CHILD MARRIAGE AND FEMALE ACADEMIC PERFORMANCE: A CASE STUDY OF AKWA IBOM STATE

ABSTRACT
This study focused on the influence of child marriages on female student’s academic performance in Akwa Ibom State Secondary Schools. Completion, access and performance in education are currently the most important ones in the implementation of education for all. This is particularly so when one considers the problems surrounding child marriages observed to lead to lower school academic performance and increased dropouts. It is on this ground that the present study sought to inquire whether the problem of child marriage does significantly influence school academic performance on female student’s academic performance in Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria. The study was guided by the following objectives: To examine the extent of child marriage practice on female students’ academic performance; establish the prevalence of child marriage practice on female students’ academic performance; attitude of teachers towards child marriage practice on female students’ academic performance and to establish the influence of students’ socio-economic background on their academic performance. The study adopted a descriptive survey design using a specially designed questionnaire as the main research instrument in conjunction with a statistical data capture sheet to collect data from school records. The study population was 1520 form four students, 38 Guidance and Counselling teachers, 38 school Principals and 1400 parents. The sample was 322 students, 38 Guidance and Counselling teachers, 38 school principals and 278 parents. The survey instruments were piloted in Cross River State using the test-re-test method. The reliability coefficient obtained was 0.78 which was considered good enough for a scientific study. In addition, the survey instruments were subjected to the scrutiny of two experts who established face as well as content validity. Data was collected from respondents using a specially designed questionnaire and interview schedule. After cleaning the data, the researcher analyzed it by use of descriptive statistics such as frequency counts, summation of scores and calculation of mean scores which are presented in tabular or graphical displays. The study utilized the social cognitive theory of modifying behaviour. The findings may enable students to obtain an education that is likely to lengthen their stay in school thus ending up in avoiding child marriages. The findings of the present study revealed that most of the principals, 52 percent responded that the extent of child marriage practice on female students’ academic performance is very high.

CHAPTER ONE INTRODUCTION
• Background to the Study
Globally, the two most important challenges that concern educationists currently are access and participation in quality education. Research done by (UNESCO2005) postulated that Education is not merely a basic human right, but it is also a lethal weapon against poverty. In fact, education is a critical enabler that provides opportunity to individuals to improve their livelihoods and have their voice heard. In America, Mitra (2011) noted that other education benefits include: improvement of the Learner’s health and productivity; fostering participation in civil society and, helping to slow down the spread of HIV/AIDS. Therefore, increasing the number of individuals who go through an education system is critical in leading to economic growth; social and political stability; decline in criminal rate; and, improved social services (Mondal &Shitan, 2013).

Despite many barriers hampering individuals to access education, one socially constructed barrier has been child marriages which is also known as child marriage. Thus, its prevalence rate in countries or regions is an indicator of the level of educational access. Child marriage rates vary from one country to another and from one region to another. In a survey conducted by Parsons and McCleary-Sills (2014), Raj and Boehmer (2013) among 111 countries including Niger and Bangladesh were found with the highest rates of child marriages at74% and 75% respectively; while Algeria and Libya had the lowest rates at 2% each. Moreover, South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa regions were found have the highest rates of child marriages while Latin America had the lowest. Furthermore, although, India’s rate of child marriages is not the highest, just by the mere size of the country’s population, it has highest incidence of child marriages in the world accounting for approximately one-third of the world's child marriages (Klugman et al., 2014; Nguyen & Wodon, 2015).

A growing body of evidence from social literature seem to suggest that besides economic challenges, young women are increasingly coming under social and cultural pressures to marry and begin a family at school-going ages affecting the chances of girls completing their education. This is being done against the backdrop of International agencies mounting criticisms of the local customs and practices that encourage child marriages (ICRW, 2013; Samati, 2013; UNFPA, 2012). But, the practice is still far from abating, making more girls to drop out of formal education. Consequently, high rates of child marriage affect overall school enrolment for girls. A contrary argument by critics of the advocacy literature contend that the decision to enter marriage at an early age may result a lack of schooling opportunities or employment options.

By its very nature, Hindin and Fatusi (2009) pointed out that child marriage deprives young people the opportunity to receive an education and has a range of negative repercussions; among them, leaving young men and women without the ability to make informed choices for the rest of their lives and risk intimate partner violence. Furthermore, it has been shown that child marriage limits women's decision-making in terms of their health, choice of job, and other preferences for exercising their agency, including matters of enrolling in and completing school (Parsons et al., 2015) which go a long way in determining their future achievement and development.

In Nigeria, the United Nations Population Fund UNFPA (2012) found that the vice of child marriages still persists prevalent and lowest among communities with fairly learned percentage of the population while it is highest among those communities with low literacy level. Furthermore, Nigeria is among countries where the child marriage incidences are high and on the increase despite being outlawed. The report warned that if the trend continues, the tally of such marriages worldwide are likely to grow to 14.2 million by 2020 and set to reach 15.1 million each year by 2030. Child marriages do not only violate children rights; but, they also have serious negative implications on all aspects of a girl’s or a boy’s life. Despite the varied physical, emotional and social effects of child marriages; one most common outcome is the discontinuation of a girl from formal education (Parsons, et al., 2015).

Child marriages are likely to occur among poor girls with low education levels and live in rural areas (Loaiza &. Wong, 2012), occasioning gender inequality starting with the secondary level of education. The reasons for the observed gender disparity are many and varied. The more important ones include economic reasons, poverty, lack of financial resources to pay school fees, social reasons, performing household chores – fetching water and parental attitudes – a preference to favour boys whenever a choice is to be made, often negatively affecting girls to a greater extent (ICRW, 2014).

Ordinarily, education has brought social order around the globe even in addressing the plight of individuals, especially women and the vulnerable. Research done by Anastas (2012) in New York supported this fact by alluding that education has been able to shape social norms that even encourage child marriages. Drop out of school, thus limiting their opportunities. Increasing female education is a catalyst for bringing about change, resulting from increased decision-making power thereby leading to better health and employment outcomes. However, child marriage remains by far the greatest obstacle in girls’ education, thus helping explain persistent gender disparities in rates of secondary school dropout and completion. This phenomenon is prevalent especially in developing countries where up to 39,000 incidences of girls marrying daily are witnessed (WHO, 2013).

Therefore, it is critical to gain insights into the child marriages problem and its effects on academic performance and dropout rates in order to design programmes and formulate policies to assist in improving gender equality in education. In any event, education is necessary for mitigating the negative effects often associated with child marriage. It is for this reason that educated girls have higher chances of understanding their own rights, enjoying a sense of personal empowerment, being healthy, having healthy families and, more economic potential and exercising greater skills. Putting it even more directly, child marriage is a rare occurrence among highly educated women (UNESCO, 2014); given that marriage introduces a new set of responsibilities requiring married women to care for their families and, possibly, children, which are at variance with those demanded of educated women (Omoeva, Hatch, &Sylla, 2014).

Therefore, the study on how child marriages on female student’s academic performance was conceived against the backdrop of a generally high and rising problem. Inevitably, the phenomenon of child marriages has negative consequences in terms of educational access and participation for involved students, especially girls. It is prevalent among low communities that are rural based with low literacy level and affect school academic performance. Akwa Ibom North sub State is within the rural constituency which might demonstrate this phenomenon in the context of free education.

• Statement of the Problem
Gender disparities in secondary education continue to be observed despite provision of both free primary and secondary education. There are several factors that seem to influence the phenomenon; among them child marriage and pregnancy leading to low academic performance as well as increased dropout rates. A search on accessible literature yielded limited studies conducted in Nigeria addressing the subject. Even then, majority of those studies were national surveys which lack detailed information concerning any region. Considering that being deprived of an education for whatever reason has devastating consequences, such as likely to be left without the ability to make informed choices for the rest of life; limiting women's decision-making in terms of their health, job choices, and other preferences in matters of enrolling in and completing school. The government of Nigeria partner governments such as the United States of America (USA) and the United Kingdom (UK) through NGO’s have continuously supported education in Nigeria especially that of female students. However, despite of this effort, still school academic performance is affected by child marriages among secondary school female students. Fundamentally, education is necessary for exercising their agency and is a determinant of their future achievement and development; making it imperative to provide insights on the severity of the problem. It is against this backdrop that the present study sought to determine the how significant child marriages are practiced among secondary school students and their impact on school academic performance in Akwa Ibom State secondary schools, Nigeria.

• Purpose of Study
The purpose of the study was to determine the influence of child marriages on female student’s academic performance in Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria.

• Objectives of the Study
The study was guided by the following objectives:

• To examine the impact of child marriage practice on female students’ academic performance in Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria.

• To establish the prevalence of child marriage practice on female students’ academic performance in Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria.

iii). To determine the attitude of teachers towards child marriage practice on female students’ academic performance in Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria.

iv). To establish the influence of students’ socio-economic background on their academic performance in Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria.

• Research Questions
The research questions for the study were the following:

• What is the impact of child marriage practice on female students’ academic performance in Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria?

• What is the prevalence of child marriage practice on female students’ academic performance in Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria?

• What is the attitude of teachers towards child marriage practice on female students’ academic performance in Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria?

• What is the influence of students’ socio-economic background on their academic performance in Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria?

• Significance of the Study
These study findings are geared to offer insights on the contribution of child marriages on female student’s in influence academic performance and dropout rates and the gender gap thereby created. The findings will benefit teachers, school administrators, curriculum developers, parents and students. For teachers and school administrators the study findings will help them identify the at-risk students and thereby offer help. The curriculum developers, the study findings will provide areas that need to be designed into social sciences content. Furthermore, the study findings will provide parents and students knowledge on how to deal with perceptions, attitude, and the problem of dropout. Thus fulfil the study’s goal designed to help educationists improve girls’ participation in education, contribute to the narrowing of the secondary school gender gap, and thereby allowing girls to enjoy productive lives.

• Limitations of the Study
The use of teachers to provide reasons for students dropping out of school introduces a bias. The reasons stated by the teachers may not accurately represent the true reasons why a student drops out of school as the teacher sometimes may not come to know why the students dropped out, or he or she may not remember the precise reason. At best, the parents and students were involved to curb the inevitable bias.

The study was likely to be affected by cultural beliefs. Some communities may not be willing to give information due to culture of the society. For example, in some areas women are not supposed to talk before the mass, the responsible ones are men. In that case then, some information was not retrieved from women respondents. To overcome this, the researcher assured confidentiality of the whole process and the data collected from everybody, and not to write the names of respondents.

Geographical factor can also limit the study if happens that some areas and schools are found in places where there is unfriendly infrastructure, especially during rainy seasons, but this was solved by using motorcycles or bicycles to reach the place.

• The Scope of Study
The study confined itself to Akwa Ibom State, specifically in four divisions. The study selected a sample of 14 out of 38 schools operating in the area. From these schools, the study drew 300 students, 28 parents and 36 teachers who were asked to complete a specially designed questionnaire. In addition, the study relied on data extracted from the school records, such as registers, examination lists and printouts of the National Examination Council (NECO) maintained by the selected schools.

The information captured out of these documents included the total number of students in a grade and by gender, number of new entrants in a grade, number and gender of students who dropped out. However, the study was limited to investigating the following contextual variables: factors influencing child marriages, prevalence of child marriages in the study area, as well the influence of child marriages on school academic performance. However, the present study did not consider variables such as ethnicity, religion, disability, and family conditions that are known to influence school academic performance.

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Item Type: Project Material  |  Attribute: 60 pages  |  Chapters: 1-5
Format: MS Word  |  Price: N3,000  |  Delivery: Within 30Mins.
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