School of Graduate Studies

School of Graduate Studies
School of Graduate Studies

A Crisis in Girls' Education – Meet Halima Wali

PhD candidate, Education   

by Phil Gaudreau, January 2021

Halima Wali

Nigeria is a country with a young and booming population. Over 95 million Nigerians are under the age of 15, and their numbers are only growing.

Unfortunately, a third of children are not in school and, in some areas, just two out of every five young girls are attending classes.

There are many barriers that prevent young girls from accessing and participating in education, particularly in Northern Nigeria. Halima Wali, PhD’23, hopes to find ways to address the education challenges girls face in Nigeria.

“This issue is very personal to me as I am from Northern Nigeria and have faced these barriers myself,” says Wali.

Her research focuses on the role that female teachers play in educational outcomes for girls and in gender equality in education.

Wali is working with a social impact organization called 1 Million Teachers (1MT), an initiative that offers programs designed to attract new, young teachers to the profession and provide them with a solid foundation of basic subjects and pedagogical knowledge, as well as ongoing professional development with effective mechanisms in place to mentor, support, and motivate them.

Her collaboration with 1MT provides her with access to girls and female teachers in Northern Nigeria so she can learn more about the challenges they face.

“The goal is to generate evidence-based research that helps organisations and government in Nigeria to develop policies that advance the cause of women and girls,” says Wali.

Wali originally pursued accounting as a profession but, after starting her career, didn’t feel the fulfillment she was looking for. She recalled her love of teaching and her desire to help others, so she decided to further her education to prepare for a career change. However, Wali realized working as a teacher would not allow her to address the systemic inequalities facing girls in education.

“These experiences led me to change careers again and further my education in inclusion, equality and social justice issues,” she says.

Wali’s time working with 1MT inspired her to pursue her masters in inclusive education. The Queen’s Faculty of Education founded a partnership with 1MT, which introduced Wali to Queen’s.

So, when she decided to pursue her PhD in education, Wali knew who to reach out to. In 2019, she began her doctoral studies working with Rebecca Luce-Kapler, Dean of the Faculty of Education at Queen’s.

“Queen’s felt like a natural choice to help me achieve my dreams and facilitate my work,” says Wali. “In addition to its reputation and academic rigour, their commitment to the international social justice really resonated with me.”

Due to the pandemic, she moved back to Nigeria this summer to be with her family and is continuing her studies online. She plans to move back to Kingston after the Christmas holiday pending the pandemic situation. Wali continues to look to the future and how she can achieve her dreams of systemic change for women and girl’s education in her home country.

“I’m looking to leverage my PhD into social policy work especially in the area of girls and women’s education,” says Wali. “I want to help organizations and the government to generate evidence-based research that helps them develop policies which advance the cause of women and girls. I’m also really interested in academia, so I can see myself teaching.”

To learn more about graduate programs with the Queen’s Department of Education go to their website.