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Enrolling out-of-school Nigerian children

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By Usman Oladimeji

Learning access enabled for 1.5 million girls in Northern Nigeria.

The Nigeria population composition encompasses substantial and developing children, as children in the age group of 0 to 18 years, constitute half of the overall populace. Nigeria is forecasted to account for 17 percent of Africa’s children and 5 percent of the world’s children total population by 2030, when all children should have access to inclusive, quality education. This observation underscores the profound impact of the state of Nigerian children on both regional and global development. It is evident that there has been a discernible increase in the enrollment of children in school surpassing the figures recorded a decade ago.

In 2012, specifically within the northern region a minimum of one-third population were out of school, gender parity showed an average value of 0.73 across six states situated in the northern region but learning levels data was predominantly unavailable. This called for a dire need for the country to develop an evidence-based model that will effectively facilitate the enrollment and retention of young girls in primary education. A myriad of supply, demand, and systemic factors were impeding the access of young females to school such as poverty, insecurity, adverse social norms pertaining to girls’ education, dilapidated infrastructure, inadequate data, poor teaching and learning, and other factors.

GEP3 tackles barriers of young girls’ educational opportunities.

Responding to the situation, the Federal Government of Nigeria, in collaboration with the six northern states, forged a partnership with UNICEF and the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) to established Enter the Girls Education Project Phase III (GEP3), a transformative initiative aimed at enhancing educational accessibility, particularly for girls, and catalyzing a paradigm shift in their life prospects through education. GEP3 was deliberately designed with a meticulous approach, characterized by evidence-based planning and methodical implementation. Leveraging an ecological systems approach, GEP3 tackled the intricate and interrelated barriers that significantly impeded the educational opportunities for young girls.

This was done through efforts to promote girls’ enrollment and retention at the household and community levels combined with efforts aimed to boost students’ learning and performance at school, and bolstered governance at the community, school, and systems levels. Initially, GEP3 was developed with scalability and sustainability in mind. FCDO longest and substantial allocation of resources towards the advancement of girls’ education amounting to $109 million on a global scale, has successfully reduced the gender gap and enabled learning access for 1.5 million girls in Northern Nigeria after 10 years of implementation. There was a 64% increase in the number of girls enrolled in school, from 1.76 million to 2.87 million.

Govt, UNICEF, partners now laser-focused on expansion.

Across the six states, gender parity rose from 0.73 to 0.97, and from primary 1 to primary 5, the percentage of surviving female students rose from 57% to 87%. Likewise, GEP3 students outperformed their peers in both English and Hausa literacy and numeracy in both public primary schools and Integrated Qur’anic Schools. Literacy rates among young women aged 15-24 increased across all six states, a result of GEP3 long-lasting benefits. GEP3 greatest accomplishment was the dramatic change it brought about in social standards towards girls’ education, as seen by the increased enrollment rates, decreased early marriage rates, and decreased early pregnancy rates across the six states.

High-level Women Advocates (HiLWAs), mothers’ associations (MAs), local women’s supported by traditional and religious leaders, and peer groups all played critical roles in GEP3 success by challenging long-held beliefs and reimagining the status of girls and women in today’s society. Government, UNICEF, and their partners are now laser-focused on expansion as the scheme winds down. There is optimism that the out-of-school population can be reduced with the help of a new gender in education policy, a new commission on Almajiri children, and a framework of action on out-of-school children negotiated by the government and UNICEF with the 36 states.

12 years of basic education is the most completed for females.

Nevertheless, there is still more work to be done on the issue of girls’ education in Nigeria. The best return on investment in girls’ education appears to occur when they complete 12 years of basic education, according to global outlook. The same holds true for health, social, and societal results as it does for educational and economic ones. The development of a model for the admission, retention, and graduation of female secondary school students in Nigeria still has a long way to go. With a population of 101 million children and adolescents, the context is perfect for the ambitious attempt, and all partners and donors are encouraged to become involved.

Related Link

UNICEF: Website

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