Fred Ezeh, Abuja
For years now, the issue of the education of the girl-child in northern Nigeria has been of source of worry for the Nigerian government.
It is believed that over 10.5 million children of school age, most of whom are children from northern Nigeria, are out of school. Some of them are either married at an early age or engaged in domestic or odd jobs. But the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) has said that the figure was incorrect.
Efforts by successive federal and state administrations as well as their international development partners have not yielded the desired fruit.
Two years ago, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) carried out a research in some northern states and discovered that poverty and ignorance were the major factors militating against the education of the girl-child in the northern part of the country. The UN agency, thereafter, launched the Girls Education Project Phase (GEP3) and Cash Transfer Programme (CTP) in some of the states in the North to provide financial assistance to some rural women on the condition that they must send their daughters to school.
The objective was to drive a project that would increase girl’s enrolment in formal education in the educationally disadvantaged states of Bauchi, Katsina, Niger, Sokoto and Zamfara.
Six local government areas each in Sokoto and Niger states were chosen for the first phase of the programme. Seventy-two schools in Niger and 62 in Sokoto, and the project lasted for two years.
UNICEF’s chief education officer, Terry Durnnian, told journalists at the presentation of the report in Abuja recently that a N5,000 monthly stipend was being paid directly to each parent or caregiver for sending his or her daughter to school.
“But they must ensure that their girl-children attend school consistently to earn the monthly stipend,” he said.
The system, he added, was able to pay between 86 to 96.1 per cent of the correct recipients in Niger State, while it reached out to 88.6 and 97.9 per cent of the correct recipients in Sokoto State.
The CTP was adjudged to be cost-effective in both states. The total operational cost for the two years of CTP was N7,148,400, which was 2.0 per cent of amount paid to the beneficiaries. It translates to N97.73 as the cost of delivering CTP to one beneficiary for each tranche in Niger State.
In Sokoto State, it was N8,992,080, which was 3.3 per cent of amount paid to beneficiaries. It also translates to N166.27 as the cost of delivering CTP to one beneficiary per each tranche payment. The programme’s cost-effectiveness ratio was N5,097.73 and N5,166.27 for Niger and Sokoto states, respectively.
Durnnian said that the number of beneficiaries of CTP reached a peak of 12,410 in Niger State and 11,341 in Sokoto State during third tranche payment. This was contrary to the proposed 10,700 beneficiaries per state. An average of two girls per caregiver was also reached by the CTP in each state.
The CTP was said to have also achieved its primary target of luring more girls to school. Its report further indicated that girls’ enrolment increased by 35.5 per cent in Niger State and 65.5 per cent in Sokoto State.
It was observed, however, that the CTP implemented in Niger and Sokoto states was coherent with the broader policy environment in both states. Niger State Ministry of Education and SUBEB confirmed that CTP was an important instrument of achieving the state’s policy objective of increasing girls’ enrolment in school and women participation in social and economic development activities.
It was also observed that the target of the Sokoto State strategic education sector plan was in line with the goal and objectives of CTP.
One of the beneficiaries was 12-year-old Aisha Mende, from Bondiga Local Government Area of Sokoto State. She came along with her caregiver at the presentation of the report to appreciate UNICEF for the gesture.
She confessed that the CTP was extremely helpful to her, particularly as it had offered her the opportunity to get education and also save a little money that helped her start a little business.