Formulate policies to increase girl-child enrollment, return to schools, CSO urges FG

A Civil Society Organisation (CSO) has called on the Federal Government to take proactive measures to improve girl-child enrolment and return to school, especially after the COVID-19 lockdown.

Connected Development (CODE)’s
Communications Director, Kevwe Oghide in a statement said that the CODE and Malala Fund had inaugurated a Study Report on the Impact of COVID-19 on Girls’ Education in the North-East.

Oghide said that the call became imperative due to the concerns raised in the study report launched.

The report revealed that caregivers in rural Adamawa areas were certain that the girls in their care would not be returning to school due to the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“While many of the girls interviewed had doubts that they would be allowed to continue their education, a percentage of girls were certain they would be getting married in a short while.

“ In some cases, cultural and traditional barriers are preventing girls from returning to school.

“Girls may be less preferred to return to school as opposed to their male counterparts due to the male-child preference system.

“Girls are also more at risk of being married off or undergo Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), the report said.

The research further revealed that the pandemic had exposed girls to increased shortcomings and challenges that already existed in the education system.

These included sexual harassment linked to gender-based violence, child marriage, harmful norms, inadequate teachers and WASH facilities.

These factors also kept a good number of girls out of school pre-COVID-19.

The study showed that in assessing the effectiveness of the Learning from Home Programme (LHP), only 60 per cent of teachers were in contact with their students for continuous learning post-pandemic.

“To worsen matters, only 48 per cent of the girls interviewed in Adamawa State were aware of the Federal Government’s LHP and the level of awareness among parents which was a meagre 15 per cent.

“From respondents across local government areas in Adamawa State, only 28 per cent of the girls interviewed participated in the LHP.

“Through these findings, the research hopes to advocate for policy adoptions in favour of continuous learning for girls’ amidst school closures.

“This begins with ensuring that the LHP is effective and inclusive; boosting recovery readiness by putting gender-responsive measures/standards in place for girls’ safe return to school.’’

Other recommendations in the report included tackling the impact of conflict and insurgency in the region and enabling adequate inclusive planning for vulnerable groups’ likes girls living with disabilities, and girls in internally displaced camps.

It said that the sustainable impact would comprise a free and compulsory 12-year education for the girl-child starting from Adamawa and a reduction in the incidence of early and forced child marriage in focal communities.

The study revealed that this would lead to an increase in girls’ secondary education enrolment, retention and completion.

Mr Hamzat Lawal, the Chief Executive Officer of CODE and Malala Fund Education Champion, said that the future of the world was a deliberate investment in the younger generation, particularly girls.

According to Lawal, to educate girls is to empower a nation.

He urged the government to proactively set up a gender-responsive plan for school resumption in the wake of the pandemic.

He said that the gender-responsive measures included providing more funds for education and ensuring every community had a female secondary school, provision of hand washing points, and personal protective equipment.

Lawal said that the government also needed to garner and mobilise the support of stakeholders like religious, traditional and community leaders as well as the media to increase sensitisation on the importance of girls’ education. (NAN)