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October 2019

Girl-child education

According to the World Bank, every day, girls face barriers to education caused by poverty, cultural norms and practices, poor infrastructure, violence and fragility. About 98 million girl-children are out of school around the world and mostly in 3rd world countries. Girls’ education is a strategic development priority for everyone, especially in northern Nigeria.

Girls’ education goes beyond getting girls into school. It is also about ensuring that girls learn and feel safe while in school; complete all levels of education with the skills to effectively compete in the labour market; learn the socio-emotional and life skills necessary to navigate and adapt to a changing world; make decisions about their own lives; and contribute to their communities and the world. Girls’ education is a strategic development priority because when girls are educated, the whole society benefit. Better educated women tend to be healthier, participate more in the formal labour market and have opportunity to earn higher incomes, have fewer children, marry at a later age, and enable better health care and education for their children. Married educated women can help lift households, communities, and nations out of poverty. According to UNESCO estimates, 130 million girls between the age of 6 and 17 are out of school and 15 million girls of primary-school age - half of them in sub-Saharan Africa - will never enter a classroom.

In Islam, Girl child education is just as important as boys' education because Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was reported to have said "Education is compulsory for both male and female believers". History is replete with stories of women intellectuals who have impacted tremendously on the development and spread of Islamic education. Unfortunately today, the girl equivalent of Almajiri child, presents its own social problems; though they do not leave home, they are however free to roam the streets, hawking, fetching water and engage in other house-hold jobs.  Most of them are enrolled into one form of school or the other. But attendance is occasional or at times practically zero. Hawking becomes their main occupation. The South-Eastern states also have their own share of problems of girl child education. A recent survey shows that, more than 50% of them end up hawking on the streets. As for the North, yes, it is true we could blame the British almost (100%) for deliberately destroying our indigenous education system but we could not blame them for our collective negligence in allowing the system to continue unabated in its present form.

Poverty remains the most important factor for determining whether a girl can access an education. For example, in our North-West zone alone, only 4 percent of poor young women can read compared with 99 percent of young women in the South East. Studies consistently reinforce that girls who face multiple disadvantages - such as low family income, living in remote or underserved locations, disability or belonging to a minority ethno-linguistic group - are farthest behind in terms of access to and completion of education. Violence also negatively impacts access to education and a safe environment for learning. Child marriage is also a critical challenge. Child brides are much more likely to drop out of school and complete fewer years of education than their peers who marry later. This affects the education and health of their children, as well as their ability to earn a living. According to a recent report, more than 41,000 girls under the age of 18 marry every day and putting an end to the practice would increase women’s expected educational attainment, and with it, their potential earnings. According to estimates, ending child marriage could generate more than $500 billion in benefits annually each year

The World Bank Group (WBG) has joined with governments, civil society organizations, multilateral organization, the private sector, and donors to advance multi-sectoral approaches to overcome these challenges. Working together with girls and women, the WBG focus includes:

•           Providing conditional cash transfers, stipends or scholarships;

•           Reducing distance to school;

•           Targeting boys and men to be a part of discussions about cultural and societal practices;

•           Ensuring gender-sensitive curricula and pedagogies;

•           Hiring and training qualified female teachers;

•           Building safe and inclusive learning environments for girls and young women;

•           Ending child/early marriage; and addressing violence against girls and women.



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