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Amina Oyagbola Highlights Key Pillars of Educating Nigeria’s Next Generation

There is plenty for Nigerians to feel positive and proud about. For example, the country is blessed with an abundance of natural resources, features some of the world’s most breathtaking natural beauty, and enjoys a booming entrepreneurial sector. And of course, there is Nigeria’s intensely beloved three-time Africa Cup of Nations champion Super Eagles. Plus, according to a recent Gallup poll Nigerians smile more each day than citizens in any other country in the world.

However, alongside these causes of optimism are reasons for concern; and in some cases, dismay and shame. And unfortunately, the matter of educating girls and women makes the dubious list. According to research by the Education Policy and Data Center, 46 percent of secondary school-aged young women do not attend formal or informal education programs, with enrollment and retention being especially problematic in northern states.

“It is impossible for Nigeria to achieve its full potential economically, socially, culturally, and in all other ways if we do not make educating girls and women a top, mission-critical national priority,” commented Amina Oyagbola, the Founder and Chairperson of the non-profit organization WISCAR (Women in Successful Careers), and an internationally-renowned advocate for women's economic and educational rights in Nigeria for more than 20 years. “There are also moral and ethical considerations as well. We cannot play a strong leadership role in continental and global affairs if half — or in some states and more than half — of our population is uneducated and therefore systematically prevented from fully contributing in the workforce if they choose to do so.”

According to Amina Oyagbola, the key pillars of educating and cultivating Nigeria’s next generation of successful businesswomen include changing the paradigm, providing incentives and financial support, and offering mentorship opportunities.

Changing the Paradigm

Officially, education in Nigeria is free and mandatory for both boys and girls. However, many girls are prevented from enrolling in school based on the belief that it is unimportant, unnecessary, and may pose a threat to the established cultural order — one in which girls do not aspire to leadership roles in the workplace and government.

According to Amina Oyagbola, we must change this paradigm through outreach campaigns that help families and communities understand and embrace the notion that educating girls is not a threat to their way of life, but is, in fact, a smart and pragmatic strategy that will elevate the quality of living standards for everyone — including future generations. In other words, educating girls and putting them on a path to become business leaders in the future will not impoverish and weaken communities - it will enrich and strengthen them. Research by the International Monetary Fund has found that improving gender equality in Nigeria would increase the country’s economic output by 1.25 percent annually.

Providing Incentives and Financial Support

As noted earlier, 46 percent of secondary school-aged young women do not attend formal or nonformal education programs. And while cultural obstacles are a major part of the problem, financial barriers are also in the way.

Amina states that we must stop forcing ambitious and astute girls and young women to choose between supporting their families or achieving their career goals. They need to have the opportunity to do both through incentives and financial support programs, like cash transfers to cover the costs of basic education — which is supposed to be free, but many primary schools still charge fees — and scholarships and grants for those who want to pursue a college education and advanced training. This is an investment in the future of our country, and the ROI is enormous.

Offering Mentorship Opportunities

Young career-minded women in Nigeria typically do not have structured guidance at critical points in their professional lives — which often means they either stagnate in their career and fail to reach their potential, or they become disheartened and frustrated and end up dropping out of their career entirely. Either outcome is categorically unfair and excessively costly at both micro and macro levels.

“Filling this mentorship gap is at the heart of WISCAR,” commented Amina Oyagbola. “Our program provides entry level and mid-career professional women with a structured and supportive mentoring platform that empowers them with the skills and capacity they need to grasp the corporate landscape, avoid pitfalls, and successfully navigate their dynamic careers”.

This article does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editors or management of EconoTimes.

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