Devpro Resource Centre


Energizing the community around child-friendly schools

© UNICEF/NYHQ2007-0536/Nesbitt
A teacher in an outdoor class at Konkiyel Primary School in Konkiyel Village in the northern Nigerian state of Bauchi.

Context and challenge: Poverty and gender disparities create obstacles to primary school enrolment

Nigeria is the most populous nation in Africa with more than 140 million people. Well over half of the population lives in poverty, with wide regional disparities. With children under 15 years of age accounting for about 45 per cent of the country’s population, the burden on education and other sectors is overwhelming. And while Nigeria has made steady progress in primary school enrolment, 19 per cent of its primary-school-age children – more than half of whom are girls – are not enrolled in school. What’s more, many girls who do attend school drop out before reaching Grade 6. Poverty, child labour, early marriage for girls, and inadequate school infrastructure all contribute to the problem. If Nigeria is to meet the Millennium Development Goal of achieving gender parity in education by 2015, progress in girls’ enrolment and attendance will have to be twice as rapid as it is now.

© UNICEF/NYHQ2007-0329/Nesbitt
Alawiyyah Adamu, 13, studies in class at Ungwan Baro Koranic School in Babban Kufai Village in the northern Nigerian state of Katsina. The UNICEF-assisted school offers equal education for girls and boys, as well as a literacy programme for adults.

Action: Creating child-friendly schools through a collaborative approach

In 2002, UNICEF helped Nigeria's Ministry of Education launch the Child-Friendly School Initiative, based on the idea that children deserve to learn in safe, effective, gender-sensitive schools that have adequate access to water, sanitation and well-trained teachers. The initial model schools were targeted toward Nigeria's six northern states, whose overall level of enrolment was lowest and gender gap highest.

One such school, in New Owerri, was originally a dilapidated structure without proper sanitation facilities. In an effort to make it child-friendly, the school received desks, chairs, books, sanitation materials, a borehole, early childhood care and first aid kits. A full-time librarian now oversees some 1,360 books in the school’s new library.

What’s more, UNICEF and the State’s Primary Education Board entered into a strong, collaborative partnership with the school’s parent-teacher association (PTA), which has played a fundamental role in making the learning environment welcoming to the school’s 1,136 children.

The PTA helped beef up security in the school by burglar-proofing doors, and took part in the construction of a ten-classroom block. In addition, it provided washbasins and stands for each of the school’s 16 classrooms, as well as items like soap and toilet paper. Most importantly, the PTA continues to provide midday meals for children in the school’s early childcare section three days a week. For some of these children, it is a rare opportunity to eat a nutritious meal.

The group meets at least three times each term, with over 80 parents coming to each meeting. It makes every effort to be as inclusive as possible, regardless of the economic or literacy status of a parent.

© UNICEF/NYHQ2007-0296/Nesbitt
Asiya Aminu, 5, carries a Koranic slate outside her home in the neighbourhood of Kofar Doka in Zaria Town in the northern Nigerian state of Kaduna.

Impact and opportunities: Strong community participation strengthens learning environments; demand for child-friendly schools outpaces supply

By engaging parents and the community to work on behalf of their children, the CFS initiative has strengthened the fabric of the Nigerian educational system. The establishment of school-based Management Committees has made it possible for parents and community members to invest their resources in order to improve the quality of schools and instruction. Moreover, the project has made it mandatory for women to be members of these committees, thereby giving them a voice in the decision-making process– a revolutionary milestone in a region where women are usually not allowed to deliberate in the same forum as men.

In December 2004, a new initiative based on the CFS concept was launched. The Girls’ Education Project (GEP) aims to eliminate gender disparity in education through a collaborative approach. Since many Nigerian teachers lack adequate qualifications, the project has also supported the development of a national school-based training programme in order to improve students' learning outcomes.

Since its inception, GEP has made remarkable strides. Attendance in supported schools has increased by over 25 per cent, while girls' enrolment has increased by over 60 per cent. Gender gaps have been reduced by about two thirds. Moreover, the project has created a new framework at the national and State levels, making girls’ education a sustained priority in Nigeria, which adopted its first Gender Policy for Basic Education.

While prospects for closing the gender gap now appear to be improved in Nigeria, significant challenges remain that prevent all children from accessing a high-quality education. The demand for child-friendly schools outpaces supply, even as CFS principles remain at the core of the country’s educational mission. Going forward, communities will need to mobilize around a growing reverse gender gap in the southern part of the country.

20 July 2009



A focus on

Child-Friendly Schools Manual, Chapter 4, 'School and Community' 2009 | PDF English

To learn more

UNICEF, Child-Friendly Schools Manual, 2009 | PDF English

UNICEF, Global Capacity Development Programme on Child-Friendly Schools | website

UNICEF, Resources on Child-Friendly Schools | website

UNICEF, 'Quality education and child friendly schools,' Actions for Children Issue 5, March 2009 | PDF English | French | Spanish

UNICEF Nigeria: Basic Education | website

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