By James Emejo
The Board of Directors of the World Bank Wednesday approved a $500 million credit from the International Development Association (IDA) for the Adolescent Girls Initiative for Learning and Empowerment (AGILE), aimed at improving secondary education opportunities among girls in targeted areas.
Specifically, the ambitious project will support access to secondary school education and empowerment for adolescent girls in seven states of Kano, Kebbi, Kaduna, Katsina, Borno, Plateau and Ekiti.
The project seeks to benefit about 6.7 million adolescents as well as 15.5 million direct project beneficiaries including families and communities in participating states.
The project has also been adapted to respond to Covid-19 and will support a blended learning approach using technology and media (TV and radio) to implement remote and distance learning programmes.
The World Bank Country Director for Nigeria, Mr. Shubham Chaudhuri, said: “There is no better investment to accelerate Nigeria’s human capital development than to significantly boost girls’ education. The AGILE project will enable Nigeria to make progress in improving access and quality of education for girls, especially in northern Nigeria.
“Addressing the key structural impediments in a comprehensive way will create the enabling environment to help Nigeria ensure better outcomes for girls, which will translate into their ability to contribute to productivity and better economic outcomes for themselves and the country.”
According to the bank, adolescent girls face many constraints in accessing and completing secondary school education, adding that lack of secondary schools is significantly greater with up to 10 primary schools for every secondary school in northern Nigeria.
It stressed that poor condition of infrastructure and a lack of water sanitation and hygiene (WASH) facilities make it difficult for girls to stay in school.
Essentially, the intervention seeks to build over 5,500 junior secondary school (JSS) and 3,300 classrooms for senior secondary school (SSS), as well as improving 2,786 junior secondary and 1,914 senior secondary schools with safe, accessible and inclusive infrastructure.
About 340,000 girls will receive life skills training in safe spaces, which will help them navigate challenges in life, while 300,000 girls will receive digital literacy trainings to help them thrive in the digital economy.
Additionally, the project will offer half a million girls from the poorest households with financial incentives in the form of scholarships to further support their retention and completion of secondary school as well as support raising awareness to address social norms and promote positive behaviours for a supportive and enabling environment for girls’ education using communication and high-level advocacy.
According to the Bretton Woods institution, about 80 per cent of poor households are present in the northern part of the country, a situation which makes it more challenging for them to cover the direct and indirect costs of schooling.
It expressed concern that if nothing was done, 1.3 million girls out of the 1.85 million who began primary school in 2017/2018 in the northern states will drop out before reaching the last year of junior secondary school.
Consequently, it said the AGILE project will use secondary school as a platform to empower girls through education, life skills, health education particularly in the areas of nutrition, reproductive health, GBV awareness and prevention, negotiations skills, self-agency and digital literacy skills.
A minimum of six million girls and boys are expected to benefit from the project and many more cohorts of students will continue benefiting after the project ends, the World Bank added.
The project will further expand existing primary and Junior Secondary Schools (JSS) to include both JSS and Senior Secondary Schools to make schools functional, safe, and inclusive to teaching and learning.