This is because of the availability of government policies, women organization, and the constitution, which advocate for equality in the provision of quality education services to every citizen in the country.
Aswad, N. G., Vidican, G., & Samulewicz. (2011). Creating a knowledge-based economy in the
United Arab Emirates: realizing the unfilled potential of women in the science, technology and engineering fields. European Journal of Engineering Education, 36 (6), 559-570.
Ibrahim, N. (2011). The UAE and higher education in the 21st Century. Emirates Center for
Strategic Studies and Research. Abu Dhabi, UAE.
Obasi, V. A. (2006). Gender educational inequality and women empowerment. NAWACS
Journal of Women Academics.
Oghiator, K. (2005). Culture as a constraint in women education: a study of Ukwuani women in
Delta state. International Journal of Forum for African Women Educationists in Nigeria, 1(2).
Olujuwon, T. (2011). Transforming the Nigerian education system. Retrieved August 30, 2012
Renn, K. A. (2014). Women’s colleges and universities in global contexts. Baltimore, Maryland :
Johns Hopkins University Press