DAILY COURIER – A total of 650,265 girls have successfully been enrolled into the Pre-primary and Integrated Qur’anic Education programme under the GEP3 project of the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, in Northern Nigeria.
This is as no less than 1.4 million girls have accessed education through the project.
The UNICEF Girl Education Project Phase 3, otherwise known as GEP3, is an initiative designed to enhance the enrollment drive for girls, improve learning outcomes for girls and strengthen government’s policy making for continued support to girl child education.
The project which began in 2012, was implemented in 6 states in northern Nigeria. The states are Bauchi, Kano, Katsina, Niger, Sokoto and Zamfara.
GEP3 is supported by the Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office,FCDO, of the United Kingdom UK.
Speaking Wednesday, in his goodwill message, at a Media Dialogue on Girls’ Education under the Girls’ Education Project 3,GEP 3,in Bauchi, Dr. Tushar Rane, Chief of Field Office, UNICEF Field Office Bauchi, said the project had effectively increased the enrollment of girls.
“I would like to express our profound appreciation to the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) of the UK for funding this project since 2012 and therefore enabled no less than 1.4 million girls in northern Nigeria to access education.
“The project effectively increased the enrollment of girls. A total of 650,265 girls enrolled into preprimary and Integrated Qur’anic Education,”he said.
Dr Rane also said the,”The Girl4Girl and HeForShe activities of the project empowered about 9,000 girls and boys in Bauchi state to use peer support mechanism to create demand for girl child enrollment in their communities.”
He explained that, ”As the UN agency for children, UNICEF collaborates with the government, partners and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) to help children survive, thrive and attain their full potentials, and the media plays a very important role as a critical ally in helping UNICEF fulfil this mandate.”
Noting that education of the girl child was critical to transforming communities, reducing inequalities, and strengthening economies”,he said:” Additionally, when we educate the girl child, child marriage and child mortality rates reduce.”
He, however,regretted that,”Despite the benefits of educating the girl child, over 10 million children in Nigeria — 60 percent of whom are girls, are out of school.”
“The situation with girls’ education has been worsened by attacks on schools which have made learning environment insecure and discouraged parents and caregivers from sending their wards, particularly girls, to schools,”he said.
Dr Rane said:”UNICEF, with funding support from development partners, is collaborating with government to build the capacity of school-based management Committees (SBMCs) and Community-based Management Committees (CBMCs) on school safety and security, and to make communities more resilient. In Bauchi State, for example, through the Girls’ Education Project3 (GEP3) funded by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) of the UK.”
While also noting that “strengthening the capacity of teachers is crucial for the retention of girl children who enroll in schools”, Dr Rane said:” The GEP3 project implemented various capacity building initiatives for teachers.”
”About 11,000 teachers received training on topics such as leadership skills to enable effective running of schools, Early Grade Reading pedagogies to enable early grasp of literacy skills and other key topics essential for effective service delivery,”he said.
According to him,”The project successfully strengthened school governance systems through the facilitation of eight annual school census, strengthening school record keeping, developing Local Education Sector Operational Plan to align with the state Education Sector Plan, and improving the functionality of SBMCs and CBMCs.”
He said UNICEF was “grateful for the support from the government, and local partners, who made these successes possible, therefore getting more girls to school.”
“We believe that the partnership will enhance the sustainability of the project’s successes beyond the implementation timeframe
“Nonetheless, there is more to be done. We must not relent. The media has a critical role to play in advancing the education of the girl child,”he said.
The UNICEF Field Officer said “the government at national and sub-national levels, development partners, the media, parents, communities, traditional and religious leaders,can achieve more by enrolling more girls in schools, and ensuring they complete their full education.”
” Therefore, we must step up our investment in the younger generation, especially girls,”he charged.
Rane tasked the media, to continue to advocate for increased funding and adequate public resources to the education sector, especially adequate allocation, and the release of what has been appropriated.
“There are barriers for example, child marriage, that affect girl child education. The media must lead the advocacy to remove these barriers.
“To ensure safe, conducive, inclusive, and enabling environment for all children to learn, we must work together to advocate for policies that promote access to education and in turn increase enrolment, retention, and transition for all children especially the girl child,”he said.
Besides, Dr Rane tasked the media to advocate for increased budgetary allocation to education to ensure availability of modern-day ICT/technological innovations to promote digitalization of the education system.
The media, he said, must alo “advocate to ensure the availability of schools to promote continuous transition of students” and “highlight the importance of recruiting more teachers into the teaching scheme, especially female teachers.”