The Bloomsbury Colleges | PhD Studentships | Studentships 2013 | Girls' Schooling and Early Marriage in Northern Nigeria
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Girls' Schooling and Early Marriage in Northern Nigeria

Principal supervisor: Elaine Unterhalter (Institute of Education)

Co-supervisor: Oona Campbell & Judith Glynn (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine)

Improving access to education and enhancing women's empowerment feature prominently in the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs). Gender equitable education is associated with improvements in health and social participation. For girls there are also benefits for the next generation: it is estimated that half of the reduction in under-5 mortality achieved in the last 30 years may be attributable to increased maternal education. A major reason for girls dropping out of school early is pregnancy and marriage. In Nigeria the 2008 Demographic Health Surveys (DHS) shows that the net primary school enrolment for girls varies from 37-69% in the northern zones, and 75-83% in the south. Equivalent figures for secondary school enrolment are 19-42% and 66-69% (DHS, 2009). Up to age 15, school attendance by girls is only marginally less than by boys, but the discrepancy increases rapidly from that age (UNESCO, 2011). Early marriage, that is below the age of 18, has been noted as a reason why many girls do not complete school in Northern Nigeria (Kazeem 2010; Smith 2012). Although there has been a secular trend towards later marriage and although early marriage is prohibited in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Nigeria is a signatory, in some Northern areas median age at first marriage is still less than 16 and a number of Northern states have refused to legislate against early marriage, despite clear guidance on this by the Federal government. There is a strong association between later marriage and increasing education.

To date there have been very few studies of why certain communities practise early marriage, which girls from which kinds of households and commuities are involved, whether all girls who marry early are withdrawn from school and what issues the prevalence of early marriage raises for health and education systems, and girls' engagement with school. Bodily integrity has been raised as a key right by a number of campaigning NGOs in Northern Nigeria, but little research has looked at early marriage from this perspective. Previous studies on this issue are based on fieldwork conducted 20 years ago, focus on the political difficulties with introducing legislation outlawing early marriage in certain Northern Nigerian states, or outline health issues associated with early pregnancy with minimal reference to education (Erulkar 2007; Lane 2010).

The aim of this study is to expand knowledge of the association between early marriage and education in Northern Nigeria, and how these relate to attitudes and health behaviours. The objectives are to consider, with regard to selected northern Nigerian states, which girls experience early marriage and in what conditions this is associated with school drop-out and early pregnancy. The study will also assess the association of early marriage and low education with the involvement of women in decision-making, experience of gender-based violence and aspects of early childhood care (e.g. uptake of immunisation, length of breast-feeding, use of health services) as markers of health outcomes.

Key Requirements


A postgraduate degree (MA or MSc) in Education and International Development, Health, Epidemiology, Demography or Development Studies.

Ability to handle large and complex datasets and do quantitative analyses. This can have been obtained through academic study or equivalent experience.

Very good levels of spoken and written English (if English is not your first language, an IELTS score of 7.0 with scores of no lower than 7.0 in the reading and writing elements of the test)


Knowledge of gender and women's rights

Knowledge of Nigeria

Experience of qualitative methods

Key References

Erulkar, A., and Bello, M., 2007. The experience of married adolescent girls in northern Nigeria. New York: Population Council.

Kazeem, A., Jensen, L. and Stokes, C., 2010. School Attendance in Nigeria: Understanding the Impact and Intersection of Gender, Urban-Rural Residence, and Socioeconomic Status. Comparative Education Review 54, no. 2: 295-319.

Lane, C et al, 2010. Reaching young married women in Northern Nigeria. Washington ESD (

Smith, C., Stone, R. & Kahando, S., 2012. 'A model of women's educational factors related to delaying girls' marriage'. International Education Review, 58, 4, 533-555.

Further details about the project may be obtained from:

Principal supervisor: Elaine Unterhalter,;

Co-supervisors: Oona Campbell (, us/people/campbell.oona) and Judith Glynn: (,

Further information about PhDs at the Institute of Education is available from:

Application forms and details about how to apply are available from:

Please contact Alison Freeman, DTC Co-ordinator/Scholarships Officer ( for the Bloomsbury Colleges PhD Studentships application form and Information for Candidates.

Candidates are required to submit the following documents:

1. Bloomsbury Colleges PhD Studentships Application form

2. A personal statement indicating how your qualifications, experience and research interests make you a suitable candidate for your chosen scholarship

3. Covering letter and full CV

4. Transcripts of your undergraduate and (where applicable) postgraduate qualifications

5. Two confidential referees

6. A piece of academic writing, such as an essay, dissertation or article.

Prior contact with members of the supervisory team to discuss your application is highly recommended.

Closing date for applications is 28 February 2013.