These two females are of different epochs and geography but in terms of charisma and the passionate drive to fastrack the educational emancipation of the girl child globally they are like birds of the same feather.
The two witnessed tumultuous Childhood. Rihanna as a teenager reportedly turned to singing as a release from her troubles at home in Barbados. She formed a girl group with two classmates. When the duo were 15 they scored an audition with Music Producer Evan Rodgers, who was visiting the Island with his Barbadian Wife. Rodgers was awed by by the precociously beautiful and talented Rihanna, to the unfortunate detriment of her two friends. Less than a year later when Rihanna was 16 years old, she left to move in with Rodgers and his wife in Connecticut. She thereafter blossomed into an internationally acclaimed Pop star.
Whereas Rihanna is an international pop star who has achieved phenomenal fame and fortune, on the other hand, the little Malala is a child rights activist who escaped assassination from her native land because of her zeal for education, to win the Nobel prize for peace and has made phenomenal impacts in the area of campaigning around the world for the educational empowerment of the girl child.
Rihanna lives in the United States from where she travels around the world to spread happiness through her musical talents but again, she has gradually become a champion for girl education.
Rihanna has through her numerous melodious songs and advocacy activities carried through a vigorous global wide campaign for the educational empowerment of girls.
Malala, has also become a world’s ambassador for Child rights with specific focus on the thematic mandate of education.
Malala is known to have traversed all continents of the world to preach the sermons of education for the most disadvantaged persons being the girl children especially in the developing communities of Asia, Middle East and continental Africa.
These two inspirational feminine characters have made the right news in the last couple of days.
Whilst Malala left the comfort of her abode in the United Kingdom to visit the largest black nation in the world Nigeria in Africa, Rihanna took off from her United States’ base to pay a working visit to France whereby she met the first lady of France and the wife of the newly inaugurated French president-Mr. Emmanuel Macron.
It must be noted that Macron’s wife is a professional educator. Infact, she was a teacher that educated Emmanuel Macron in School, according to some reports just as the two met then in school.
On the other leg of this same developing story, we must note that during her whistle stop visitation to Nigeria, Malala met with the Acting president of Nigeria, the professor of law of evidence, Mr. Yemi Osinbanjo and the thematic area of their consultations was on the education of the Nigerian girl children.
Incidentally Nigeria has a very notorious reputation for being the home to the largest population of out of school girls globally.
Malala has over the last two years paid considerable attention to the cruel fate faced by the over 300 kidnapped school girls of Chibok community school in Borno, North East of Nigeria who were abducted and enslaved by the armed Islamic terror group known as the boko Haram.
Malala herself is a victim of cruel gun attack by the armed Islamist in her native Pakistan called Taliban from where she was air lifted to United Kingdom whereby she got a rousing welcome from the British people.
Malala Yousafzai during this visit said that though Nigeria is the richest country in Africa, it has more girls out of school than any country in the world. Malala has mixed up so well around the World and is attending some of the best educational faculties in Britain and so she is very current about statistics such as the one she brandished depicting the sorry state of girl education in Nigeria.
It must be observed that girls and Women are disadvantaged not just educationally but also in terms of incomes’ redistribution in Nigeria and politically.
This pathetic situation of girls made the education activist Malala Yousafzai to have met during her visit to Nigeria with girls displaced by the Boko Haram crisis during which time she said studies are clear that educating girls grows economies, reduces conflict and improves public health.
She said, “For these girls and for their country’s future, Nigeria’s leaders must immediately prioritize education.”
This is even as the United Nations Children’s Fund’s (UNICEF) education response in the northeast remains critically underfunded, with just 54 per cent of the $31.4 million appeal received, leaving a funding gap of $14.4 million.
While in Maiduguri, the epicenter of the crisis in northeast Nigeria, Malala visited schoolchildren in a camp for displaced families and secondary school girls at Yerwa Government Girls School.
Over 2,295 teachers have been killed and 19,000 displaced and almost 1,400 schools destroyed since the start of the Boko Haram insurgency in 2009.
Three million children in the northeast are in need of support to keep learning, so says a global statistical data.
While the 90 camps and camp-like settings in Maiduguri house thousands of families, more than three-quarters of the 600,000-plus displaced people are living with family, relatives or friends in host communities, placing additional burden on local schools.
Recall that beyond the crisis in the northeast, Nigeria already had the largest number of children out of school in the world – over 10.5 million.
Among primary school-aged children not in school, only five per cent are dropouts: three-quarters of them will never step foot in a classroom, and the majority are girls.
Across West Africa, 46 per cent of primary school-aged children not in school are Nigerians.
Globally, one in five children not enrolled are Nigerian. These sad facts are so cruel to even contemplate.
The UNICEF’s Representative in Nigeria, Malick Fall said, “We will do everything in our power to make sure all children can keep learning. We believe that education – especially for girls, is the single most important way to bring hope, peace and prosperity not just for this generation, but also for future generations” .
On her part, Rihanna held very constructive consultations with the educationist and wife of the French president in Paris, France.
The visit of the pop star to France elicited widespread excitement even as the media described the meeting as an excellent achievement for the young French president and his wife.
The French Radio international described the meeting in the following flowering terms: “French President Emmanuel Macron continued to reach for the stars this week – hosting R&B star Rihanna for what she called “incredible” talks at the Elysée presidential palace two days after meeting Irish rocker Bono”.
Barbados-born Rihanna is an ambassador for the Global Partnership for Education, which is trying to raise two billion dollars (1.7 billion euros) in annual funding by 2020 towards schooling for children in developing countries.
“I just had the most incredible meeting with the president and the first lady,” the songstress said as she emerged from meeting Emmanuel and Brigitte Macron.
“We focused on the topic of education from a global aspect and we’ll have a very big announcement in September, during UN week.
“I was so inspired and impressed by his leadership, I think this is the year of education.”
Last month the singer challenged Macron on Twitter to commit to the fund.
She has also tweeted other world leaders, including Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who replied that “girls’ education is in our feminist international development policy”.
The meeting came as Macron faced criticism from French students with plans to trim a housing subsidy on which many students rely to pay the rent.
The biggest take away from both meetings is that Nigeria needs to double up effort aimed at the comprehensive education of our girls.
This is however not a submission meant to argue that boys should be neglected in terms of educational empowerment.
Far from it. Indeed, the boys of Anambra State in the South East of Nigeria are now at a great disadvantage educationally because of the widespread withdrawal of boys from schools to pursue commercial trades whilst majorly girls are the persons who are in school.
The Nigerian government should assist the Anambra state government to confront this emerging scenario of withdrawal of boys from schools.
Another take away is the need to address the fundamental challenge of insecurity in our schools and the increasing threats to students by hoodlums who routinely kidnap these kids to extract ransom payments from their distraught parents.
The other time, a group of boys and girls from a Turkish school somewhere in Ogun State were kidnapped and only released after exchange of heavy ransom payment.
As I write,6 boys from the Model School in Epe Lagos State have spent 80 days with their armed captors and both the Federal and Lagos State governments have failed to rescue them and arrest, prosecute and punish these satanic kidnappers.
Osinbanjo was seen telling the little Malala all sorts of stories of how the Nigerian State will care for the educational needs of the Nigerian children.
But from the benefits of hindsight, politicians in Nigeria find it easy to promise but difficult to put their promises into practical reality.
If I may ask, what has happened to the Almajiri schools set up by the immediate past administration with pomps and pageantry?
I ask this question because Almajiri boys are powerfully back to the streets begging for alms. We must prioritise the education of our Children and especially our girls.