Last Sunday was Family Sunday in my church, and one of the events was the presentation of awards by the teen church to five teenage members who scored the highest in this year in this year’s “JAMB” examinations ( a prequalification exam for entry into the university). Three of them scored over 300 and two between 280 and 290. These are no mean feat in a nation that mooted the idea of 120marks as the cut-off mark for admission into tertiary institutions.
The high scores were not the only interesting part of this award. Another to me was The fact that these five top performers were all female.
I knew one of the candidates a bit closely as one of my best customers at the church bookstore. She is an avid reader. Almost every Sunday, once service is over you find her moving from shelf to shelf to find her next reads. She will run back to her father, a man who encourages her by always buying her these books. If he doesn’t have the money immediately we give still sell to him and he pays later. I was so proud of this young lady as she validates the maxim that readers are indeed leaders. I couldn’t help capping her award with two books on my bill. She has already secured admission to the university to study Computer Engineering.
An occurrence like this in which 5 top academic performers were all females could either be an indication of some emerging fundamental shift in the performance balance between the genders, or a random occurrence. To get some trusted opinions on what could be happening, I posted a short write-up on Facebook about the event. The post attracted 32 reactions and 12 comments. Of the comments, I found the three below quite interesting.
My friend and old classmate said ” I am on the field. The girls have been topping the classes. During our time, we had some good girls too but the competition was awesome”. He is a teacher and has so been for over 20years!
Another friend, a lawyer wrote – “There was a clarion call some years back by mothers in the South Eastern part of Nigeria that in some years to come the daughters will have no one to marry them because of the educational disparity between the male child and the female. Something needs to be done about this”.
And the third comment was from a banker friend, he said “Your observation is correct, a young girl cleared all the awards except two or so in my son’s class during their graduation. And guess what? The rest was shared between the other young girls and boys. The ladies “face” their books these days more than the boys, we need to get a balance”.
The three comments lend some insights from fathers who also have female children in schools. The teacher was speaking from his over 20years field exposure, and his comments were essentially corroborative of the postulation that we may be having some shifts in the gender balance on academic performance in schools. I think this is a subject that should attract interests from researchers in the education space in our society. We need to find out if this is indeed true and what is driving it. The knowledge is important so we can nurture the improved performance of the girl child, and be able to translate it effectively into societal transformation in various dimensions. A deeper understanding will also help to better prepare our world for the possible social implications of this emerging trend.
The comment from the lawyer is quite instructive and touches on what might be part of the social implications of the fundamental shift. He expressed covertly a male fear about the female being generally more successful than her male counterpart and how this may affect other societal institutions such as marriage. In a male-dominated chauvinistic society, this is a genuine concern that must be noted for the purpose of dispelling the fears and turning it into a positive.
The last comment took the discussion further from the perspective of a father and observer of the trend. He alluded to the possibility that there is increased attention on the female child and consequently they tend to concentrate better on their studies.
There may be a lot a truth in this. The society has become more conscious of the disadvantaged position of the female gender relative to her male counterpart in almost every sphere of life. From the workspace to politics, from religious leadership to traditional institutions, the men dominate emphatically. This consciousness is also evident in the number of local and international NGOs that are focussed on the female. Even financial institutions make special provisions for women businesses. It would appear that we are beginning to see some fruits of all these efforts in the area of school performance, at least in some parts of the country.
From all indications, the leadership space of the future will not look anything like today’s, and one of the radical changes would be in the roles of women in every sphere of our society. This is a good thing for a society that is coming to the realization that it had hitherto bottled up huge resources by not giving full expression to the potential of the woman. Other things being equal she is the reservoir of 50% of our productive and intellectual capacity. We must fully unleash these to transform our society. The emerging trend of a better academic performance of the girl child needs to be studied, nurtured and effectively deployed to making our world a better place to live.
Gbolahan OLOJEDE, BSc, MBA, ACA