Giving adolescent girls a ‘second chance’ for education

Members of M4D's Life Skills Forum
Members of M4D's Life Skills Forum
Members of M4D’s Life Skills Forum

 

The second chance education program is an informal system of education targeting adolescent girls aged between 13 and 17 and who never had the opportunity to attend school or dropped out of school

Northern Nigeria has one of the most frightful statistics of out-of-school girls in the world, which is evident in the wide disparity between the region and other parts of Nigeria. For example, whereas as high as 70.8% of young women aged 20-29 in the 7 northwestern states are unable to read or write, only 9.7% of women of the same age bracket in the 5 southeastern states cannot read and write, according to British Council’s (2012) Gender in Nigeria Report.

The potentiality of girls’ education in transforming societies and bringing about sustainable socioeconomic development cannot be overemphasized. This could be seen in the fact that educated girls – who eventually become mothers – are much more likely to access antenatal care and give birth to healthy children who are devoid of child killer diseases like malnutrition and pneumonia.

Moreover, it is only educated mothers that will ensure their daughters enroll and remain in school up to completion and thus are able to pursue carriers in various sectors of human endeavor which will enable them compete favorably when it comes to access to job and economic opportunities and therefore make them productive citizens who contribute to their country’s economic growth.

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No doubt, education has the capacity to transform the lives of the millions of the out-of-school girls in northern Nigeria like 15-year old Nana Mohammed of Dawanau community located on the outskirts of Kano, Nigeria’s second city. Until six months ago, Nana, who aspires to become an English teacher, had never seen the four walls of a classroom, although she had always admired schoolgirls passing through her street on their way to her community’s primary school.

“I always admired girls going to school at the time I was not going to school. I have now been going to school for six months where we are being taught subjects like English, Mathematics, Arabic and Hausa. I can now read and write. My plan is to graduate to a secondary school, and further my education to become an English teacher,” an excited and happy Nana told African Newspage.

Along with scores of other adolescent girls in her community, Nana is a beneficiary of the second chance education program introduced to her community less than a year ago. The second chance education program targets adolescent girls aged between 13 and 17 who never had the opportunity to attend school or dropped out of school in the northwestern Nigerian states of Kano, Kaduna and Jigawa, the region with the worst indices of girl-child enrollment and retention in school in Nigeria.

The idea of the second chance education in the region came about during a meeting of a life skills club for uneducated adolescent girls from Dawakin Tofa community of the state of Kano. At the said meeting, the girls resolved they needed a ‘second chance’ for education which was communicated to local education authorities and hence the birth of the now successful second chance education program being implemented in 3 states of the region.

The life skills clubs, which are platforms for adolescent girls to demand quality basic services and accountability from policymakers around education and livelihood in general, are the initiative of the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) through its pioneer grassroots governance program in northern Nigeria, Mobilising for Development (M4D).

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“Second chance education is a solution to [girl-child] education challenges at the grassroots and which is an outcome of a needs analysis conducted by [adolescent] girls in Dawakin Tofa about 3 years ago, where they resolved they needed to be given a second chance to have education,” says Hafizu Aliyu, M4D’s community outreach development officer for Dawakin Tofa local government area of the state of Kano, where the second chance education program was pioneered.

“The challenge was that the girls have passed the age of primary school, which means they cannot be enrolled in primary school; at the same time, they don’t have the requisite qualification to be enrolled in secondary school. Thus, an informal arrangement was made whereby the girls are taught basic literacy and numeracy skills in their various communities’ primary schools after the schools have closed in the afternoon.”

So, the program is being run through collaborative efforts between community-based organizations, the local education authorities and the Mobilising for Development (M4D) program. While the local education authorities provide classrooms and teachers and M4D provides teaching materials and uniforms, community-based organizations ensure smooth day-to-day running of the program.

“The life of the girls under the second chance education program has been transformed not only educationally but also behaviorally, physically and spiritually. This is because they are not only being taught literacy and numeracy skills but they are also being taught religious and moral education. I am happy to see the girls being able to read and write, at least in Hausa,” says Amina Galadanchi, coordinator of the early child education program in Dawakin Tofa.

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Now in its third year, the second chance education program for adolescent girls in northern Nigeria which has served as a springboard for some of its beneficiaries to secure admission into secondary schools is not without hitches. Whereas the trio of community based organisations, local education authorities and M4D are trying their utmost to ensure more adolescent girls enroll in the program and successfully transit to secondary school, lack of a monitoring and evaluation mechanism for the program is hindering its progress.

Thus, policymakers, community leaders, and parents must complement their efforts by coming up with an effective monitoring and evaluation mechanism that will continuously monitor the enrollment and performance of adolescent girls under the second chance education program to ensure more girls benefit from the program and that it creates the desired impact of reversing the ugly statistics of girl-child education (enrollment and retention) in northern Nigeria.

 

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