BusinessDay

FG, UNICEF enrol 1.5m girls in school in Northern Nigeria

A total of 1.5 million girls have been enrolled in school in Northern Nigeria through the Education Programme Phase 3 (GEP3) being implemented by the Federal Ministry of Education, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) of the UK, and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

The programme was implemented across six northern Nigerian states of Katsina, Kano, Niger, Sokoto, Zamfara and Bauchi between 2012 and 2022 in response to the low levels of participation of girls in schools.

At the national closing ceremony of GEP3 held in Abuja on Thursday, the partners reported that the programme’s investment of $109 million yielded positive results in enrolling additional girls in school, far exceeding the project’s target.

According to the partners, the attendance rate of girls in primary schools in the six states improved from 43 percent to 70 percent, while gender parity improved from 0.73 to 0.97.

The also programme worked to improve the quality of education for all children and helped girls gain better access to education and economic opportunities, breaking the cycle of poverty and disadvantage.

Minister of education, Adamu Adamu, highlighted the need to leverage the success of GEP3 to plan better, budget better, and make better decisions in putting more girl-child in school.

He said Nigeria appreciated the scaling of evidence-based solutions in reducing the number of out-of-school children.

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Catriona Laing, the British high commissioner to Nigeria, said the GEP 3 has been one of the UK’s largest bilateral girls’ education programmes globally. “We have seen good progress in improving access for girls and moving towards gender parity but with an increasing population, Nigeria’s out-of-school children figures remain high, for girls and boys. We now need to ensure that we build on the successful interventions of GEP 3, supporting them to be scaled-up and sustained to ensure they are catalysts for change in the wider sector,” Laing said.

Cristian Munduate, the UNICEF representative in Nigeria, said GEP3 has not only been successful in getting more girls into formal and non-formal schools, but it has also improved learning outcomes.

According to Munduate, GEP3 has raised the profile of educated girls, created new positive social norms in many communities and enabled a transformational shift in mindset 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 there remains much work 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,” Munduate added.

According to a statement by UNICEF, in addition to surpassing its target enrolment figures, GEP3’s innovations, policies and best practices are contributing to improvements in Nigeria’s educational sector.

The UN agency added that GEP3’s unconditional cash transfer programme supported over 23,500 girls and reduced the level of poverty in the household, enabling families to send girls to school and enhancing the ability of women to generate additional domestic income.

“The programme was also instrumental in strengthening 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.”