NIGERIA’s partnership with the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) of the United Kingdom (UK) has resulted in the enrolment of 1.5 million girls in schools in northern Nigeria in ten years.
The intervention began in 2012 and ended this year. It gulped $109 million.
States that benefitted from the initiative are Katsina, Kano, Niger, Sokoto, Zamfara and Bauchi.
Four of the states are in the North-West, and one apiece is in the North East (Bauchi) and North-Central (Niger).
The intervention tagged Girls’ Education Programme Phase 3 (GEP3) engaged more children than expected, according to a statement mailed to The ICIR on the intervention by UNICEF on Thursday, November 24.
The ICIR reports that Nigeria currently has over 20 million out-of-school children despite the intervention.
A 2019 report showed that ten northern states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) had eight million out-of-school children. All six states that benefitted from the GEP3 programme are among the ten states.
The rate of out-of-school children in Nigeria has been high because of the country’s growing population, noted Catriona Laing, British High Commissioner to Nigeria, at an event marking the end of the GEP3 initiative in Abuja on Thursday.
Laing described the GEP3 as one of the UK’s largest bilateral Girls’ education programmes globally.
Notwithstanding the high data of out-of-school children in Nigeria, the GEP3 programme raised the attendance rate of girls in primary schools in the six states from 43 per cent to 70 per cent, while gender parity improved from 0.73 to 0.97, according to the statement.
The statement notes that while addressing the partners and other participants at the national closing ceremony of the GEP3 in Abuja, the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, said the GEP3 worked to improve the quality of education for all children and helped girls gain better access to education and economic opportunities.
“In our commitment to drastically reduce the number of out-of-school children, Nigeria appreciates the scaling of evidence-based solution in tackling this menace as provided through the GEP3.
“As we continue on this path, we would leverage the success of GEP3 to plan better, budget better, and make better decisions in putting more Girl- Child in school,” added the minister.
UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, Cristian Munduate, explained that GEP3 did not only help in getting more girls into formal and non-formal schools but also improved learning outcomes.
Munduate said GEP3 had raised the profile of educated girls, created new positive social norms in many communities and enabled a transformational shift in mindsets about the importance of girls’ education.
“It is critical that we advocate scaling of the approach in all states. I express the deep appreciation of UNICEF to the UK Government for this long-term commitment and funding for girls’ access to primary school in northern Nigeria.
“Together, much work remains to be done to ensure that girls transition to and complete secondary education. This is important not only for the economic prosperity and well-being of the girl and her family but to stem the high population growth expected in Nigeria. We see FCDO and the government of Nigeria as steadfast partners in this complex endeavour,” added Munduate.
GEP3 also built the capacity of headteachers and teachers to manage schools and deliver effective learning for girls.
The statement stated that the programme supported over 23,500 girls and reduced poverty levels in households, enabling families to send girls to school and enhancing women’s ability to generate additional domestic income through an unconditional cash transfer programme.
It also created community-based structures like the mothers’ association, school-based management committees, and high-level women advocates for community mobilization, mentorship and policy advocacy on girls’ education.
Besides, the programme strengthened non-formal Qur’anic schools by integrating foundational literacy and numeracy.
“To improve learning levels, the programme delivered an early literacy and numeracy intervention, the Reading And Numeracy Activity (RANA). RANA was designed to improve literacy and numeracy instruction in grades 1-3 in over 3,800 public schools and integrated Qur’anic schools. RANA developed Hausa-language teaching and learning materials, built teacher capacity, mobilized communities and engaged local governments to improve early-grade reading policies.
“Overall, the GEP3 programme trained over 67,000 primary school teachers, including those teaching in integrated Qur’anic schools to improve their skills and ability to deliver quality education.”