The kidnapping of over 300 teenage girls at Chibok Government Girls Secondary School in Nigeria has captivated attention and headlines across the world, inspiring outrage, compassion, and calls to action. The girls were taken by Boko Haram, whose very name declares that education is sinful.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the girls, their families and those working to bring them home safely.
These devastating acts reflect a much larger problem – girls are being targeted and threatened with violence, kidnapping and more just for seeking an education.
That’s why the global community must stay committed to helping protect and promote girls’ education around the world so that every girl has the opportunity to live up to her full potential.
The numbers tell a hopeful story about progress in girls’ access to education over the past two decades. Here are some important facts and statistics about girls’ education in Nigeria and across the globe, and why protecting schools like Chibok is vital to girls, women, and the world.
FACTS: Why Education Matters
The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2013 shows that where the gender gap is closest to being closed in a range of areas—including access to education, health survivability, economic participation, and political participation—countries and economies are more competitive and prosperous.
Half of the reductions of child mortality between 1970 and 1990 can be attributed to increased education for women of reproductive age.*
A 2011 World Bank report found that investing in girls’ education and opportunities in Nigeria and 13 other developing nations could increase a country’s gross domestic product by 1.2% in a single year.
A 2002 study on the effect of education on average wages estimates that primary school education increases girls’ earnings by 5 to 15 % over their lifetimes.
FACTS: The Gaps that Remain
Girls and women continue to make up the largest share of the world’s illiterate population (61.3%), and literacy rates in Nigeria hover around 50 to 60%.
Gender gaps are especially wide in places like Sub-Saharan Africa, where 40.1 % of girls and 33.1 % of boys are not enrolled in secondary schools like Chibok. This translates into 11.8 million girls in the region not accessing the education they need to attend university, find work, achieve financial independence, and contribute to a growing economy.**
Girls also face early marriage as barrier to education, and should the girls from Chibok be sold into slavery or forced marriages, their chances of achieving their dreams will be all but dashed. In a study conducted in Kenya, researchers found that a marriage partner is associated with a 78 % increased risk of termination of secondary schooling.
Globally, there are 37.4 million girls not enrolled in lower secondary school compared to 34.2 million boys, a gap of 3.2 million.***
It’s an unfortunate reality that it takes an act of courage to seek an education in places like Nigeria. But the girls at Chibok, despite the threats, pursued an education because they and their families understood just how valuable it is. Their resolve will set an example for generations to come and exemplifies the importance of working for the advancement of girls and women across the world so that every girl has a chance to go to school, fulfill her dreams, and break the ceilings and barriers she encounters.
This Mother’s Day, let’s remember the mothers who are missing their daughters, in Nigeria and around the world.
* Emmanuela Gakidou et al., “Increased Educational Attainment and Its Effect on Child Mortality in 175 Countries between 1970 and 2009: A Systematic Analysis,” The Lancet 376, no. 9745 (September 2010): 959–74. Although economic growth was also significantly associated with reductions in child mortality, the magnitude of the association was much smaller than that of increased education. 21 regions, approximately 4 million out of the 8 million children whose lives were saved can be attributed to education for women.
** Shelley Clark and Rohini Mathur, “Dating, Sex, and Schooling in Urban Kenya,” Studies in Family Planning 43, no. 3 (September 2012): 161–74.
*** UNESCO Institute for Statistics, Global Education Digest 2011: Comparing Education Statistics across the World (Montreal, Quebec: UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2011).