By creating a platform where young people can brainstorm and develop advocacy messages targeting policymakers, UNICEF Nigeria hopes to empower Nigerian youths to be able to effectively hold government officials at all levels accountable for their campaign promises for education.
The fourth of the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDG 4) seeks for inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for all. This is in recognition of the central role education plays in liberating and empowering people to enable them access and create opportunities for self-reliance and consequently ensure the economic growth of nations.
Nigeria is home to 10.5 million out-of-school children, majority of them girls, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF); this presents a grave danger to the country’s economic growth, security and overall sustainable development. And this was the inspiration for UNICEF Nigeria’s current youth-centred education advocacy campaign aimed at building the capacity of Nigerian youths to effectively demand for increased access to safe and quality education for all, especially girls.
By creating a platform where young people can share experiences, brainstorm on the challenges they face in schools; develop advocacy messages targeting policymakers; and subsequently make a unified call to action holding accountable elected political office holders for their commitments towards education, UNICEF Nigeria hopes to empower Nigerian youths to be able to effectively hold government officials at all levels accountable for their campaign promises for education.
Beginning from June 13, across many Nigerian states such as Kano, Adamawa, Bauchi, Niger and the Federal Capital Territory, UNICEF Nigeria hosted series of simultaneous youth advocacy conferences which drew select groups of Nigerian youths (male and female), culminating in an advocacy march demanding for increased access to safe and quality education for all especially girls on June 16 – in commemoration of the 2019 Day of the African Child.
In Kano, northwestern Nigeria, UNICEF Nigeria hosted a 4-day training workshop for 100 select Kano youths (50 males; 50 females) focused on empowering them with the right skills to effectively advocate for gender responsive, sensitive and inclusive education policies. The training workshop was held under the aegis of the third phase of UNICEF Nigeria’s Girls Education Project (GEP3), in collaboration with the Kano State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) – and with the support of the UK’s Department for International Development (UK-DFID).
The UNICEF Nigeria youth advocates were empowered with needed skills and information to be able to hold elected government officials accountable on issues such as increased domestic financing for the education sector (budgetary allocation and release of funds) to address demand and supply challenges that keep children out of school; provision of school infrastructure and educational materials (furniture, security, learning tools and electricity); structured teacher training and retraining for quality learning; massive enrollment campaign to bring all children to school; as well as targeted investments to ensure uninterrupted twelve years of schooling for all especially girls.
While speaking on the role of education in national development, Amina Umar, director in charge of social mobilization at Kano SUBEB said education assist in the reduction of inter-generational poverty as well improving health and nutrition outcomes, amongst other socio-economic benefits. She however said: “Education in Nigeria is in a poor state; it is characterized by poor quality, limited perception of relevance; poorly paid and poorly motivated teachers; low female uptake; low female access; and schools being unfriendly to girls.”
Maimuna Abba, Kano SUBEB’s gender officer, while speaking about the Keeping Girls In School in Africa (KGIS) movement at the workshop said studies had shown that girls’ education helps improve maternal and child health outcomes, as well as reducing the chances of early marriage among girls adding that whereas 75% of girls start school in Sub-Saharan Africa, only 8% of them get to complete schooling.
“Each year of secondary education reduces the likelihood of marriage before the age of 18 by 5% or more. A child born to a mother who can read and write is 50% more likely to survive pass the age of 5, and that child is likely to go to school. An educated child also does better financially, improving their chances of financial independence. One extra year of schooling increases an individual’s earnings by up to 10%,” she said.
Garba therefore said African youths should take the responsibility of promoting dialogue with African traditional and religious leaders (as custodians of values in Africa) to make sure the traditional and religious leaders took a leading role in guaranteeing that girls get enrolled and complete secondary education as well as acquire the requisite livelihood skills to be part of the continent’s development agenda.
“There is need for young people to take responsibility and promote dialogue between youths and traditional and religious leaders and come up with joint recommendations on the most effective strategies for keeping girls in school. Youth need to hold governments accountable to provide the infrastructure required by communities for Keeping Girls In School in Africa (KGIS). Young people should educate [fellow] young people on the need to take individual responsibilities for KGIS including educating communities, mentoring young boys and girls to enroll and complete secondary education and share their experiences,” she urged the youth advocates.
Niimatullah Umar, UNICEF’s youth team lead in Kano state, said the work of the youth advocates as a group was focused on holding politicians to account for their promises in respect to education, made during political campaigns, adding that education was the only solution to unemployment and the insecurity occasioned by Boko Haram, spate of kidnappings, and farmers-herdsmen clashes across Nigeria. “Education is the only resource that empowers individuals; we have a large population of youths who are mostly uneducated. We are facing insecurity; you can only kill terrorists, bandits and kidnappers but to kill terrorism you need education,” he said.
Umar therefore said, like their counterparts across other Nigerian states, the Kano youth advocates were going to meet the executive governor of Kano state, His Excellency Abdullahi Ganduje, to remind him of his promise to make primary and secondary education in Kano state free. “We believe sometimes they [politicians] want to do it but have a lot on their plate hence we need to keep reminding them. We were in a school where a girl had stopped coming because of 20 naira; another girl we saw hawking said she stopped going to school because all they were learning was how to sing traditional songs.”
Bashir Abdullahi leads the 100-member Kano youth advocates for education group; he said since Kano has one of the highest figures of out-of-school children in Nigeria and Governor Ganduje had promised to make basic education free in the state, it was their job to make him accountable. “Education is for the youths; youths need education, therefore, we are the ones that should advocate and lobby the government to provide education for us. Education is vital for economic growth; statistics has shown that unemployment rates began to rise in Nigeria when the budget for education began to decline,” he said.
At the end of the conference, the Kano youth advocates issued a communiqué which amongst others, recommended that the Kano state government establish more girls’ schools to provide access to education for more girls adding that the new schools must be led by female principals and teachers. They also harped on the need for Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) to be integrated into the school curriculum which will promote self- reliance, increase self-esteem and reduce the rate of poverty among youths in the state. The communiqué also called on members of the Kano society to complement the government’s effort by establishing more community schools for girls.
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