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UNICEF advocates new initiatives to keep girls in school

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The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) has called on the Nigerian government to adopt new initiatives to curb the increasing number of out-of-school girl children .

According to the international agency, “Currently there are about 18.5 million out-of-school children in Nigeria. The figure is a sharp increase compared with the number of out-of-school children in the country in 2021. And 60percent of the population of the children which amounts to 1,100,000 children are girls.”

Mohammed Farah, the UNICEF’s chief of the field office in Kano speaking at a media dialogue on girls’ education said education is a fundamental human right that every child should enjoy, especially the girl-child.

Farah highlighted some of the interventions adopted by the international organisation to improve the girl child enrolment and retention in school as well as their possibility of completing their primary education, said through the Girls Education Project 3 (GEP3) over 1.4 million girls have returned to classes.

The GEP3 initiative is a project funded by the Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (FCDO) of the UK and implemented by UNICEF in collaboration with the Nigerian government.

He disclosed that as the United Nations agency for children, the organisation collaborates with the government, partners, and civil society organizations (CSOs) to help children survive, thrive, and attain their full potential.

Farah reiterated that girls’ education is particularly important because as is oft-stated, when you educate a girl, you educate a nation! He, however, said that in Nigeria, girls, unfortunately, bear a sizeable burden of the challenges that confront the education sector and the statistics speak for themselves.

“Most importantly you will need to know that the majority of these out-of-school children are actually from northern Nigeria.

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“This situation heightens the gender inequity, where only one in four girls from poor, rural families complete Junior Secondary school education,” he said.

The UNICEF boss maintained that 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 pointed out that the situation with girls’ education in Nigeria has been further affected by attacks on schools and the attacks have created an insecure learning environment, and discouraged parents and caregivers from sending their children to school, while at the same time the students themselves become fearful of going to school.

“Most of these attacks have particularly and specifically been targeted on girls. UNICEF, with funding support from development partners, is collaborating with the government to build the capacity of school-based management committees (SBMCs) and community-based management committees (CBMCs) on school safety and security, and to make communities more resilient.

“In Kano State, for example, through the 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 Local Government Areas of Katsina State to provide quick networking among actors on school security, with additional focus on the safety of the girl child,” Farah said.

Furthermore, he explained that from the data available, an additional 60 Junior Secondary Schools have developed emergency plans and tested the plans in evacuation drills.

The interventions are encouraging girls in the country to attend school; however, 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.

“With more similar support, and working together with government and development partners, parents, communities, and traditional and religious leaders, we can achieve more by enrolling more girls in schools and ensuring they complete their full education,” he said.