Frances Okereafor Nosike is a psychologist and women’s rights activist. In this interview with ENE OSHABA, she speaks on President Muhammadu Buhari’s pledge to increase the national budget for education as well as the need for more attention to be paid girl-child education.
What’s your background and how did you become an activist?
I am the Founder and National President of Gender support for Women’s Emancipation Empowerment in Nigeria and Diaspora. I am a women and youth social consultant as well as a politician.
I was a lecturer after my National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) and was also a councillor at Kings College Lagos and the National Education Technology Centre.
I was in charge of the Way Forward Education 1999 but I later resigned to join active politics on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). In 2015 I joined the All Progressives Congress (APC).
As a gender advocate, how would you describe the status of women and girls in Nigeria?
I would say women and girls have continued to be the engendered species. Most issues affecting women and girls are yet to be addressed and more are emerging.
It is, particularly, not good seeing our girls being kidnapped from their schools at a period when we are already making progress in girl child education.
As women we continue to lament non-inclusion in governance; we should be carried along to enable us contribute our quota to national development.
Recently, President Muhammadu Buhari pledged a 50 per cent budget increase for education with particular reference to girl-child education. What’s your take on this statement?
I was very happy when I heard this and I said bravo to him because this has been long overdue, however, it is not a question of increment, it is a question of implementation of policies so the money cannot be diverted to other things.
How do you think the money can be effectively utilised?
The best way is to use patriotic Nigerians who are committed and passionate to revamp the education system of Nigeria.
This can also be achieved by using women educationists and children-centred leaders in the education system.
It is unfortunate that children are being kidnapped from school even those in kindergarten. The girls are not safe in schools, not even those in the tertiary institutions.
The bandits are concentrating on education and there hasn’t been commiserate approach to addressing the challenges by the leaders in the sector.
We are not happy that some children can no longer go to school and parents would rather have them at home because of fear of them being kidnapped.
So many others have died and others have been badly injured yet not even a word from the ministry of education concerning the kidnappings in schools. This is unfortunate and I believe that having men at the hem of education sector is not the best option because we don’t see the passion as much as it would have been if it were women leading that sector. Women are mothers and would always go the extra mile to ensure their children are okay.
This quality can be translated into ensuring that education policies are well implemented and only women can have that passion.
I personally believe that a woman as the Minister of Education would have done something better in the system because of her nature of caring as mother.
The President has made a very laudable move by pledging financial support to education and if he brings more women into the system his aim will be achieved better because women are builders and when you educate a woman you educate a the world.
When I talk about female minister of education I mean qualified ones, irrespective of religion, tribe, political affiliation, women educationists should be used in achieving this noble move to revamp the education system of Nigeria in order to get the best results.
What exactly can women do to revamp the sector?
Women are compassionate so Mr. President should engage more women because the monies would be channelled into the right sources.
There are many good education policies already, as I mentioned earlier, but they have not been effectively implemented. I believe with a woman at the hem of affairs the education sector she would not be thinking about marrying another husband unlike men who may decide to use the money for such.
The Education curriculum should be revised to include all the subjects that teach morals like Civic Education, Religious Studies, History, and so on. Sports men and women should be groomed from secondary schools by reviving practices like inter-house and inter-school sports competitions.
Also, to tackle the spate of kidnapping every school should be fenced and there should be security officials manning the gates and there should be a department of security in the school made up of personnel from security agencies in the country including the Army, Police, NSCDC, among others. These agencies should be equipped with gadgets to ensure safety of our children in the schools especially those in boarding schools.
The government should not approve a school building where people are not living and inspectors of education should always go round to inspect both federal and state schools to ensure all schools are well equipped with water, electricity, good classrooms and enough space with people who will maintain the environment.
What would you say are the implications of insecurity to schools in Nigeria?
The implementations include that we are not meeting up to global standard of education when the sector is supposed to be competing favourably with other countries insecurity and unemployment has been the name.
When these major challenges are tackled and graduates get jobs to enable them take care of themselves and their families and also contribute to national development as empowered citizens, the rate of crime will drastically reduce.
As someone who has worked in schools before, how would you assess quality of facilities in school now?
Unlike those days when we were in school, right from the old national anthem which I think is more meaningful and when singing it teaches strong moral lessons, schools today are quite different and not improving as it should.
I feel that school laboratory should be well equipped than what is available in most schools today.
There should be adequate playgrounds for recreation activities; teachers should go on e-service training and computer studies should be taught in schools especially in the rural areas so that those in such areas will be able to partake in computerised exams.
Each classrooms should have separate toilet, what I am saying, in general, is that the 50 per cent budget increase should be channelled to school equipments and welfare of teachers and I assure you by the end of that two years if these recommendations are followed you will see a massive improvement in the education system.
Now that the President has made this pledge to the world the minister of labour should begin by scouting for educationists, especially women, to make this aspiration a reality.
Why do you keep emphasising on women educationists?
That is because it is the women educationists that will commit themselves truly to achieving this goal because we are talking about our children’s education and safety here.
There are several educational Non-Government Organisations run basically by women and who understand these issues and will fit perfectly into the plan.
I can mobilise these women if given the opportunity, this shouldn’t be politicised if we truly appreciate what the president has done.
The president specifically said 50 per cent increment with special attention to girl child education because they have been mostly affected by the issues of kidnapping, gender abuse and discrimination.
I will re-emphasize that more positions be given to women in the education sector to bring the desired change.
How do you think the problem of insecurity in schools can be surmounted?
I must say this is a particularly scary situation for women and girls. Parents in rural areas don’t even want to send their girls to school any longer because of the fear of losing them to terrorists and bandits.
From the way things are being done I believe these are unemployed youths, Christians, Muslims, Hausa’s, Igbo’s and other tribes are all involved. They are looking for means of survival because the economy is harsh but we don’t want any division, we are better off as one Nigeria.
What can women do to change this ugly situation?
Recall what happened during the Aba Women Riot where women came out en mass to protest and their demands were met?
Women are ready for change, we want a better Nigeria and they should be adequately carried along in governance especially to help the president achieve the aim of girl-child education within these two years.
We want unity and we all have the responsibility to help the president achieve this. One major challenge with governance in the country is sycophancy and this has destroyed lots of good things in this country. Give more women opportunities in governance because records have proven that if you want to achieve a lot work with women.