“The G4G Initiative is a component of the Girls’ Education Project Phase 3 being implemented in northern Nigeria to help support girls to remain in school and improve their learning achievement.”
Agaju Madugba, Katsina
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has embarked on an innovative strategy to address the issue of low girl-child enrolment and retention in school in parts of northern Nigeria.
With the introduction of the Girl 4 Girl (G4G) Initiative in the focus areas, UNICEF believes that significant progress would be made in not only reducing the disparity in the ratio of enrolment of boys and girls in school, but also engender a more positive view of western education on the part
of parents and guardians, especially in rural communities.
For several years running, the gulf in educational development between the southern and northern parts of the country has remained a source of concern, with the indices skewed against the North. According to reports recently re-amplified by Alhaji Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, Emir of Kano and former governor of
the Central Bank of Nigeria, only about 4 percent of females from the North complete secondary school education. This has inevitably led to the unimaginable reports that over 80 per cent of the population of women in eight northern states are unable to read and write. The reports further indicate that in the North-West zone alone, some 70.8 percent of the women are unable to read and write while the figure for their counterparts in the South-East is 9.7 per cent.
The development may not be unconnected with the equally slanted foundation of education in the area. UNICEF reports that about 40 per cent of school-age children in Nigeria do not attend any primary school. Expectedly, the North is said to be the worst hit as it has the lowest school attendance rate in the country.
Apparently disturbed by the trend, more so as the girl-child in parts of the North appears to have the least opportunity for early childhood education when compared with male children from the area, UNICEF launched the G4G Initiative in September 2017. The programme, initiated for target communities in Bauchi, Niger, Katsina, Sokoto and Zamfara states, is to help support girls to remain in school and improve their learning achievement.
Under the project, which is supported by the Federal Government through the Advocacy and Child Rights Information Bureau (CRIB) of the Federal Ministry of Information as well as the UKAID and DFID, 90 per cent of the G4G schools are located in rural communities with 10 per cent in semi-urban centres in the target states.
The organisers recently held a two-day workshop on the G4G Initiative for a cross- section of journalists drawn from across the country, which ended in Gusua, Zamfara State. Participants at the workshop also embarked on a field trip to some of the G4G schools.
“The media dialogue was designed to create visibility for G4G and engender media advocacy for education of girls,” the CRIB deputy director, Olumide Osanyinpeju, explained, noting further that the participants would have first-hand knowledge on how G4G affects the lives of the girls enrolled on the programme.
A total of 15,303 girls in 300 G4G pilot schools in 18 local government areas in three states are currently enrolled in the programme with 5,284, 5,620 and 4,399 girls from Bauchi, Katsina and Zamfara, respectively. According to a UNICEF education specialist, Azuka Menkiti, “it was agreed that 80 per cent of the focus schools for the G4G intervention should be from upper primary schools with classes 1 to 6
and 20 per cent from Qur’anic schools that meet the national benchmark for non-formal schools. Membership in the G4G is voluntary and open to all pupils in upper primary and older girls above eight years as in the case of the Qur’anic schools, irrespective of age, religion and ability.”
Apart from other considerations, she noted that the initiative was to encourage girls in school to remain and complete the level as well as aspire to higher levels.
Reviewing the G4G project in a message he sent to the opening of the media dialogue, Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, noted: “There is the need to appreciate that some progress has been made in this bid, but a lot still needs to be done, considering the fact that a large number of girl children are yet to be captured in the programme. The G4G Initiative is a component of the Girls’ Education Project Phase 3 being implemented in northern Nigeria to help support girls to remain in school and improve their learning achievement.”
Indeed, reports from a number of the centres from across the states indicated a certain level of acceptance in the communities, with the formation of pro-G4G associations that collaborate with some other groups to ensure that the initiative succeeds. A component of the programme is training female mentors and other volunteers in G4G strategies and facilitation skills.
From Bauchi, the Fahimta Women and Youth Development Initiative, a UNICEF partner group, describes
the G4G strategy as “a complete package of mentoring programme that supports girls to remain in school and complete their basic education. As a result of G4G training, there is increase in school attendance, particularly for girls, reduction in hawking rate, especially during school hours, and improved personal hygiene of the girls.
“At Gameru Primary School in Ganjuwa Local Government Area, the mothers’ associations contributed N9,500 that was used in renovating the school toilets and a leaking roof in one of the classrooms. The mothers’ association at Yana Model Primary School in Shira Local Government Area donated 160 branded exercise books to the less-privileged and supported the school with the sum of N10,000 during 2018 Children’s Day celebration.”
Basically, according to Aisha Abdullahi, a G4G programme officer for Katsina State, surmounting the problem of retention and completion of primary school for the girls constituted a major problem before the G4G intervention.
She told Daily Sun: “We conducted a survey and found out that after primary four or five, the girls who were enrolled in schools were nowhere to be found. That was what brought the G4G Initiative. And for now, some of the girls are back, courtesy of this intervention.”
And in the words of Zahru Umar Aliyu, a programme officer at Life Helpers Initiative, Gusua, “we had many children who did not go to school and those who dropped out. There is ignorance on the part of the parents, as they do not appreciate the importance of education.
“Most of the girls actually desire to go to school but in a number of cases the parents are not willing to assist them.”