INVESTIGATION: How girl child marriage, teenage pregnancy is influencing school dropouts in Jigawa State
Talatu Nassidi, a resident of Kasuwar Kuda community in Hadeja LGA, was just 14 years when she was forcefully given out in marriage to Ibrahim Nassidi a grain seller who resides in Yobe state.
Despite so much hope to live her dream life, Talatu is now a nursing mother forced to drop out of school to focus on her marriage and take care of her little baby Ummi.
“I was already in JSS 2 when my husband came to seek my hand in marriage, Ibrahim spoke to my parents and promised them so much and within a week the topic at home changed, everyone now wanted me to marry, at this point I couldn’t disrespect my parent or run away from the house.
“I was thinking after the marriage he will go with me, while I still live with my parents though in a separate room, Ibrahim only comes home at month end to check on us. I could not further my education as I was too ashame to sit in the classroom with my pregnancy, who;e I felt like running away most times, I am still worried about my parent,” Talatu said.
Bala Kabir, Talatu’s father, narrates to this reporter why they have to mortgage Talatu’s education and her health.
“We could barely eat or even survive after the flood destroyed all my farmland, I have 6 children and Talatu is the only girl among 5 boys, Ibrahim offered me a job to be a supervisor in his farm, it was a juicy opportunity I couldn’t say no too after he asked for my daughters hand in marriage in return.
“It wasn’t an easy decision but we just had to make it, now we can feed and I can take care of my family as a responsible man,” Kabir said.
The federal Child Rights Act adopted in Nigerian law bans child marriage as required under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. But a conflicting clause in Section 29(4)(b) of Nigeria’s Constitution defines any married female as having reached the age of majority, regardless of her age at marriage.
In Gingiya community Babura LGA, Salamtu Nuhu, now 22 years with two children was in SS2, in Babura Government Girls Secondary School when she dropped out and was forced into marriage.
Salamtu was a science student and her hope of pursuing a career in nursing was cut short when the pressure from her parents insisted that she must marry.
“I pleaded with my parent to allow me to complete at least my secondary education since I only had one year left to round up, then I will marry then further my education in my husband’s house, while they disagreed, they insisted that only my husband will determine that, It was frustrating.
“I was only 16 then. While In Islam marriage is a beautiful thing, and we all desire to be married someday, this is not how we desire it to be, we should still be able to achieve big dreams through proper schooling, you know once you are married, pregnancy sets in and that’s all for you before you know another pregnancy shows up,” Salamtu said.
Nadiya Shamsudeen, now 18, in Kafin Rabo community in Babura LGA, had just written her WAEC and was awaiting her result when the topic of marriage was raised in her house, determined by a big dream, Nadiya is now a nursing mother filled with so much regret.
“My classmates, some are now in the university, but here I am as a housewife with zero hope of ever going to school, no one wants to even hear me mention that, its like an abomination if I mention I want to return to school, I was scammed by my parent, Zadiya said.
“Most men over here don’t like going to school, so they want you to also be like them, you end up as a housewife, raising children that will just go to the farm, I just hope one day the government will do something about the girl child education, its really bad how they treat us over here as girls,” she added.
Teenage pregnancy, also referred to as adolescent pregnancy, has drastically increased in recent years in Nigeria to the extent that this social issue has stimulated into a precarious threat leading to drop from school, stigma, rejection, or violence by partners, parents, and peers.
It has also affected the health, active participation, and education of many girl-child in society. Adolescent pregnancy and childbearing often lead girls to drop out of school.
A Peep into Data
Adolescent pregnancy data from the world health organization revealed that nearly 12 million girls aged 15–19 years and at least 777,000 girls under 15 years give birth each year with at least 10 million unintended pregnancies occurring each year among adolescent girls aged 15–19 years in the developing world.
Similarly, adolescent pregnancy and complications that arise during both pregnancy and childbirth have also led to the cause of death for 15–19-year-old girls globally. Of the estimated 5.6 million abortions that occur each year among adolescent girls, 3.9 million of them are unsafe, contributing to maternal mortality, morbidity, and lasting health problems in society.
In Nigeria, 1 out of 5 teenage women from age 15-19 are already mothers or pregnant with their first child. According to the state, Lagos which has 1 percent of teenage girls who have begun childbearing, has the lowest percentage, unlike Bauchi in northeastern Nigeria which has 41 percent. Forty-four percent of teenage women with no education have begun childbearing, compared to 1 percent of teenage women with more than secondary education.
Many girls who are pregnant were utterly unprepared for the circumstances in which they unknowingly or unintentionally found themselves. In many societies, teenage pregnancies are stigmatized, and most of them are pressured or forced to drop out of school, which consequently wrecks their educational chances.
For Jamila Muktarin Kazure LGA, her case was not different as she revealed that she dropped out of school in SS 2 because of the stigma from people and her peers in school.
“I was only 17 when my parent forced me into marrying my husband, and they all agreed that I should continue my school after the marriage, when I discovered that I was pregnant, which I never planned for, I didn’t want to stop schooling, I traveled to town and bought some drugs twice on market days to abort the fetus but they did not work. I had no option other than to keep the baby and eventually gave birth to a girl”, she recounted.
The Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey in a study confirmed that 33 percent of women aged 15-49 in Nigeria have no education, compared to 22 percent of men aged 15-49. However, 14 percent of women and 13 percent of men have attended primary school.
Also, 4 out of 10 women and 48 percent of men have attended secondary school. Only 11 percent of women and 17 percent of men have more than secondary education. 47 percent of women and 28 percent of men are illiterate.
This infers a greater percentage of literate males than females in the 15–49 age bracket. However, the notion that girls should be responsible for preventing pregnancy and that it is their fault if they become pregnant is still widely held.
The Law and Child Pregnancy
The Nigeria Child’s Right Act 2003 recognizes the right of a child to free, compulsory, and universal basic education. Section 15, subsection 5 made provision for a female child who becomes pregnant before completing her education. Such a female child is granted an opportunity after delivery to continue with her education.
Investing in girls’ education transforms communities, countries, and the entire world. Girls who receive an education are less likely to marry young and more likely to lead healthy, productive lives. They earn higher incomes, participate in the decisions that most affect them, and build better futures for themselves and their families.
The Health Implication
Dr. Ibrahim Kiyawa, a nutritionist with the Jigawa State Ministry of Health, disclosed that teenagers are at a greater risk for pregnancy-related high blood pressure and its complications.
“Parents force their girl child into marriage and fail to weigh the health factor as well as the human rights aspect. I understand that all of this is due to their level of education and awareness.
“Most patients today in our health facility issue of high blood pressure, and they are within their teenage age, and this happens before or during delivery, this often leads to death,” Kiyawa said.
Maryam Balarebe, a midwife nurse at the Rasheed Shekoni Specialist Hospital in Dutse, described how teenage motherhood affects the whole body psychologically, physically, and socially.
“Health-wise, teenage pregnancy will affect the girl because her body is not properly developed. When someone is pregnant, it will affect all the systems and the body might not be able to cope. Psychologically too, she will be thinking if she will survive the process,” Maryam said.
“We are left with the most burden to help these girls when they are pregnant, we feel their pain, you see how unprepared these girls are, but they can’t do otherwise against their parent’s wish,” she added.
Maryam narrates how most teenage pregnancy comes with issues of vesico vaginal fistula, an abnormal opening between the vagina and urinary bladder.
“The result is that urine leaks out of the vagina, whenever she is sitting down, or going about, urine will be dropping out through the vagina. Then she will be stinking and smelling. At times, it may be between the vagina and the rectum that has to do with feces. If you move closer to that person, you will be perceiving a kind of odor of urine or feces. The only way to repair this opening is through surgery, which is a problem that needs money”, she said.
Jigawa Government Set To Respond
Nuhu Kabir, the public relations officer of the ministry of information, Jigawa state explained the government’s plans to prosecute violators of human rights including issues of girl-child marriage.
“There have been several motions in the state assembly which I geared towards addressing the issue of girl child marriage and forceful marriage of the girl child below the age bracket, we understand parents have their different reasons, but it is the right of the girl child to have a sound education.
“If she chose to drop out on her own, it’s fine, but we must understand that no parent has the right to force their daughter into marriage at the detriment of their education, the state government is strongly coming up with a policy that will address all of these issues,” Kabir said.
Mohammed Salisu, the coordinator National Human Rights, Jigawa office, described girl child marriage as a human rights issue that requires urgent attention.
“We find ourselves in a region where people are tied to culture and region, people always think religion permits some sort of abnormality, how will you allow ur gild child to drop out of school just to marry, its wrong and condemnable and people must know that they can be arrested if found guilty of a such crime as it is a human right issue,” Salisu said.
“As a commission, we are working strongly with the state government to address this abnormality as there as been reports from people of this crime, we have managed to resolve some while some pulled some weight which requires some stringent laws from the state government,” he added.