In countries around the world today, women groups of all kinds are campaigning for equal rights for both men and women in the critical areas of politics, education, job provision, custody rights, land ownership, and so on. Regardless of advancements made in certain quarters, most countries in Africa still have laws that restrict girls or women from gaining education. Some of these laws are not particularly legal, but result from the superstitious and patriarchal beliefs that are handovers from past generations.
Dan Mou’s Girl Child Education, Democratic Governance and Sustainable Development in Africa (Pan African Publishing House, Abuja; 2015) comprises of 13 chapters and 120 pages. The first section contains 10 chapters, which ‘examines the issues of girl child education, democratic governance, and sustainable development in Africa’, while the second part consists of three chapters, which ‘focus squarely on the questions of the African family, the woman, and societal values.’
Whereas, the girl child embodies as much talent and skills as the boy child, the girl child tends to be given less considerations in most African societies. The author informs about this prevalent neglect and discrimination, addresses the causes, and provides alternate solutions.
“The greatest weakness of this neo-classical micro-economic approach to the problem of girl child education is its exclusive focus at the individual level; thereby ignoring the structural factors by so doing. It provides little insight into the structural determinants of girl child discrimination in education and other areas by the fathers.”
Why has the problem of girl child education persisted till this century? The book gives explicit reasons for this, and itemises the factors responsible for the dilemma. The author also states that the problem persists today due to failure in state policies.
Mou writes, “The argument is that the state lacks the autonomy to ensure that its policies are in the interests of all groups and classes in the society. Instead, the state, therefore, its policies, is completely hostaged to serving the interest of the dominant classes and groups on which it depends.”
The author, in dealing with this plight, makes several suggestions, which, if applied, could yield positive change. A major suggestion the author makes is in adopting the policies of good, democratic governance.
In section two, on the other hand, Mou focuses on the African family, the woman, and societal values. Quoting former President Jimmy Carter, he said, “The family is the first Government. If we want less Government, we must have stronger families, for Government steps in by necessity when families have failed.”
The author uses this pithy submission to emphasise the core role the family plays in society and in allocating roles to its members. The author wraps up the section in a concise style, when he said, “Clearly, even though the bourgeoisie (liberal) and Marxist thinking and analysis may not have adequately conceptualised or reckoned with it, the family is a very potent unit to target or focus public policies, especially if they are to benefit the children, including the girl child, the youth, the women, the disabled, the aged and other venerable members of the society or nation.”
Mou’s Girl Child Education, Democratic Governance… is a must read, as the book contains astounding information needed to correct a major societal lapse. It exposes the average African to the persisting problem of discriminatory actions the girl child still experiences even in 21st century. If government really wants to practice good democracy, it needs to wake up to the call for reorientation of its citizenry in this aspect. Education should not be the exclusive preserve of only one gender – the boy or girl child. All hands being on deck to make Africa great and must include giving the girl child deserving education!