Title: Girl-Child Education In Biu Emirate
Publisher: Klamidas Books, Utako District, Abuja, year 2014
Author: Bukar Usman,
Reviwer: Bayo Ogunmupe
THIS is the first book of a series of Biu Emirate Studies Series on Women education in Northern Nigeria. This volume is about the travails of the trail-blazing girls of Biu who battled gender discrimination parental opposition, early marriage and other barriers to become the first girls to acquire western education. This occurred between 1930 and 1960.
Early years of Girl-Child education in Biu Emirate is a book, which chronicles the odds against these trail blazers who grew up to become forces of positive change. One of them stood up to a Prince, another endured regular 24 kilometre trek to and from school except during the holidays. Moreover, a precious eight year old among them defied her parents to enroll herself in school. Vigorously animating in this social chronicle is author Bukar Usman’s focus on the girls and the challenges of their quest for education. This book is empirical rather than polemic. The story is anchored on testimonies given by the heroines of the saga. They are vivid illustrations of the fact that empowering girls and women is one fo the most effective ways of ending poverty and ignorance in Northern Nigeria. Besides, girl-child education will not only boost employment, it will build a healthier, wealthier and enlightened communities. Beyond the pioneering spirit of Usman’s Biu emirate as against the Chibok girls of Borno. Thus, the girls’ lives affirm the aphorism: ‘‘Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.” That charge was given by Nora Ephron, the great 20th century American educator.
This book has 138 pages, seven chapters, five pages of endnotes and 40 pages of appendices. With the introduction of the Universal Basic Education Scheme in 1999, Nigeria signed the covenant to educate all of her children as a fundamental right. But despite this commitment to educate every child of school age, one out of every five children of school age is out of the Nigerian school today.
Indeed, statistics aver that about 10.5 million Nigerian children are out of school. This amounts to 47 per cent of the global out of school population. The majority of these children live in North East of Nigeria with a disproportionately large number of these kids being girls. In fact for every three boys in school, there is only one girl. This Bukar Usman’s book is a historical account of the struggle of every community in Biu Emirate of Borno State. The book narrates, through key informants or research assistants how tentative acceptance of western education excluded the girl child.
Often, girls were educated only because boys, who had the right of first refusal were unwilling or unable to enroll. Thus this narrative on education in Borno State, now a war torn area, mirrors the reality of illiteracy in Northern Nigeria. This encapsulates the synergy of efforts by parents, community leaders, colonialists and indigenous public servants to educate and develop the North. Usman showcased the success stories of women in Biu Emirate of Borno State.
However, apart from the constraints imposed by religion, culture and the economy, the Boko Haram religious war has critically amplified the constraints to education and the girl-child education in particular. But the kernel of this book is the fervent hope that girl-child education remains the cornerstone to unlocking underdevelopment and sectarian conflict in North Eastern Nigeria.
The author, Bukar Usman retired as permanent secretary in 1999. Since then he has devoted his time to writing, social commentary and folklore revival in Nigeria. He is the president of the Nigerian Folklore Society, serving on the board of trustees of the Centre for the Preservation and Promotion of Hausa Language and Culture in Nigeria. His books include a compendium of Hausa folktales and three English short stories, two autobiographies, The Twin Rivers of World Heritage and this history of girl-child education in Biu Emirate. For more on the author, visit: www.bukarusman.com