The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has said that over 10 million of the 18.5 million out-of-school in Nigeria are girls and that majority of them are from the Northern part of the country.
UNICEF Chief of Field Office in Kano, Mr. Rahama Mohammed Farah, who spoke at a Media Dialogue on Girls’ Education under the Girls’ Education Project (GEP3), called for urgent action to address the situation.
GEP3 was implemented by UNICEF in Katsina, Sokoto, Zamfara, Bauchi, Kano and Niger states with the support of Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) of the UK.
Farah charged stakeholders to work with government to ensure quality education for girls especially in the Northern part of the country.
He called on all stakeholders including religious leaders, parents, community leaders, civil society organisations and the media to keep pushing for girls’ education in Nigeria.
“Currently in Nigeria, there are 18.5 million out of school children, 60 per cent of these out of school children are girls – that is over 10 million girls are out of school. Majority of these out of school children are actually from northern Nigeria”, he said.
Farah lamented that this situation has heightened the gender inequity, where only one in four girls from poor, rural families complete Junior Secondary school education.
While explaining that education is a fundamental human right which every child should enjoy, Farah said no child should be left behind and that girls’ education should receive special attention.
“Girls’ education is particularly important because as is often stated, when you educate a girl, you educate a nation”, he said.
He said girls bear a sizeable burden of the challenges that confront the education sector in Nigeria given the available statistics, and therefore called on government and stakeholders to address the problem without delay.
“While the education crisis in Nigeria is affecting children across the country, some children are more likely to be affected than others, especially girls”, he said.
He also noted that attacks on schools has further complicated the situation with girls’ education in Nigeria and that girls were the target in most of the attacks.
“These attacks have created an insecure learning environment, discouraged parents and caregivers from sending their children to schools, while at the same time the students themselves become fearful of going to school”, he said.
Farah said with funding support from development partners, UNICEF is collaborating with government to build the capacity of School-Based Management Committees (SBMCs) and Centre-Based Management Committees (CBMCs) on school safety and security and to make communities more resilient.
According to him, “for example, in Kano State, through the Girls’ Education Project 3 (GEP3) funded by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) of the UK, 300 SBMC members have been trained, while schools supported through the Girls’ Education Project 3 have developed School Emergency Preparedness and Response Plans to mitigate the impact of potential and actual threats on schools”.
“Multi-sectoral task teams on school safety have also been established across all the 34 LGAs of Katsina state to provide quick networking among actors on school security, with additional focus on the safety of the girl child. Additionally, 60 Junior Secondary Schools have developed emergency plans and tested the plans in evacuation drills”, he said.
Farah said theses interventions are encouraging girls to attend school. He said a lot still needs to be done to ensure that every girl in Nigeria is enrolled, attends school and completes her education.
“To achieve this objective, we need the support of every ally and stakeholder, especially the media. This Media Dialogue is therefore very timely and critical in the achievement of these objectives”, he said.
He urged the media to advocate for increased funding and allocation of adequate public resources to the education sector, especially adequate allocation and the release of what has been appropriated.
“The media must also be at the forefront of advocating for the action directed at removing barriers that hinder girls’ education such as child early marriage”, he said.
Farah on behalf of UNICEF expressed gratitude to the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) of the UK for funding the Girls’ Education Project 3 which started in 2012.
He said “This support has expanded access to education for girls, resulting in no fewer than 1.4 million girls having access to education in northern Nigeria. With more of similar support, and working together with government and development partners, parents, communities, traditional and religious leaders, we can achieve more by enrolling more girls in schools, and ensuring they complete their full education.”
Farah said UNICEF would keep collaborating with the government, partners, media and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) to help children survive, thrive and attain their full potentials.
In her presentation, UNICEF Education Specialist, Azuka Menkiti said educating girls is a solution to poverty and will help Nigeria to achieve economic growth.
Also, the UNICEF Education Specialist, UNICEF Field Office, Kano, Muntaka Mukhtar highlighted the current situation of girls’ education in Nigeria and called for urgent more efforts to sustain the progress so far achieved.
Similarly, the UNICEF Education Manager for Kano Field Office, Michael Banda, said the previous interventions in supporting Girls’ Education in the Northern Nigeria through GEP3 has yielded good results and must be sustained and improve upon.