Education is a fundamental human right for all regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, culture, and beliefs. However, one of the primary ways gender disparities are evident in West Africa is in the ratios of male to female participation in schools. We will sight Kaduna state as a case study leveraging on the work we do and evidence we have; the state’s development plan report (2016-2020) showed that males have the highest secondary school retention rate of 27.84% as compared to females 23.41%.
While the free education policy in the Kaduna state is a commendable step to bridge the gap between male and female school retention, especially for girls in vulnerable situations, our intervention has revealed several other barriers keeping girls out of school, including;
- lack of awareness of the free education policy in the state.
- Extortion – Despite the government’s declaration of the free education policy, it is also common for schools to impose hidden fees on their students making parents reluctant and burdened by the costs due to their low socioeconomic status.
- The gender bias and unequal gender norms that prioritize boys’ education over girls also affect parents’ willingness to invest in girls’ education.
- Sexual violence and sexual assault in schools have also been identified as a key barrier to why girls are not enrolled in school.
- Lack of infrastructure; conducive learning environment, including proper facilities to ensure menstrual hygiene management for school girls.
With support from Malala Fund, we are working with 30 community leaders and girls advocates to improve school enrollment rates leveraging on the free education policy.
Our 30 key community influencers and stakeholders in Rido, Kudenda, Karatudu, and Nassarawa, have been actively engaging their communities in dialogue sessions to sensitize the community on the availability of the policy and the importance of girl’s education.
With this strategy, we hope to address these highlighted barriers to girls’ education and influence attitudes and the negative gender norms that influence communities and individuals to prioritize boys’ education over girls.
Our key wins in these communities;
- The champions in Rido community have set up a task force to investigate and address loitering during school hours to ensure that all students remain in school during active hours, including teachers not sending pupils on errands outside school.
- Nasarawa community has organized community fundraising schemes to generate funds for repairs of damaged desks for the school so the girls can have a conducive learning environment since this has been identified as a key challenge in their community.
- EVA has built the capacity of the champions to respond to SGBV and make appropriate referrals. They have also intervened and mediated in cases of child marriage.
All these efforts have culminated in the re-enrolment of no less than 80 adolescent girls and young women into school, including girls who have had to drop out due to teenage pregnancy.
We have also equipped 48 girl advocates with communication, leadership, and digital skills to help them advance their careers and gain access to good income-generating opportunities in the future; they will also advocate for girl child education and empowerment online.
quoting one of our girl advocates in Kaduna state;
Imani Dauda, 23,
“Learning the digital skills course has given me the ability to use the internet well. I didn’t know there was much more I could do than chat. I can process information better. It’s not every forwarded message, I believe, anymore. Now I can research facts for myself.”
Our project demonstrates that it is possible to dismantle systems, policies, and practices that impede girls’ access to education.
Today we celebrate International Education Day under the theme “Changing Course, Transforming Education,” we are calling on everyone to join forces to ensure that we leave no girl behind in the pursuit of education.