Girls in a mixed school setup: what needs to be addressed

By Falmata Kyari Ahmad

Educating all and sundry in a country is believed to be the bedrock of the country's societal development. Be that as it may, the burden is rested on the parents, guardians and the government to see to it that they educate their future leaders.

However, in doing that, the children are exposed to different systems of education available to them in their immediate environment, even though some parents prefer to send their children to various parts of the country to undergo the entire process.

Mixed education otherwise known as the co-educational system is one of such systems available in Nigeria where both boys and girls go to the same school and virtually the same class. Even though gender equality is respected and nurtured in most parts of the world, there are still thousands of doubts raised in having a co-educational systems in schools and colleges in this part of the country.

In Nigeria, the history of co-educational system at the federal level could be traced to as far back as 1975 when it established a Federal Government College in Lagos to enrol both girls and boys, and over the decades, other states followed suite. Consequently, in the late 1980s, places like Maiduguri and its environs saw the birth of private schools which accommodate both girls and boys. Yet, the questions many educationists, parents/guardians, and researchers have been asking is whether it is academically beneficial or not for boys and girls to go to the same school or class and or otherwise. Some argue that co-education allows boys and girls of all ages to become more prepared for real-world situations, such as acquiring cultural and gender intelligence, whereas a student that is only familiar with a single-sex setting could be psychologically less prepared, nervous, or uneasy going.

While co-education may have certain benefits, it also has its shortcomings. The main disadvantage of the system is that some secondary schools cannot cater for the needs of both genders. This is in areas of giving them all what is required in the learning process and the interest of boys tends to be different from those of girls. Most girls for instance, are more at home in a domestic science lab than in physics lab, they are interested in different library books and magazine, they prefer volley ball or handball and etcetera.

Yet if you go to a typical co-educational school in Nigeria today, you are not likely to find any facilities for domestic science, you may discover that what may favour girls are not easily found until those of boys have been taken care of. This is probably inevitable since finances of any school are limited as girls are usually the majority in co-educational schools, their interests take second place to those of boys. This may put the girls at a disadvantage when compared with their counterparts in girls schools which cater solely for girls interests.

Another disadvantages that arise is the fact that very few women teachers teach in co-educational schools. There are scarce of women teachers in the country, but the majority teach in girls school. This may in fact be one of the reasons why male interest always comes first because majority of the teachers are men.

In addition, in mixed schools the girls usually feel the absence of women with whom to discuss their problems and in an attempt to overcome this, they often get older girls to act as their school sisters or school mothers. This turns out to be poor substitute for the adult guidance and counseling which is available to girls in all girls schools. “School fathers” and “school brothers” have also become a familiar feature of our co-educational schools. A junior girl picks a senior boy or a female teacher as her school brother or father. The practice is so common, it has almost become a tradition in mixed schools, the father or brother may act as the girls adviser, but after a while he is generally regarded in the school as the girls boyfriend. In most cases the relationships distracts both the boy and the girl from their studies and if the father happens to be a teacher, it seriously affect the decipline of the school.

Chances of distractions could be more, teenage is a very dangerous phase in anybody’s life. It is very common among the teens to undergo psychological changes when they are in company of the other gender and feel attracted towards them. And especially at crucial stage where they are in a process of defining their career path, it could cause lot of distractions and might disturb their knowledge gain period. Hence, parents often wonder if co- education institutions would be right choice for their children to learn.

Anyone who hopes to run a good co-educational school must be prepared to face such problems almost everyday. He must also be prepared to spend more money than needs to be spent in a secondary school of a similar size in order to ensure that the intrests of the girls as well as of the boys are looked after.

Falmata Kyari Ahmad is a 300 level student of Mass Communication Department University of Maiduguri.