How UNICEF’s G4G inspires girls’ retention in schools
So far, 15,303 girls in Bauchi, Katsina and Zamfara states have been enrolled in UNICEF’s Girls For Girls, G4G, initiative aimed at improving enrolment, retention, completion and transition of the girls from primary to junior secondary schools. The program is implemented in 300 pilot schools spread across 18 local governments in the three states. Godfrey AKON reports:
For 13-year old Fatima Abba, the journey through primary education, however stormy and challenging, is just weeks away from ending.
The primary 6 pupil of Tudun Wada Primary School located in the outskirts of Talata Mafara, Zamfara state, hopes to transit to junior secondary school after the August holidays, as she pursues her dream of becoming a social worker.
Fatima had refused to be trapped by cultural and social barriers, waived hawking during school hours, and shunned peers who were ill-disposed to the idea of enrolling and completing school before reaching her final year.
The teenager told reporters that the Girls for Girls initiative did not only inspire and build her confidence to go through school but also imbued her with capacity to advise peers who were not in school to enroll, complete their education and become relevant to the society.
“We have also learnt to solve our problems in school as girls; those who are not in school will always be different from us. Some do not even know how to maintain good hygiene,” she said.
Fatima’s experience is shared by over 15,303 girls in Zamfara, Bauchi and Katsina states, who have been enrolled in the G4G initiative, barely a year after the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, commenced implementation of the program.
While the girls’ mass participation indicates their growing interest in education and school attendance, the program has also instilled them with the commitment to remain in school, complete and transit to secondary school.
Statistics earlier rolled out by UNICEF showed that over half of the girls who complete primary school in Katsina state fail to transit to junior secondary school, while many in Zamfara and some northern states leave school after primary four.
UNICEF Education Specialist, Azuka Menkiti, said the agency initiated the G4G in 2017 to tackle the alarming rate of school dropouts among girls and improve enrolment, retention, completion and transition of the girls from primary to junior secondary schools.
Menkiti, who spoke at a media dialogue jointly organized by the Child Rights Information Bureau, CRIB, of the Ministry of Information and Culture, and UNICEF in Gusau, Zamfara State, said the initiative was implemented in 300 primary schools in 18 local government areas.
"15, 303 girls; Bauchi 5, 284, Katsina 5620 and Zamfara 4,399, have been enrolled and participating in 813 established G4G groups across 18 LGA's in the 300 pilot schools in three states.
"In the months following the inception of this program, a lot of positive changes have been seen in the girls who now aspire to become great women in future. The G4G is to create a platform for empowering girls with knowledge, skills and confidence to exercise the right to enroll and remain in school," she said.
The G4G initiative is a component of the third phase of the Girls' Education Project, GEP3, being implemented in northern Nigeria by the UK Department for International Development, DFID, and is funded by the United Kingdom Agency for International Development, UKaid,
While the program terminates in 2020, it has the goal of bringing over 1 million girls to learn in school and part of the approach being worked out with the Ministry of Education is to embark on exchange learning where some girls will be taken abroad and trained.
So far, the tremendous success recorded by the G4G is not unconnected with its method of implementation in all three states.
According to the Executive Director of Life Helpers Initiative, a partner agency implementing the G4G in Zamfara State, Mr. Tayo Fatinikun, implementers adopted a four way channel involving State Universal Basic Education Boards, SUBEBS, Mothers Associations, among others.
Fatinikun said the role of SUBEBS was to provide overall direction and actively participate especially through local government education authority and head teachers, as well as supervise, monitor and if possible, replicate the program across all LGAs.
The program is also being implemented in collaboration with School Based Management Committees and Mothers Associations whose duty is to actively participate in the running of the 813 groups and provide community supports to them.
Civil Society Organizations also provide direct technical support such as establishment, coordination and content implementation as well as supervise, mentor and monitor groups’ activities.
The High Level Women Advocacy, HILWA, provid regular interface with all stakeholders including the girls and conduct high level advocacy for positive government programs or policies towards girls’ education.
In Zamfara state, 100 schools were selected in Anka, Talata Mafara, Shinkafi, Kaura Namoda, Bugudu and Tsafe local government areas for implementation of the program and child protection issues were highlighted, as well as girls’ abuses.
According to Fatinikun, the progam which focuses on developing girls’ interest in education, life skills and health had 3 mentors in each school comprising of female teachers, where available, and members of mothers’ association.
He said there are currently 185 groups across 6 LGAs of the state with a total population of 4099 girls, over 960 of whom are being trained on social, vocational and health based issues through school-based safe space, extra curriculum activities established in support of the enrolled girls in benefiting local governments.
Aisha Abdullahi of Community Action for Popular Participation, implementing partners of the initiative in Katsina State, said a key intervention of the G4G in the state was community enrolment campaigns by mothers association and other partners.
Abdullahi said mothers associations and high level women advocacy as well as other partners carried out community campaigns, peer support to girls and family negotiations to improve attitudes towards girls’ enrolment, retention and completion.
She narrated the success story of the G4G in tackling the out-of-school children syndrome, girls’ molestation and provision of life skills to girls, adding that the girls were also trained on vocational skills such as soap making, bead making, making of sanitary pads among others.
Despite the early success of the G4G initiative however, the program is faced with daunting challenges. In Zamfara state, due to insecurity, some girls do not go to school regularly while mentors are unable to safely access some communities for mentoring.
The state is also challenged by low infrastructural development as conducive learning facilities are in short supply while there are no girls-related recreational and sport-related facilities.
Besides, in Katsina state, parents are still a major factor hindering girls from enrolling, staying and completing education, while the state has only a handful of female teachers as girls are more likely to stay under a female teacher than male.
Implementers also lament the lack of cooperation by Integrated Quranic Schools, IQS, as proprietors approach the initiative with skepticism even as random transfer of teachers is also affecting the initiative.