G4G initiative, according to UNICEF, was designed as a school-based gender campaign that uses extra-curricular activities to support the education of girls of reproductive age in educationally disadvantaged states…
Fred Ezeh, Abuja
Ten-year-old Fatima Dayabu is a primary four pupil of Dan Wurin Dutse Primary School in Tsafe Local Government Area of Zamfara State. Her dream is to become a lawyer and social crusader. But her parents could not support that dream because of religion and cultural beliefs seen by many as limiting the potential of women in the region.
The financial status of her parents had, perhaps, worsened her chances of making a successful career in law. In spite of that, she was determined to become an instrument of significant growth and development in her local community in Tsafe.
A few months ago, her path crossed with the officials of the Girls 4 Girls (G4G) initiative, a component of Girls’ Education Project 3 (GEP 3) launched in 2017 by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) with support from UKAid.
Fatima said she was psychologically transformed, in addition to exposure on the importance of education and optimism about a great and fulfilled life.
She said: “I never believed in western education because of some past orientation and what I was hitherto exposed to. But being a member of G4G gave me great opportunity for psychological and mental transformation. It rekindled the desire for education in me.
“I hesitated initially to join the group but after several persuasion and meetings with the group’s mentor and other officials, I had a change of mind and became a member. I was totally transformed and armed with many skills that made my friends jealous of me. Two of them, Asamau Yusuf and Hanatu Isiya, had to pressure their parents to allow them return to school and join the club.”
G4G initiative, according to UNICEF, was designed as a school-based gender campaign that uses extra-curricular activities to support the education of girls of reproductive age in educationally disadvantaged states like Bauchi, Katsina and Zamfara.
Its objective was to facilitate the quick return of thousands of out-of school children to school, retain them in school and ensure they complete, at least, primary education.
Anka, Talata-Mafara, Shinkafi, Kaura-Namoda, Bugudu and Tsafe are the six local government areas in Zamfara State targeted by the programme.
For easy reach and proper coordination, the girls were put in groups of between 20 and 25 members and were placed under the close watch of a female mentor and the Mothers’ Association, all of whom must be members of the community.
The girls were lured to school with food and other non-food items as well as extra-curricular and fun activities that encouraged them to remain in school. They were taught life enhancement skills and personal hygiene that tremendously improved their wellbeing.
UNICEF had, in its recent research, observed a slight improvement in school enrolment, particularly girls, in the G4G-benefiting states. But it disapproved of the inability of the children to remain in school after enrolment.
The report also stated that many of the girls that enrolled in basic schools were neither found at the end of primary six nor at the beginning of secondary school, a pointer that they might have been married out or dropped out of school
The G4G initiative joined forces with some advocacy groups that have strong presence in the region to drive the advocacy and pull more children back to school.
Life Helpers Initiative, High Level Women Advocates (HiLWA) and Fahimta Women and Youths Development Initiative (FAWOYDI) were engaged in the task.
The executive director, Life Helpers Initiative, and coordinator of G4G in the state, Mr. Tayo Fatinikun, told journalists at a media dialogue in Gusau that Zamfara was one of the educationally disadvantaged states in Nigeria, with very poor and low enrolment, retention level, as well as strong disparity between boys’ and girls’ enrolment.
He was impressed that the G4G initiative that was introduced in August 2017 has helped to not only boost school enrolment in the target states, but also enhance retention rate of girl child in participating states.
Fatinikun noted that 185 G4G groups were established across six LGAs in Zamfara, with a total of 4,099 girls as members. More than 960 of them have been trained on social, vocational and health- based issues.
He said that insecurity in some of the communities and LGAs, and parents’ ignorance about the importance of western education hindered the expected progress of some of the communities.
“The volatility of some of the communities, low infrastructures and other security threats significantly affected the desires of the girls to get education,” he said.
HiLWA secretary-general in Bauchi State, Halima Ibrahim, appreciated the great impact
of the school-based initiative to the educational, emotional and psychological development of girls that were brougtht back to school through the programme.
She said that HiLWA used prominent and successful women in the region to connect with the girls and made them understand the importance of education.
She added: “We had a hard time, initially, convincing the parents to release their daughters to school. But the approach adopted by G4G initiative in the target states yielded great result.
“It led to significant increase in school attendance, particularly for girls, resulting in tremendous reduction of hawking, especially during school hours, and improved personal hygiene of the girls.”