GEP3: Sustaining Girls’ School Enrollment in Katsina
By Francis Sardauna
Apparently miffed by the accelerating statistics of out-of-school children in Nigeria, particularly in the northern part of the country, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has embarked on a number of revolving innovative strategies to tackle the age-long trend.
One of such problem-solving innovatives is the Girls’ Education Project 3 (GEP3). With the introduction of the project, UNICEF believes that significant progress would be made in not only reducing the disparity in the ratio of enrollment of boys and girls in school, but also engender a more positive view of Western education on the part of parents, especially in rural communities in the region.
The project, funded by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) of the United Kingdom (UK), and implemented by UNICEF in five plus one northern states of Katsina, Zamfara, Niger, Sokoto, Bauchi and Kano, is primarily aimed at getting school-age girls to school without neglecting boys enrollment.
UNICEF, through the GEP3, has a target of returning at least one million girls to school in order to complete their basic education and acquire skills for life and livelihoods (enrollment, completion and learning), as well as improve capacity building for teachers to deliver learning for the girls and improved governance to strengthen girl-child education in the country.
The life-changing project, which was launched in Nigeria in May 2012, is contributing significantly in the areas of education of girls, improvement and provisions of social and economic opportunities for girls in the northern region of the country.
Evidently, the project and other support by UNICEF have expanded access to education for girls, resulting in no fewer than 1.3 million girls having access to education and ensuring that they complete their education in the six befitting states, including other northern states. This implies that the project has exceeded its target of returning one million girls to school.
In Katsina for instance, 292 primary and Integrated Quranic Schools (IQs) across Batsari, Baure, Faskari, Ingawa, Jibia, Kankara, Kankia, Sabuwa and Rimi Local Governments of the state are benefiting from the GEP3 project with significant number of girls being enrolled in schools across the local governments.
Accordingly, during the 2018/2019 academic session, the enrollment of girls in schools across the nine local governments increased from 1,065,217 to 1,134,327 in the 2019/2020 academic year with more girls participating at a low level of basic education in the state.
In addition, there are 7,913 IQs and non-IQs centres in the state having an enrollment of 677,530 female learners, according to the 2021 end-of-year review report by the state Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB).
Also, UNICEF in collaboration with the state government, has a plan of integrating 110,000 Almajirai into western education in the state under the GEP3 project. So far, 53,000 Almajirai across 55 Islamiyya schools in the state have been integrated into Western education, while over 40,000 out-of-school children have been re-enrolled in different schools across the state.
Through the Girls’ Education Project, 300 School Based-Management Committees (SBMC) members have been trained on effective tools in managing and improving schools and creating awareness. While schools supported through the GEP3 have developed school emergency preparedness and response plans to mitigate the impact of potential and actual threats on schools.
To avert attacks on schools by terrorists, a multi-sectoral task teams on school safety have also been established across the 34 local government areas of the state, to provide quick networking among actors on school security with more focus on the safety of the girls who are mostly vulnerable to such scourge.
In addition, 60 junior secondary schools have developed emergency plans and tested the plans in evacuation drills and accelerated learning programme was also implemented in various communities with the target of 160,000 (96,000 girls).
Under the Female Teacher Training Scholarship Scheme, UNICEF in collaboration with the state government, has trained over 2,000 female teachers and a Back-to-School and Behavioural Change Campaign was also launched in the state.
This paved the way for the enrollment drive which was conducted in 2,771 communities in the 34 local government areas of the state to ensure that all children return to school during COVID-19 as well as to increase school enrollment using the National Framework for Enrollment Drive Campaign Strategies.
These, and many other UNICEF’s interventions in the state, are greatly encouraging and improving girls’ enrollment, retention and completion in schools across the state.
However, with over 10 million Nigerian girls still roaming the streets without basic education and majority of them believed to be from the northern region, more need to be done to ensure that every girl in the state is enrolled, attends school and completes her education.
The heart-warming statistics released by UNICEF have further heightened the gender inequality in the country where only one in four girls from poor or rural families complete junior secondary school education.
Considering the role of the media in stemming the issue, UNICEF recently held a three-day Media Dailogue on Girls’ Education for a cross-section of journalists drawn from across the country, which ended in Kano, the Kano State capital.
The dialogue was, to among other things, sensitize the media on the importance of girls’ education, appraise the media of the goal of the Girls’ Education Project 3 and ignite the formation of a media coalition for girls’ education for sustained advocacy on girls’ education.
In his opening remarks at the media interface, the Chief, UNICEF Field Office Kano, Mr. Rahama Farah, said the non-governmental organisation has done tremendously well in improving the enrollment of girls in schools.
“But a lot still needs to be done to ensure that every girl in Nigeria is enrolled, attends school and completes her education.To achieve this objective, we need the support of every ally and stakeholder, especially the media.
“I would like to express UNICEF’s appreciation to the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) of the UK for funding the Girls’ Education Project 3 which started in 2012,” Farah added.
While describing the media dialogue as timely, Farah urged journalists to advocate increased funding and allocation of adequate public resources to the education sector for effective and efficient learning to thrive.
He added that the media must be at the forefront of advocating the action directed at removing the barriers that hinder girls’ education in the country such as child marriage.
Meanwhile, participants at the workshop also embarked on a field trip to some of the GEP3 benefitting schools in Nasarawa, Danbatta, Kano Municipal, Ungogo, Sumaila and Gwale Local Government Areas of Kano State.
Therefore, with more humanitarian support by UNICEF in collaboration with the government, development partners, parents, communities, traditional and religious leaders, more girls, particularly northern girls, will be enrolled in schools and complete their education.