A makeshift school on a camp for displaced people in Abuja

By Ndidichukwu Odoh

A Mixed-Method Research Study under the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Nigeria Girls’ Education Project, Phase 3 says female teachers have a positive impact on girl pupils and more female teachers in schools will improve girls’ educational outcomes.

The purpose of the research which was to find out to what extent, and how, the presence of female teachers influence girl’s enrollment and retention in school, is to provide evidence to what will promote improved opportunity for girls in northern Nigeria through education.

Findings from the research suggests that the presence of female teachers leads to increased enrollment, exposure to female role models and lower dropout rate for pupils.

The study also tried to provide answers to what barriers contribute to the under-representation of qualified female teachers in rural communities. The presence of teachers in rural schools shows that both male and female teachers are reluctant to take teaching posts in rural communities in Nigeria and specific factors that inhibit female enrollment include family, health and security.

Respondents to the research questions said, “our father had not enrolled his daughters in school previously until he saw that female teachers were abundant in the school so he decided to enroll the girls because he realized that they would be safe because they are in the hands of their mothers.”

Another respondent said “pupils understand the female teachers more easily than the male teachers because they are patient and friendly with pupils” while another view is that “female teachers are important in schools because they understand how to tackle different situation the pupils have, especially when it is problem at home. Female teachers are patient to hear the problems and to help them try to solve it”

Motherly qualities is one of the key reason why female teachers are adjudged to be better than male, as most of the respondents during the research said “ female teachers are used to taking care of kids and they know how to handle children better than male teachers.”

UNICEF’s Education Specialist, Azuka Menkiti said “the presence of a single female teacher has a positive and statistically significant effect on the percentage of girls in total enrollment”

Menkiti said “female teachers have a substantial positive effect on girl’s educational outcomes, and among rural schools there is huge demand for more female teachers, we must address these issues because the research is the evidence that female teachers are very few and one of the main reasons why girls are not in school especially in the north”

“to achieve gender parity in rural classrooms, the number of female teachers would have to increase four-fold meaning that an additional 58,121 female teachers would need to be hired” Menkiti said.

“There are few female teachers in rural schools because in Nigeria there has been a historic shortage of educate women and most live in urban areas, there are also insufficient incentives for most female teachers to teach in rural schools” said UNICEF’s specialist on Education Dr.Noel Ihebuzo.

Ihebuzo said the research showed that female teachers do better as mathematics teachers, they make parents feel safe and comfortable, parents like that female teachers help girls develop good manners and behavior.

The research therefore recommends higher salaries and rural posting allowances, more scholarships, education allowances and flexible professional development opportunities associated with teachers taking rural posts and provision of vehicles or transportation allowance.