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Bridging Gender Gap through Improved Girl-child Education



Experts have identified the low level of women participation in education decision making as a major factor militating against enrollment of children, especially girls in Northern Nigeria’s schools, ANDY ASEMOTA, writes.

In the Northern part of the country, gender gap in education has remained particularly wide with proportion of girls to boys in schools ranging from one to two boys to one to three boys in some states. In Kastina State, the story is not different.

Increasingly, there are calls from different stakeholders including women rights advocates and educationists on the need to ensure provision of better access for education to the female children so as to correct the seeming imbalance between them and their male counterpart.

Critical stakeholders and development partners like the UNICEF have been in the fore front of championing this all important cause especially in the north-east states where the statistic of education generally and the girl child education is not so encouraging.

Only recently, a former commissioner in the state, Maria Abdullahi, in her speech delivered in Katsina at the meeting with key stakeholders on proposal for drafting a bill for 35 per cent share to be set aside for women in education decision making positions in the State, drew attention to the fact that the women had been occupying less than 10 per cent of such positions.

Abdullahi, believes this affects not only girls’ enrolment, retention and completion of all levels of education in the state but also leaves very few female role models for the girl child. Perhaps to address this, she and scores of her friends met to form the High Level Women Advocates-HiLWA-, aimed at advocating the cause of improved education for the girl child.

Since August, 2014, when various chapters of High Level Womenm Advocates (HiLWA) were inaugurated in the first five UNICEF Girls Education Project (GEP) states of Bauchi, Niger, Sokoto, Zamfara and Katsina by the Federal Ministry of Education, Abdullahi who is also the chairperson Katsina HiLWA said, some considerable successes have been recorded in promoting school enrolment of girl child but the challenges of recruitment of more female teachers, female local government education secretaries, female directors and heads of education boards in the state remain quite enormous.

The former commissioner also expressed regret over the huge number of out-of-school children in the state.As she laments the status of women in decision making positions, she cited a study conducted in the state in 2014 with the support of UNICEF which revealed that out of a total of 54 persons in management positions in the state ministry of education 49 were men and 39 out of 46 performing managerial functions in the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) were also men.

Abdullahi posited that the study showed that Katsina women had serious problem as regards to appointment into the membership of SUBEB’s permanent board, the state scholarship board and local government education secretaries arguing that no woman has risen high to the three positions. She further disclosed that only 44 or 9.2 per cent women out of a total of 477 principals in the state, when the study was carried out, were women.

The HiLWA chieftain also stressed the need for the opinion leaders and major stakeholders at the advocacy meeting to support the quest for a law that would encourage all children in the state, especially girls to access equitable quality education.

“The law should provide 35 per cent participation of women in leadership positions in the education sector such as classroom teachers, head teachers, principals, education secretaries and directors in education agencies in the state,” she said.

Manager, Girls Education Project (GEP) in Nigeria, Teilja Vallandingham, who led UNICEF team to the meeting praised the selfless efforts of HiLWA and other stakeholders in improving the status of girls’ education in Katsina.

She stressed the need to look at all aspects of the constraints against girls’ education because of increased demand for support to sub- sector; improving capacity of teachers to deliver effective learning for girls, and improved governance to strengthen the education.

Vallindingham, who said the target of Girls Education Project Phase Three (GEP3) from 2012 to 2010 was to have additional one million girls in schools, lauded its impact on improved social and economic opportunity for girls as she expressed joy that more girls in target states in Northern Nigeria would complete basic education and acquire skills for life and livelihoods.

She explained that whereas girls’ survival rate to Grade 5 is expected to improve to 80 per cent by 2019/20, other expected results include 1.3 million girls being reached by improved teaching and girl-friendly learning environments; 42,000 Primary and Integrated Quranic Schools (IQS) teachers trained and mentored in child-centred pedagogy and 15,000 head teachers trained in school effectiveness and curriculum management.

As she further disclosed, about 21, 400 families would benefit from cash transfers made possible by the project to encourage the families to send their daughters to school and support their transition to Junior Secondary Schools (JSS) and Senior Secondary School (SSS). She also posited that GEP3 would be powered by reliable and validated Annual School Census in each state towards targeting resources for girls’ basic education.

Empirically, UNICEF Education programme has despite all known constraints recorded key achievements from 2014-17. The combined efforts of development partners, international groups, States’ Universal Boards for Basic Education (SUBEBs) and Non-Governmental Organisation (NGOs) had enrolled 1,196,694 children in Grade 1 (out of 1,187,008 planned) under their enrolment drive campaign.

During the same period, no fewer than 2297 Early Child Development (ECD) teachers were trained, that is 1996 plus 301 not targeted, out of 1849 planned.

So, it is logical to say UNICEF, HiLWA, other development partners and relevant stakeholders are delivering on their mandate in the Northern Nigeria, especially in Katsina State.

On her part, the UNICEF Katsina Chief of Field Office, Padmavathi Yedla, represented by UNICEF education specialist, Mukhtar Muntari,

said the state is replete with fertile ground for women and girls to be supported to contributed their quota so that humanity will be better for it.

She said UNICEF is committed to support all relevant stakeholders to ensure the attainment of their common goal of improving the education sector, particularly girls’ education.