The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has called for sustainable cash transfer to the model tested in six pilot states in the northern part of the country to increase investment in education and girl child enrollment in schools and SDG4.
The call was made in Enugu after a two-day national dissemination of findings from the evaluation of Girls Education Project Phase 3 (GEP3) and the sustainable development goal 4 that ended in Enugu on September 28, 2023.
Michael Banda, senior education specialist with UNICEF Nigeria, who led a team from Kano that implemented the GEP3 in north states, also warned that “Nigeria is likely not to meet most of the SDGs by 2030 if business as usual continues, but if we increase investment in education, increase our commitment to education, the political will, we can change the tables”.
According to him, the program was implemented in six northern states between 2012 and 2022 with a success story and the objective of the meeting was to share the experiences that the GAP3 project had in the north with the southern states.
“Many of those interventions can be replicated and scaled up. We know this is what you are focusing on; the program is most focused on the girl child and for various reasons. Our society is segregated against girls, consciously or unconsciously, sometimes it is so ingrained in our culture and when families make choices, especially on education, that the boy goes to school and the girl stays home. Sometimes those choices are hard in the prioritization of the household funds,” he said.
According to him, some of the norms are what the GAP3 are fighting against and apart from the norms that exist at household and community levels the infrastructure in schools sometimes is not conducive for girls to continue school.
“Certain school environments and behaviours are not supportive for the girl to get into school and stay in school. Where menstrual hygiene is poor, sanitation is poor, toilets are not segregated between boys and girls, it is very likely that the girl will drop out of such a school environment. Therefore, GAP3 worked to ensure that these norms and obstacles are countered by ensuring that the schools have conducive environments in which girls can learn and that communities are informed about the positive aspects of taking a girl child to school. So, these are some of the issues that GAP3 addressed,” he said further.
In his contribution, Abel Akhere, deputy director, Special Needs Education, Senior Secondary School Department, Federal Ministry of Education, commended UNICEF’s effort in assisting the government in the development and education of children in the country. He noted that the issue of education and the girl child seems to be a top priority of most organisations when it comes to learning and that UNICEF is also in that active mode.
He said the reason the girl child is focused on was because they have been left behind for a long time.
“We have tried the GEP 3 and cash transfer to the poor in the northern states and we discovered that it works and girl child enrollment in school increased. We are bringing it to the south so that most states will buy into it, especially the girl child from poor families, as UNICEF and other partners will be involved.
The cash transfer is working, they have given us a breakdown of how it works and we want the state government to be involved.
“Just N5000 for a term and annually N52,000. Do you know what that amount can do in the rural area, for all those rural women who are looking for only just N5000 to buy a uniform or buy something in the school?
“That is what cash transfer can do, and if you are able to get all those people in the rural area who cannot fend for themselves to discover it, it will boost enrollment and retention”.
Earlier in her welcome speech Juliet Chiluwe, chief of UNICEF Enugu Field Office, who was represented by Agatha Nzeribe, said that the occasion was to disseminate the GAP-3 results and for the southern states to cross-check their activities with the SDGs, particularly the GAP-3 results.