By Carl Umegboro
Education is one of the most important investments a country can make in its future. It is in the light of this that the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) supports developing countries to ensure that every child receives a quality education. Invariably, education is a powerful agent of change, and improves health and livelihoods, contributes to social stability alongside drives long-term economic growth. Aside featuring as number four of the seventeen (17) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations, the success of all the other goals is dependent on it.
The Girls for Girls strategy fondly tagged G4G is an initiative of the third Phase of the Girls’ Education Project (GEP-3) being implemented in northern Nigeria through a collaboration between UNICEF, UBEC, FME and NMEC with funding from the United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID). The goal of GEP-3 is to support the Government of Nigeria to expand access to one million girls in northern States where a large number of girls are out of school. The project currently covers the 5 States in the North of Nigeria viz. Bauchi, Katsina, Niger, Sokoto and Zamfara, with the highest proportion of out of school girls.
It is also targeted to give a boost to girls’ acquisition of skills for livelihoods. The project has three (3) key outputs which include increased enrolment and retention for girls in basic education; improved capacity of teachers to deliver effective learning for girls and improved governance to strengthen girls’ education. The G4G mentoring strategy is essentially intended to contribute to outputs 1 and 3 of the GEP3 programme.
As committed stakeholders and partners in progress, Niger State Universal Basic Education Board (NSUBEB), Niger State Agency for Mass Education (NSAME), State Ministry of Education (SMoE), and the Niger State College of Education (NCoE) have commendably continued to contribute in their respective capacity to boosting girls’ education.
Likewise, HilWA, SBMC/CBMC and Mothers’ Associations deserve encomiums. In fact, the need to support girls to enroll, remain and complete basic education informed the establishment of Mothers’ Associations in schools in Niger State. Laudably, the members alongside volunteer mentors were at the forefront of creating awareness and sensitizing community members with recommended materials during the peak of COVID-19.
From record, UNICEF GEP-3 Niger State sumptuously supported the development of communication and educative materials to communities within the nine intervention LGAs in the State for prevention and containment of COVID-19 pandemic. With the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lock down, the state with support from UNICEF developed a costed education COVID-19 contingency action-plan to ensure continuous learning for children. It also facilitated house-to-house sensitization on COVID-19 and the provision of technical assistance to partners in all intervention LGAs and the state level respectively.
The record also shows the Girls’ Education Project (GEP-3) in the state which recently moved into its 9th year has made remarkable impacts, and particularly witnessed a great leap in project implementation as the expansion LGAs (Edati, Kontagora and Shiroro) came fully on-stream last year, 2019. The period witnessed greater involvement of youth whose capacity was improved on advocacy skills which enabled them to organise several rallies and engagement of political leaders to demand for safe and quality education in Niger state.
Key achievements include advocacy for Girl’s Education in Niger state that received a visible boost through a capacity building exercise for youths on advocacy skills and engagement with political leaders on increased demand for safe and quality basic education. Furthermore, there’s a boost on number of facilitators providing guidance and training during He-4-She training session. Similarly, six HiLWA members from the state had their capacities developed in leadership skills and aspirations for leadership roles in the state.
In the period under review, 3,331 girls acquired basic knowledge on leadership and life skills acquisition for girls to build their confidence in advocating for their rights to be educated while 3,182 boys under the ‘He-4-She’ programme had their capacities built on positive masculinity to support girls to enrol, stay in school, transit and complete education. This was achieved through series of trainings delivered in the review period. A number of 7,570 girls were registered and are participating in 460 established ‘Girls-4-Girls’ (G4G) groups across 9 LGAs in the 400 schools in Niger states with capacity of all G4G members built on leadership, life skills and vocational skills either through organised state level training or mentorship provided at school level.
Also, a total number of 582 female mentors were empowered with knowledge and skills on monitoring and mentoring of ‘G4G’ groups across the 400 schools in 9 LGAs of Agaie, Edati, Gbako, Kontangora, Mariga, Mashegu, Munya, Rafi and Shiroro. In addition, 493 parents across the 6 LGAs were also sensitized on the importance of educating the girl child while129 girls were successfully enrolled back to school during the IDGC, last year. Also, 25 mothers acquired improved knowledge and capacity to advocate and support completion of quality education of their children through routine school and community support visit. (Quarter 2, Year 8- July- September, 2019).
To crown it all, a total number of 1,081 girls from 12 Schools (6 Junior Secondary Schools and 6 Primary Schools) across 6 GEP-3 focus LGAs were sensitized on the need to overcome distractions, stay in school and remain focused while in school to achieve success and secure a better future for themselves during the 2019 International Day of Girl Child (IDGC). This success reflects visibly in Zumba Model Primary School, Zumba in Shiroro LGA. The pupils’ boldness, brilliance, fervour and astuteness speak volume.
An American poet and bestselling author, Mattie J.T. Stepanek once said; “Unity is strength… when there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved”. Indeed, teamwork is the most efficient and effective way to achieve a common goal or complete a task without much stress.
Umegboro, a public affairs analyst and Associate, Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, (UK) toured Niger State on assessment of Girls’ Education Project-3.