Gender, Educational Attainment and Fertility Among the Esan of Nigeria.

ODIAGBE, SIMS (DR)

ABSTRACT
This study was basically interested in the relationship between gender and educational attainment and how this relationship influence fertility among the Esan of Nigeria.  The survey research and focus group discussion were employed to elicit information from the sampled respondents.  Due to the variables under investigation, married couples were systematically sampled from selected clusters, in the area of study.  The Enumeration Area (EAs) demarcated in the 1991 populations census forms the sampling frames.  A total of 660 couples formed the sampled while ten (10) focus group discussion sessions were held.  The study explained that though educational attainment, especially, female education, has inverse relationship with fertility, it does not automatically translate into lower fertility.  Female education was found to encourage participation in family life discussion but decisions are taken by men.  Family planning activities were observed not to be the prerogative of women.  Approval are often sort and obtained from husbands.  It is therefore recommended that while encouraging educational attainment for the girl-child at all levels, men should henceforth be integrated into activities geared towards reducing fertility rate since they play active role in family life decisions.

INTRODUCTION
Demographers are gender sensitive when analyzing fertility as an important component of population growth rate and change.  This sensitivity account for why there is a higher concentration on the absolute number of women, their age, religious affiliation, educational attainment, occupation etc partly because of the understanding that they actually bear the physical ad emotional strain of pregnancy and child birth.  Our attempt here is however to find out the relationship between gender relationship and educational attainment and how this in turn influences fertility in Nigeria.  It is hoped that a study of the different social groups in the country will give an insight into the fertility situation.

Gender is the set of social and cultural practices that influence the lives of men and women in every society. It is central to the way a society is organized.  It orders social relationships in such a way that some individuals have greater powers than others.  Riley (1997:13) holds that gender affects both ‘power to’ and  ‘power over’. ‘Power to’ refers to the ability to act and have access to social resources such as education, money, land or time.  She noted that generally, women  have less ‘power to’ – go to school, inherit land and enter or refuse a marriage.  They have less power compared to the men in family decision and less authority than men in the work place.  Gender influences all aspects of our lives, the schooling we receive, the social roles we play, and the power and authority we command.  The interpretation of this relationship can be influenced significantly by educational attainment.

Education is one of the most important sources of opportunity in any society.  The ability to read and write gives individuals access to a wide body of knowledge.  Formal education and its related activities expose people to social life outside the family and cultural practices elsewhere.  School provides entry into other opportunities such as political office, social pre-eminence and jobs with higher status and better pay.  Riley (1997:51) noted that in nearly all developing countries, women are more likely to be illiterates and to have completed fewer years of education than men.  Relying on United Nations (1995) figures, Riley revealed that illiteracy was higher for women than men among young adults in many countries in the 1990s.  The United Nations data for instance indicate that 55 percent of men in Bangladesh aged between 15 – 24 years were illiterate, 75 percent of women in the same age bracket were.  In the same vein, Croll (1995: 134) has also noted that in China, the number of girls kept out of school to work at home is increasing because of economic reforms.  Girls more than boys are expected by parents to drop out of school to assist in family trade and business and observed that 70% of school-age-drop-out are girls.

This is based partly on the understanding that parents essentially lose their investment in their daughters education.  Conway and Bourgue (1993) are of the view that girls and boys often have very different education experiences in school and the kind of opportunities that schooling provides.  Girls they noted are given less attention inside and outside classroom and when they enter the labour force, women gain a smaller return on their educational achievements than do men.  Umar (1996:14) has noted that though our governments in Nigeria have tried to improve the image of women by introducing programmes aimed at improving the traditional dependence on the female,  our cultures does not place the female as equal to the male.  In a similar manner, Okorodudu and Igun (2002:68) have noted that in Northern Nigeria, cultural practices and religious factors of early marriages and purdan practices have serious consequences for female access to educational facilities.  While relying on data from the Federal Office of Statistics revealed that in 1985 while the literacy rate of men was 40 percent, that of the women was 15 percent.  By the 1990, the literary rate of men improved to 49 percent while those of women was 35 percent.

Based on data from the Federal Ministry of Education in 1994 on primary and secondary school enrolment by gender, Awa (1996:18) showed that there was a consistent evidence on statistical difference between male and female enrolment in primary school.  In 1984/85 session while the rate for the males was 55.7 percent, the female was 44.7 percent.  In 1989/90 session, the rate was now 57 percent for the male while the female was 43 percent.  Two years later in 1992/93 session the rate for male was 52 percent and 48 percent for the females.  This shows that although there was improvement in female enrolment, the disparity was still up to about 4 percent.  For the secondary school, the disparity was wider for the same period.  In 1984/85 while the enrolment rate for the male was 52.5%, it was 47.5 for the females.  This rate increased to 91.9 for the male in 1989/90 session but declined for the females (8 percent).  In 1992/93 session male enrolment was now down to 66 percent and improved to 34 percent for the female.  This disparity also affected the university levels.

STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
What effect has this gender inequality in educational opportunities on fertility?  Riley (1997) has noted that in nearly all societies, the amount of education a woman receives affects the number of children she has and the way she cares for them.   She also associated and observed that children whose mothers completed secondary or higher education are much less likely to be short or under weight for their age than are children with less educated mothers, an indication that they are more likely to receive adequate food.

In a family health survey by Lesetadi et al (1988) and Nigerian Federal Office of Statistics (1990), it was revealed that women’s education influences fertility and child mortality at the societal as well as the individual level.  The conclusion however was that the fertility rate declines as women’s educational level increases, reflecting the usual relationship between education and child bearing of individual women.

The influence of education on demographic process is not limited to what men or women learn in  the classroom.  Women’s education can influence fertility by raising the age at marriage, providing women with new job opportunities, introducing women to new values or ideas.  It can also influence higher socio-economic status, urban living or infant/child mortality.  Women who are more highly educated are more likely to marry and have their first birth later than those with less educational attainment due to the number of years spent during schooling.  This suggest that schooling acts as a catalyst that delays marriage.  Levine et al (1994) also notes that women who attend school learn skills that help them notice and read health messages and make use of health services.  When women attend school, they may learn about new ways to promote sanitation and health for themselves and their children.  Education according to Caldwell (1979) not only change an individual woman’s interaction with institutions, but also change the way other see her and expect her to behave.  Children of educated women are healthier because their mothers are more likely to obtain better health care for their children, even if it means challenging the authority of mother-in-law, husbands or medical personnel.  When women obtain an education they are likely to use their new roles to protect their children.

Inspite of this overall effect of education on fertility, school enrolment for the women still favour the men compared to the women.  What are therefore the factors responsible for this problem? In circumstances where family roles differs and gender inequality visible, can female education automatically translate into lower fertility? Can educated women adopt family planning services for example without the consent of her husband? What is the role of the husband in reproductive decision making inspite of the educational attainment of the wife?  What are the roles of significant others such as the man’s parents, grand parents and the kinsmen in the maintenance of pronatalist culture? How far has the support of high fertility been shaken under the onslaught of modernization and forces of change among the Esan people of Edo State, Nigeria?
These questions translates into these hypotheses

  1. Women’s higher educational attainment inversely affect fertility rates.
  2. There is a relationship between decision making within the home and lower level of adoptions of family planning services by women.
  3. Female autonomy has a positive relationship with lower fertility rate.

METHOD OF STUDY
 
Participants:
Since gender variables are involved in this research, 660 married pairs were sampled.  The Enumeration Areas (EAs) demarcated in the 1991 population censes for the five local government areas that make up the Esan people were used in the study.  There are about 400 or more persons per E.A. Ten EAs were selected at random from each L.G.A. – four from the headquarters (urban) and six from the other villages (rural).  On the whole 50 EAs were randomly selected for the research work.
 
A sampling frame of households in each EA was drawn up from where systematic samples of households were selected.  Each EA has about 80 or more households.  About 15 house holds were sampled from each urban EA using the systematic random sampling method.  This gave about 30 respondents from each EA.  From this frame, every fifth household was selected to represent the population.  This is because the sampling fraction is about 5 i.e 15/80.  In each selected household, an ever-married respondent male and female were interviewed.  Where no such couple was found were interviewed.  Where no such couple was found effort was made to select other respondents in the next household as a replacement.  The respondents were interviewed in pairs (husband and wife) to enable the research examine both individual and interpersonal variables responsible for fertility decisions.

Instrumentation:
All the 660 respondents were administered with structured interview schedule that had 47 questions.  The schedule contained detailed information about individual, household and community characteristics or variables affecting fertility.  The questions included social and demographic characteristics about people, household income, contraceptive awareness and utilisation, household decision-making processes etc.  The focus group discussion sessions were also formed taking into cognisance level of education, age, sex and residence.  The discussion guide had 30 questions related to the research.
 
For each of the items in the interview schedule, the respondents were to choose between the alternatives provided and in some cases the questions were open-ended.  The interview schedule was prepared by the researcher and validity and reliability were ensured by the systematic process of item selection by senior researchers and professor in sociology and demography.  Internal consistency reliability was ensured by the fact that the schedule was administered to subjects in the surrounding communities in form of pilot study before the large scale research was conducted.
 
Procedures:
To effectively reach this large sample 16 research assistants (8 males and 8 females) made up of graduate students and secondary school teachers in the communities were trained for the filed work.  A pre-projection visits were made to three (3) chosen location and the instruments tested as part of the training programme.  The focus group discussion session were conducted by the researcher because very accurate observations were needed.  Two researchers were to visit each sampled couple and interview conducted simultaneously.  The male was to interview the man and the female interview the woman. It was felt that couples will be freer with same sex than opposite sex due to the sensitive nature of the questions.  This means that research assistants were to visit couples only when it was convenient for both of them.  Evenings and Sunday became ideal periods for the interview.  This account for why research assistants were selected from their communities.
Multi-variant analysis (multiple regression) was conducted.  In addition to this, qualitative analysis was conducted on data generated from the focus group discussion.
 
FINDINGS
It was revealed in this study that of the 1320 respondents, 1167 representing 88.4 percent have attended and received some forms of formal education.  Only 11.6 percent claimed that they did not receive any form of schooling and are therefore unable to read and write.  About 90.2 percent of the female and 86.7 percent of the male respondents have received some forms of education.  While 82.2 percent of this group are on the rural areas, 95.8 percent of them are urban dwellers indicating a high level of education in urban areas.
 
The Table (II) below reveal that of the 1167 respondents who received some forms of schooling, the majority representing 64.6 percent, had between 7 and 12 years of formal education.  About 68.7 percent of the men fall within this age group relative to 53.6 percent for the female respondents.  Only 12.2 percent of women respondents had about 12 years of schooling relative to 34 percent men.  It is not surprising that only 14.2 percent of rural respondents spent 12 years and above in school.  A closer look at these figures reveal that more males acquired higher levels of education compared to the women.
 
On the issue of educational attainment, about 17.9 percent of all respondents had some primary school education (complete or not).  A total of 7.5 percent males had only primary school education compared with 27.9 of women.  But surprisingly 13.7 percent of the urban respondents fall into this low education category relative to 21.9 percent of the rural sample.  It was revealed by the data that as the level of education increases beyond secondary school level, the disparity in  the educational attainment between men and women starts to widen.  This shows that although all children might be encouraged to attain some forms of education, higher educational attainment is found more among males than females.  Early marriages for women may also be partly responsible for this disparity in educational attainment.
 
On the relationship between level of education and fertility, the multiple regression analysis of children ever born and ideal family size was done for both males and females.  This was due to the gender variables involved in this work.  This analysis was therefore not concentrated only on female respondents which has become a tradition in demographic analysis partly because we found out that even as couples, individuals may have fertility values and motivations which may not be subsumed in the marital union even when classified as “one body one flesh”.
 
Women education has been associated with lower fertility as shown in virtually all studies in fertility.  Female education is also though to facilitate fertility decline by increasing the bargaining power of women, allowing them greater control over their destiny and improving husband-wife communication (Jejeeboy 1992, UN 1987).  In this study, education shows the expected inverse relationship with children ever born and ideal family size for female (P<.01) for the males. Increase in education also stimulate a decrease in the number of children ever born and ideal family size.  This means that as the man’s status increase in relation to educational attainment he makes efforts to plan his family. (See table)
 
A positive relationship was also found to exist between higher educational attainment and participation in family discussions and decisions.  The same relationship was also in existence with husband-wife communication in relation to reproductive issues.  In other words, higher educational attainment exposes the women and instill in her that courage to communicate freely with her husband.  This openness encourage initiating and participating in family discussion including reproductive matters.  On who takes the final decision, it was observed that while educational attainment stimulate participation in family decision, it does not confer on the women the right to take final decision. These conclusions finds support in the qualitative analysis of the focus group discussion sessions. The analysis reveal that although it was expected that educated women are more likely to participate in reproductive decision-making, what was found here was that such participation was not automatic.  From the focus group discussion sessions, the level of education of the man, closeness of the man to tradition, maturity of the women and the liberal attitude of the man and his family members are some of the factors responsible for such participation.
 
One FGD session reached the following consensus.
Educated women can only take part in family discussion in the home including reproductive matters without creating problems when the husband himself is educated and create avenues for such discussion and decisions.  For example whether educated or not, a woman cannot use family planning without the consent of the husband.  She also cannot refuse her husband sexual advances what ever the level of education.  The man has control over a lot of things including taking final decision in all family matters.
 
This consensus from the focus group discussion (FGDs) is that higher educational attainment for the women does not automatically translate into taking reproductive decision.  The man must be involved to take final decision.
 
CONCLUSIONS
The data from the study revealed that females education greatly engender empowerment.  It gives women the opportunity to work outside  the home and acquire diverse skills and useful ideas both from books and colleagues which are capable of strengthening their relationship with their husbands, in-laws and eve children.  This affects their ability to enhance family welfare, health and nutrition and perhaps female participation in reproductive decision-making within the home.  Educated women marry late and are more likely to have fewer children.  This suggest that to reduce family size, we have to concentrate on and encourage female education.  Although female education has  been encouraged in this part of the country, empirical findings reveal that where the means to train children are scarce, preference is given to male children.  Education of male is also important but education for the women has a greater effect on reducing fertility rate.  Towards this end, massive and compulsory education for the girl-child must be encouraged and sustained by the government at all levels.  Parents should also be encouraged to train the girl-child and if the means are scare to train all children the brilliant ones should be trained irrespective of the sex.  This has become important as some of the respondents argue that female children are even better as old age insurance compared to male children.
 
Aside this, gender equality and women empowerment programmes through public lectures, marital counselling or other enlightenment campaigns should be vigorously pursued because these would improve the living conditions of most people especially those of women and children.  It should be made a vital component of the new population policy.  This calls also for Cairo 1984 international conferences of population and developments (ICPD) plan of action which observed that “advancing of gender equality and equity and the empowerment of women and the elimination of all kinds of violence against women and ensuring women’s ability to control their own fertility are cornerstone of population and development related programmes”.  It is strongly believed that as this differences between the sexes diminishes, women will be able to control their reproductive lives.  This will have effect on maternal and child health, reduce infant mortality and population growth rate.
 
The growing adoption of some of these policies will give a better insight into the relationship between gender and fertility control behaviour.

ATTACHED TABLES:

  Place of residence Sex of respondent All respondents
Urban Rural Males Female  
  % No % No % No % No % No
1 - 6 16.7 (96) 23.8 (141) 7.3 (42) 29.4 (175) 18.6 (217)
7 - 12 63.7 (366) 62.0 (367) 68.7 (393) 53.6 (361) 64.6 (754)
13 - 18 17.6 (103) 14.2 (84) 24.0 (137) 12.2 (59) 16.8 (176)
19 + 1.7 (10) - - 1.8 (10) - - 0.9 (10)
Total 100 (575) 100 592 100 (572) 100 (595) 100 (1167)

Table I: Percentage distribution of the respondents by school attendance.

  Place of residence Sex of respondent All respondents
Urban Rural Males Female  
  % No % No % No % No % No
1 - 6 16.7 (96) 23.8 (141) 7.3 (42) 29.4 (175) 18.6 (217)
7 - 12 63.7 (366) 62.0 (367) 68.7 (393) 53.6 (361) 64.6 (754)
13 - 18 17.6 (103) 14.2 (84) 24.0 (137) 12.2 (59) 16.8 (176)
19 + 1.7 (10) - - 1.8 (10) - - 0.9 (10)
Total 100 (575) 100 592 100 (572) 100 (595) 100 (1167)

Table II: Percentage distribution of respondents by number of years of schooling.

  Place of residence Sex of respondent All respondents
Urban Rural Males Female  
  % No % No % No % No % No
1 - 6 16.7 (96) 23.8 (141) 7.3 (42) 29.4 (175) 18.6 (217)
7 - 12 63.7 (366) 62.0 (367) 68.7 (393) 53.6 (361) 64.6 (754)
13 - 18 17.6 (103) 14.2 (84) 24.0 (137) 12.2 (59) 16.8 (176)
19 + 1.7 (10) - - 1.8 (10) - - 0.9 (10)
Total 100 (575) 100 592 100 (572) 100 (595) 100 (1167)

Table III: Percentage distribution of the respondents by educational attainment.

  Children ever born Ideal family size
  Male Female Male Female
Education Cof t Cof t Cof t Cof t
Primary
Secondary
Tertiary
No schooling
.045
.216
.151
-
.367
1.504
-2.430
-
-.034
.727
-.831
-
-.297
5.412
-9.269
-
.160
.082
0.090
-
1.581
.701
-1.781
-
-.105
.311
-.613
-
-1.574
3.947
-11.651
-

Table IV: Ordinary least square regression coefficient of children ever born and ideal family size by socio-economic and demographic variables alone.

  Children ever born Ideal family size
  Male Female Male Female
Education Cof T Cof t Cof t Cof t
Primary
Secondary
Tertiary
No schooling
-.023
.272
.140
-
-.174
1.872
-2.218
-
-.421
-.002
-.916
-
3.945
-.013
-11.249
-
.007
.192
.031
-
.067
1.626
-.604
-
.080
-.050
-.653
-
1.347
-.671
-11.360
-

Table V: Ordinary least square regression coefficient of children ever born and ideal family size by socio-economic and demographic variables with reproductive decision making variables.

REFERENCES

  • Ainsworth, M.K, Beegle and A. Nyameter (1996) “The Impact of Women’s Schooling on Fertility and Contraceptive Use: A Study in fourteen Sub-Saharan African Countries” in The World Bank Economic Review, Vol. 10. No. 1, pp. 81 – 109.
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