ABUJA, Nigeria — Girls’ access to education in Northern Nigeria is an area of focus that needs to be addressed. Researchers estimate that over two-thirds of Northern Nigerian girls who started primary school in 2017 will drop out before reaching the last year of junior secondary school.
How Poverty Impacts Education
In North-Eastern and North-Western Nigeria, only around 30% of girls attend secondary school. While in Southern Nigeria, over 70% of girls attend secondary school. The difference between the two regions is that Northern Nigeria contains approximately 87% of all poor people who live in Nigeria. Poverty adds to the trouble of girls’ access to education in Northern Nigeria; whether it be because of poor infrastructure, costs of secondary school or lack of conveniently located secondary schools.
Education for Young Girls In Northern Nigeria: What’s the Problem?
The country faces a problem when it comes to overall participation in long-term education. But it encounters serious issues specifically with girls’ access to education in Northern Nigeria — or lack of access. In the poorest households in Northern Nigeria, girls have a 9% chance of enrolling in secondary school. Meanwhile, girls in Southern Nigeria have a 79% chance. More than two-thirds of Northern Nigerian girls aged 15-19 can’t read a full sentence, while less than 10% can’t read in Southern Nigeria.
The combination of extreme poverty and the absence of a reliable education is a difficult duo for Nigerian women to overcome. And this is the reason for many struggles in their life. However, it’s proven that educated women benefit the community and economy. Shubham Chaudhuri, World Bank Director for Nigeria, said that there was “no better investment to accelerate Nigeria’s human capital development than to significantly boost girls’ education.”
What Could Happen If Women Pursued Their Education?
Women make up almost half of the population in Nigeria, so what could happen if all of these women began finishing school?
- Under-5 child mortality would reduce by 49%, 2.8 million lives, if all women were able to complete secondary education.
- Underage marriage would drop significantly if all girls completed secondary education, with 64% fewer girls getting married.
- Each additional year that a mother gets an education, their child is likely to spend .32 years in school. So, children are more likely to get an education if their mother also received one.
- With more women working, poverty would be reduced, and the cycle of poverty would begin to break. An extra year of a girl’s education has the potential to boost her wages by more than 11%.
- With more educated women, health would improve. They would be educated on health issues such as STDs, early and unwanted pregnancy and diseases that plague their children.
Society can only benefit when it fixes the issues regarding girls’ access to education in Northern Nigeria.
Adolescent Girls Initiative for Learning and Empowerment
On July 29 the World Bank approved a $500 million credit from the International Development Association (IDA) for the Adolescent Girls Initiative for Learning and Empowerment (AGILE). The AGILE project’s goal is to create opportunities so girls’ access to education in Northern Nigeria is more attainable. The project hopes that girls can complete their secondary education while also receiving necessary life-information that helps to empower them. AGILE is focusing on seven states: Kano, Kebbi, Kaduna, Katsina, Borno, Plateau and Ekiti. In these states, the goal is to begin lessening the extreme educational gap between Northern and Southern Nigeria.
What Will AGILE Do?
- Scholarships: AGILE will provide financial assistance in the form of scholarships for over 500,000 girls from the poorest households. That way women can afford to attend school.
- Infrastructure: In Northern Nigeria, there are approximately 10 primary schools for every secondary school. One of AGILE’s goals is to build more than 2,000 junior secondary schools. These will contain more than 3,000 classrooms for senior secondary schools. It will also improve existing junior secondary schools and senior secondary schools so that they are easier to access and safer.
- Important Information: Not only will there be more opportunities for girls to be able to easily attend school, but they will also be exposed to important information and skills. Over 300,000 girls will have the opportunity to gain life skills training. Additionally, they will have digital literacy training. These courses will allow girls to learn more about health, climate change, gender-based violence, safety and how to be successful in the digital economy.
The project is also doing what it can to adapt its plans to adhere to COVID-19 restrictions and complications by supporting a “blended learning approach” that includes remote learning through TV and radio. Southern Nigeria is a good example of how the lack of extreme poverty correlates with the success of girls in school. With help from AGILE, Northern Nigeria can reach that point.
– Sophie Dan