From Bride Price To Platitudes:
BY JODY HANSON
In 1981 I taught English at a Government Secondary School in Kurgwi, a small bush village in West Africa. A frequent staffroom topic of conversation among the Nigerian and all-male-except-for-me teachers was desirable qualities to look for in a wife. Was it better to marry an educated woman (someone who had completed high school) or an uneducated woman (someone who had five years or less of formal schooling) ?
The general consensus was that an illiterate woman was a much better choice. The bride price for unschooled women was lower and that was a serious consideration for the recent university graduates who comprised the majority of our teaching staff. Illiterate women tended to be less demanding. They also obeyed orders without questioning and were, for some reason I failed to fully comprehend, considered more virtuous. Besides, in West Africa school fees are an investment.
Cultural norms-and common sense-dictate that it is wiser to spend the money on educating male children. Men command a higher salary. And in a country where old age pensions are an unheard-of luxury, security in later years comes from having educated one's male children. Females marry and are absorbed into the husband's extended family, where the stress is on supporting his parents in their later years.
I found it difficult to tolerate the idea that females were excluded from education for monetary-and more specifically, investment-reasons. I was, in fact, suitably outraged by the mere suggestion that female children do not deserve to be educated. But in looking at Canadian options in 1989 I have to ask if it is REALLY any different for women in North America.