-Taiye Idahor & Kehinde Idahor
For decades, the girl child suffered neglect. She received scant attention and was never factored into Nigeria’s development mix. She was to be seen and not heard. Then it was a dictum that a woman’s place is in the kitchen.
So no one really bothered to send their girl child to school. What’s the essence? She would soon marry, and start giving birth and all their money would be wasted. Let her learn to cook, wash clothes, sweep and mop the floors in the house. And that’s better.
In some African homes, particularly in Nigeria, the women are told to “shhh”. The situation is not helped by most religious organizations, the woman is told to be quiet so the man can “lead”. In a nutshell, the girl child has no voice. She is subject to the man.
Some stakeholders and authority figures have dared to raise their voices and expectedly, that long advocacy has raised the profile of the girl child from obscurity to limelight. Today, the girl child is no longer a pushover. The girls are everywhere in the classrooms, sometimes out-numbering the boys and beating the males to it.
At many University convocation ceremonies, the girl child often dusts the boys and carts home prizes and awards. Today, the girl child is more focused and serious than the boy child. While the girl child has been groomed, and empowered to foray into the future, the boy child has been neglected.
How did this happen? While empowering and enlightening girls on the power of sound education to fit them for their new roles in today’s world, the boys have been left in a quandary.
Parents and guardians started to assume wrongly that the boys were already okay and needed little or no attention to stand on their own. But these boys aren’t okay by themselves. Not many have been taught to cook rice or wash plates, their sisters always did this for them. Not many know how to handle their emotions, they were always told not to cry and “be a man”.
What can they do? Only a few sit up and learn the basics of home keeping, perseverance, studying and other important values. The rest tend to fall into cultism, smoking, drinking, fraud (419) and many other vices.
So really, who would marry the “trained” girls with “intimidating” CVs, the boys who don’t know how to stay for an hour reading their notes? Or those who are too focused on going to clubs and bars to “catch cruise?” God help us.
But in an interview with UNILAG Sun, Dr Jean Balouga, a lecturer in the Department of Economics, blamed the problem on our culture and distractions in society.
” This is the issue, our culture says a man should be watching the television or doing something else, while the woman is in the kitchen and we are not saying that’s bad. What’s the consequence of this, say after 10 years? The boy doesn’t know how to wash a plate, or wash his dresses. Will he be useful to himself? No, Why not train him to wash his clothes?
“Incidentally, I told my son… to go and wash plates, this week is his turn to wash plates. When he went, he came back and said, ‘Oh, dad I’ve finished.’ I told him, Yes, you are preparing yourself for manhood. I didn’t tell him I was happy. I told him you are preparing yourself, start doing what you would do before you get married now.
” There are some distractions. Again it has to do with individuals but generally, boys are more distracted than girls. We have games like football etc. which girls would not generally do, we have a few girls who are crazy about sports but girls would not take their boots and start playing, the way boys play football.
“Another thing is freedom the boys want to exploit. They are just free, I have to be a man, be myself. The girls have some reservations. Generally, we have more boys admiring girls than girls admiring boys. Some of them never had freedom in quote and then they are getting older like 21, 22.
“Generally, girls are younger in the university than boys are. Girls marry earlier than boys. The boys fend for the girls generally, I’m not saying it’s always like that. Now, the man you want to marry must have graduated and is working one or two years. In very few cases, you have the boy and the girl graduating same year and getting married. What the man does is to graduate, work and get married.
” You have boys who just want to play,befriend somebody, maybe for the friends to know her has a girlfriend. Instead of reading your book, you’re thinking of a girl.
” If a girl gives you an appointment by 2 p.m, you would wake up 4 a.m, and then you’re thinking if a girl who is coming by 2 p.m, she may end up coming by 6 p.m. Throughout that day, you may not concentrate to read your books.
A psychology lecturer from the university called for another advocacy to bail out the boy child. “We have to fight back again to bring about balancing. As it is now, male children are suffering too, because of the shift, to care for the hitherto neglected females but while doing that, they are now unconsciously relegating the male.
But Grace, a 400 level psychology student blamed the problem in parents’ negative mindsets.
“It’s due to the cultural mindset we have, despite the fact that we are all being enlightened and there’s civilization, we still do things with an old school mindset.
“Even if they are twins, boy and girl, same age, it’s the girl that is expected to do everything and the boy would sit down majestically. He can even eat and just drop his plate in the kitchen. Men have been seen to be superior since…
“Even when they grow and are in school, parents still place more attention in the girl because they believe girls are weaker and the boys are expected to take care of themselves and take responsibility for themselves.
“It’s toxic masculinity. They expect that as a guy, you don’t expect us to do some things for you. Maybe a guy and a girl are experiencing the same thing, more attention will still be placed on the girl. If both a boy and girl falls down now, people will tell the boy to be a man. It’s a cycle, the trained woman still goes to marry the same boys we are talking about and give birth, then train the boys like that too.”
The moot question is: Will the girl child, now cultured and with intimidating CV marry the ill-prepared boy child?
Adetutu, a 300-level student of History and Strategic Studies, explained that “Women want to show themselves now that they can do better. I can’t marry my classmate, personally a man that is not up to me academically. I feel when it’s time to give birth, having two strong genes will make my child better, I can’t marry a man who is not up to me academically.”
But a 100 level male student said, “It depends on the girls who have set goals for themselves and boys also set goals, this life is not a competition.”
However, Damilola, a 300 level student of philosophy shared that, ” I don’t feel intimidated by a woman who is performing better than I am. We all have different mental strengths and capacity. Besides, the first person that became a best graduating student in UNILAG was from the Psychology department before others started coming up.
When asked if he could marry a woman who is doing better than him, he replied, “I am doing well in my own field and she is doing well too, so I’m not intimidated.”
But Ojo Deborah, a final year economics student believes that, ” I don’t think it’s all the girls that are doing so well, I still believe there are still some guys that are doing well for themselves, maybe not as much but there are still some guys that are doing well.”
Fayo Yimika, a final year philosophy student believes the girl child advocacy has worked magic.
“In the past, the male gender has been placed over the female, but now there is a liberation for the women, as the veil has been removed.”
When asked if she could marry a man who is not as academically sound as she is, she quipped,” I don’t judge based on academics, some may not be good academically but good in other areas.”
Apparently aware of the boy child problem, in October 2021, Mrs. Ibijoke Sanwo-Olu launched a novel initiative, ” The Boy-Child Initiative” to ensure a gender- balanced society.
Dr. Balouga also supports such advocacy. ” Parents have to be told, you cannot bend a dry fish, so to speak. If somebody is 25, 26 or 27 and has never washed a plate and now you want to force him, that’s very hard. You have to talk to parents, you can have TV programmes to talk to parents…Enlightenment should go round telling people. When you leave the girl child to do everything, you empower her.”
A psychology lecturer adds, ” People’s consciousness should be raised to see that another drift is coming up again, that the males are being relegated, so a balance can be stricken.”
It is apparent from the foregoing that the boy child is ill-equipped for his future role in society.