By Funmilayo Lawrencce, Abuja
Dausiyya Yushau, an 18-year-old student of Government Girls Junior Arabic Secondary School, Tarda, Ungogo Local Government Area of Kano State, said she returned to school due to the intervention of mothers’ association.
Yushau told reporters that the awareness creation of house-to-house campaign by mothers’ association on the benefit of sending the girl-child to school was yielding the desired results.
“ I am a product of the campaign by mothers’ association that came to meet my parent on the need for me to be in school and also complete my education.
“ After the awareness campaign, my parent pleaded with me to return to school and that education is the only key to my success in life.
“ I obeyed and told myself that I must finish schooling before getting married.
“ I am 18 years and will sit for my junior WAEC in less than two months, and afterward pursue my senior secondary school certificate.
“ I would love to be a doctor and to achieve this means I must pursue my education to the tertiary level. I give this credit to the intervention of mothers’ association,’’ she said.
There is no doubt that the over eight years Girls Education Project (GEP 3) initiative introduced by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) with support of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) has changed the educational landscape of girls’ education in Northern Nigeria.
The programme has brought 1.4 million girls back to school, improved teaching and learning environment as well as training and retraining of teachers among other achievements.
UNICEF initiated the GEP 3 in six northern states of Kano, Katsina, Sokoto, Bauchi, Zamfara and Niger states in 2012. It was meant to get one million girls into school as well as ensure their enrolment, retention and learning in order to improve their social and economic opportunities.
As part of the incentive, mothers in Ungogo Local Government Area, received an unconditional cash transfer of N45,000, paid twice directly into their bank accounts.
They channeled this money paid by UNICEF and FCDO into their businesses thereby helping to improve the wellbeing of their household.
Hajia Asmau Mustapha, a member of the mother’s association in Ungogo, highlighted the role played by the association in the drastic reduction of out-of-school girls in the locality.
Mustapha said that the fund given to parents had solved the problems of parents not sending their children, especially the girl-child to school.
According to her, we want the sustainability of the programme because we learnt the initiative will come to an end in September, but we want the government to take it up.
“ Before this programme, only two towns around here sent there children to school located here, but surprisingly, other towns around now send their children to school.
“This is a milestone achievement as it has improved enrolment in the school and so we want it sustained beyond September.
“ The School Based Management Committee (SBMC) constituted female committees that move from house-to-house to enlighten parent on the need to send their children to school.
“ This committee has done a lot in positively influencing parents and the result is the increase in enrolment of the girl-child we see in many of our schools in Kano State, she said.
At the Bachirawa Special Primary School, the head teacher, Mr Uba Gambari, said that the school which used to record low school enrolment was now in dire need of more teachers and classrooms to cope with the upsurge.
Gambari said that through the programme, the school was able to receive the Early Child Centre Development Education Grant of N305,000 as well as a primary grant of N315,000.
He said that the grants had helped to put in place facilities in the school that would make learning conducive for the pupils.
“ Before now, enrolment was low, but as a result of UNICEF’s intervention, enrolment had been boosted more especially the girl-child.
“Initially, before the introduction of this programme, children particularly girls,were not allowed to participate in regular school activities especially in this part of the country.
“ We normally engage in Qur’anic studies, but with the introduction of the programme, a lot of enlightenment has come in as we have been trained on how to mobilise in order to see that every child benefit from education programmes.
“ Now, we have the girls’ associations and mothers’ associations that serve as influencers to bringing other girls to school,’’ he said.
Gambari added that the Girl’s Access Fund of N45,000 paid directly to parent’s account had also helped to support the girls’ education.
On the issue of child marriage, he said the school usually consulted with district heads, to advice parents on the disadvantages of child-marriage, adding that violator were usually reported to relevant authorities for action.
Gambari, however, called for the sustenance of the programme as well as its extension to other states so that the benefit of education would cascade to every part of the country.
Also, a 62-year-old Chief Imam of Bachirawa community, Alhaji Tukur Mohammed, said that the programmed was face with the challenge of refusal of many parents to send their children to school.
Mohammed, however, said the traditional and religious organisations had supported the programme by ensuring that students who left schools were brought back as a result of their mentorship programmes.
Meanwhile, stakeholders at a Media Dialogue on Girls’ Education, held recently in Kano State expressed worry over the common gender norms, which had continued to put girls at a disadvantage, resulting to high rate of girl-child drop out from school.
The stakeholders argued that poverty in any society cannot be eradicated without paying serious attention to child education, particularly girls.
Mr Rahama Farah, Chief of Field Office, UNICEF Field Office Kano, who spoke, said that girls in Nigeria bear a sizeable burden of the challenges that confront the country’s education sector.
According to Farah, currently in Nigeria, there are 18.5 million out-of-school children, 60 per cent of which are girls, meaning that over 10 million girls are out-of-school.
“Most importantly, you will need to know that the majority of these out-of-school children are actually from Northern Nigeria,” he said.
Farah explained that the situation heightened the gender inequity, where only one out of four girls from poor, rural families, complete Junior Secondary School education.
He further explained that while education crisis in Nigeria affect children across the country, some children were more likely to be affected than others, especially girls.
The situation with girls’ education in Nigeria, he stressed, had been further affected by attacks on schools.
“These attacks have created an insecure learning environment, discouraged parents and caregivers from sending their children to schools.
“At the same time, the students themselves become fearful of going to school. These attacks have particularly and specifically targeted girls,” he said.
The field head, however, highlighted the importance of collective support from every ally and stakeholder, especially the media in ensuring that every child was enrolled, retained and complete his/her education.
In the same vein, Mr Michael Banda, an Education Manager, Kano State UNICEF Field Office, said the Girl’s Child Enrolment Project had exceeded its initial target of one million across the targeted states of Katsina, Kano, Bauchi, Zamfara, Sokoto and Niger states.
Banda said that the impact of the GEP3 was meant to improve social and economic opportunity for girls in target states, complete basic education and acquire skills for life and livelihoods.
“The key Interventions include among others community enrolment drives by the School Based Management Committee (SBMCS) and Mothers’ Association with support from state and Local Government Education Authorities (LGEA).
“Action to build girl-friendly learning environments, creating better retention and demand for new access of SBMCS, Mothers Associations (MAs) and Girls for Girls (G4G) groups, using gender-sensitive whole school development plans.
“Action to improve attitudes towards girls’ enrolment and completion, through community campaigns, peer support to girls and family negotiation by SBMCS, MAs and G4G groups.
“Cash transfer schemes to support families with the direct and opportunity costs of girls’ basic education,” he said.
On the learning outcomes of the girls, Banda said that end line percentage of pupils achieving basic literacy had increased from about 10 per cent at baseline to about 32 and 40 per cents at midline and end line respectively in the GEP3 intervention schools.
He said that over 10,000 teachers and facilitators had been trained through GEP3, with teachers’ effectiveness.
Banda also revealed that UNICEF had also supported the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) in developing and in the dissemination of Safe Schools Guidelines.
He said that the GEP3 project had also led to the enrolment of about 1.3 million girls in primary and Integrated Qur’anic Schools (IQS) in the targeted six northern states. (NANFeatures)