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Insecurity threatens gains in girls’ education

Parents unwilling to enroll their daughters in school in the northeast

Abuja- June 15, 2014 - The theme of this year’s Day of the African Child - “A child friendly, quality, free and compulsory education for all children in Africa” - offers us an opportunity to reflect on the situation of education in Nigeria.

Nigeria has 10.5 million out-of-school children, the highest number in the world (followed by Pakistan). About 60 per cent of those children are girls and most of them live in the north of the country. Almost 1 out of every 3 primary age children is out of school, and roughly 1 out of 4 junior secondary age children is out of school.

Due to security challenges numerous children currently have no access to schools in parts of the north, and particularly the northeast.

Schools have been closed for security reasons, and where schools in the affected areas still function, children and teachers are often afraid to attend. In comparatively safe areas in the northeast, schools are often overcrowded, understaffed and have insufficient teaching materials.

Because of the violence, many parents are unwilling to enroll their daughters or are withdrawing those already in school.

We know that girls’ education is vital because educated girls become better mothers, have fewer, healthier children. Every additional year of schooling reduces the probability of child mortality by 5-10 per cent.

Educated mothers want their children to have better educational opportunities. This would mean more girls enrolling, attending and staying in school, transiting to senior secondary school, and eventually playing more productive social and economic roles within their families and communities.

The Girls’ Education Project implemented by UNICEF in the northern states, with funding from the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), aims to enroll an additional 1 million girls in school by 2020.

Grassroots’ support is crucial to meeting to overcoming the security and other challenges in order to meet this ambitious goal.

“Involving local communities in initiatives to safeguard education is crucial in protecting the children,” said Jean Gough, UNICEF Representative in Nigeria. “The communities will know the primary concerns of parents, girls and boys. Together they can develop networks for support to keep schools safe,” she added.

The federal government and the state administrations have stated their determination to tackling the issues head on. But there is still a long way to go before achieving the Millennium Development goals of quality universal primary education and the elimination of gender disparity in school. Nigeria needs to build on the progress that has been achieved and step up the momentum.

For further information please contact:
Geoffrey Njoku, UNICEF Nigeria, Tel: 08035250288, gnjoku@unicef.org
For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicef.org
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