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UK Special Envoy for Girls’ Education meets Nigerian education youth activists ahead of Global Education Summit hosted by UK, Kenya

  • Summit aims to raise at least US$5 billion to support education systems in up to 90 countries and territories

As part of the activities commemorating International Women’s Day, the UK Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Girls’ Education, Helen Grant, met with young activists from countries including Nigeria to discuss how increasing access to education around the world can help us to build back better from coronavirus.

A statement from the British High Commission Abuja on Monday said that “the pandemic has made education even more of an urgent priority, with 1.6 billion children and young people out of school globally at the peak of school closures.

“In March 2020, all of Nigeria’s educational institutions were ordered to close, leaving an estimated 80 million children, youth and adult learners without access to learning institutions.

“The UK helped ensure that children continued to learn during school closures due to COVID-19, with UK aid funded education programmes in Nigeria flexing to support remote and home-based learning, for example by supporting children to engage in learning through radio.”

The statement said that during the meeting, the activists had the opportunity to ask Helen questions as well as talk about the hurdles girls face in getting an education in their country.

“In Nigeria, most girls’ don’t have access to digital learning and therefore don’t have access to a proper education and the entire world,” Maryjacob, a young Nigerian activist said when they talked the lack of computers and technology infrastructure in schools in Nigeria.

In some parts of the country, insecurity was also making it difficult for girls to access an education. “Girls’ fear going into school because they may be killed or abducted” she added.

Sikemi, a youth activist also from Nigeria highlighted, “Another major impact in the lack of education is poverty. Poor families send girls’ to get married to reduce the burden on the household, and they end up having children much earlier, which has worsened during the pandemic.”

She adds, “Their right to choose has been taken away from them and that breaks my heart.” Out-of-school girls are at greater risk of violence, sexual abuse, child marriage and human trafficking. All of this is creating a real risk of a lost generation of girls.

In July 2021, the UK, alongside Kenya, is co-hosting the Global Education Summit to urge countries to invest in getting children into school and increasing access for girls.

The Global Education Summit will be the opportunity for world leaders to make 5-year pledges to support the work of the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) to help transform education systems. The activists are also Youth Ambassadors for the GPE – the largest global fund dedicated to transforming education in lower-income countries.

The UK’s Special Envoy for Girls’ Education, Helen Grant said: “Educating girls, is one of the smartest investments we can make to lift communities out of poverty, grow economies, save lives and build back better from coronavirus. It can transform the fortunes of not just individual women and girls, but communities and nations. As we celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8th, I want to challenge the barriers and perceptions that are holding girls out of the classroom and ensure we give girls everywhere the chance to fulfil their full potential.”

The UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson has put girls’ education at the heart of our G7 presidency, allowing the transformative power of girls’ education to get the profile it deserves, as well as a much-needed focus on financial and political commitments. The Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has agreed global targets, which include getting 40 million more girls into primary and secondary schools across African countries and beyond and a third more girls reading by the age of 10, by 2025.

Sikemi added, “Education gives you the ability to make your own informed choices and everyone deserves to have that opportunity.” With just one additional school year, a woman’s earnings can increase by a fifth, according to statistics.

They ended the discussion on a high note, hopeful that the international community can work together to ensure girls’ education gets the attention it needs and deserves.

The Global Education Summit: Financing GPE 2021-2025, the culmination of GPE’s “Raise Your Hand” financing campaign, will take place in London on July 28 and 29, 2021 and has as co-hosts the UK Boris Johnson and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta.

GPE aims to raise at least US$5 billion to support education systems in up to 90 countries and territories, where 80 per cent of the world’s out-of-school children live.

Global targets include getting 40 million more girls into primary and secondary school in low- and middle-income countries.

A $5 billion investment in GPE will help:

  • enable 175 million girls and boys to learn
  • reach 140 million students with professionally trained teachers
  • get 88 million more children, including 46 million more girls, in school
  • save $16 billion through more efficient education spending.

Over the last decade, UK support to basic education in Nigeria involved 11 State governments which reached over 8 million children.

The UK is also funding one of its largest bilateral girls education programme – the Girls Education Project (GEP 3), which is now in its third phase in Nigeria and is being implemented by UNICEF. Since 2012, GEP 3 supported over 1 million girls to access school in Northern Nigeria.

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