Nigeria to lead the way in girls' education; UK government invests $50 million
Abuja/New York, 8 December 2004 – One of the world’s largest girls’ education projects will be launched tomorrow in Nigeria, supported by a $50 million grant from the UK Government.
The project is a decisive step forward to achieving gender parity and universal basic education in Nigeria, the most populous Sub-Saharan African nation. About 7.3 million Nigerian children of primary school age remain outside the school system, of whom 62% are girls.
The Federal Ministry of Education of Nigeria will implement the project with support from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the UK Government, through its Department for International Development (DFID). The direct beneficiaries will be more than 360,000 pupils in 720 schools in 2005. Many more will benefit indirectly and the project will be scaled up over the following two years to include 15 different states in the country.
“This is one of the most generous grants given by any government for girls’ education,” said Carol Bellamy, UNICEF Executive Director. “Investing in girls’ education is one of the best investments for the development of any country. The improvement of girls’ enrolment in schools in Nigeria will have a significant impact on the whole region as Nigeria accounts for 20% of the total population of Sub-Saharan Africa.”
The funds will be used to increase girls’ access to school and improve the quality of education, through training, support for policy in favor of girls’ education, community participation in school management, provision of better facilities for all students and sensitization of the population on the benefits of educating girls.
The gender gap favoring boys has remained consistently wide in Nigeria over the last ten years. In the Northern part of the country, the number of children out of school is particularly high and the proportion of girls to boys in school ranges from 1 girl to 2 boys and even 1 to 3 in two states. In 2003, UNICEF launched the “25 by 2005” global initiative, in order to achieve the Millennium Development Goal for the elimination of gender disparity in education in 25 countries by 2005. In response, Nigeria adopted the Strategy for Accelerating Girls Education in Nigeria the same year.
The launch will take place in Minna, the capital city of Niger State, under the auspices of the President of Nigeria, in the presence of about 1,000 policy makers, state commissioners and civil servants of the Education sector and major development partners who are attending the National Council of Education annual meeting.