Girls for Girls project (G4G) is the intervention of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) aimed at promoting and sustaining girl-child education in the northern part of the country.
UNICEF believes that G4G will contribute to the retention goal of Girls Education Programme Three (GEP3) by supporting girls in schools to complete primary education and aspire to higher levels of education.
It, therefore, makes the initiative an integral part of GEP3 to be implemented in the northern part of the country in collaboration with the UNICEF Nigeria, the Federal Government and the United Kingdom Department of International Development (UKAID).
According to UNICEF, the project is to attract additional one million girls to school and empower them with knowledge, skills and confidence needed to remain in school and complete the full course of education.
Girls Education Project, established in 2016 with strategic aim of encouraging girls in schools will, nevertheless, end in 2020.
UNICEF Education Specialist, Azuka Menkiti, noted that G4G project was meant for girls in schools — from primary four to six — and it would bring additional one million girls to school in the area.
Menkiti also said that more than 15, 303 girls had been enrolled under three states in the north-western states with more than 4,399 of the girls from Zamfara, 5,284 girls from Bauchi State and 5,620 girls from Katsina State.
“Within the GEP3, the goal is to bring additional one million girls to school. We also hope to create an environment where girls will be supported to live above the poverty line for themselves and for their communities.
“This programme is to look for those who are in schools; and the major concern for us is to ensure that the girls are in school.
“Within the past six months that this initiative started, a lot of changes have happened in schools in the northern part of the country.
“We have 15, 303 girls who have been enrolled in 813 G4G groups in 300 schools across 18 local government areas in Zamfara, Bauchi and Katsina States’’, she said.
The educationist said that in Katsina State, more than half of the girls did not conclude their primary education as they were either given out in marriages or refused to be educated.
She said that with the introduction of the G4G, access to equitable education, early learning and basic education had increased.
Menkiti added that the initiative had led to the formation of an association responsible for the mentoring of the girl-child in the three pilot states.
She explained that G4G groups would be established in more than 8,000 primary and Qur’anic schools by 2019, noting that UNICEF would be partnering with state governments to sustain the project.
Similarly, Executive Director, Life Helpers Initiative Zamfara, Mr Tayo Fatinikun, said that the initiative had helped the state to develop girls’ interest in education, skills acquisitions and health matters.
Fatinikun said that the 4,399 girls enrollment were spread across 100 selected schools in six local government areas of Zamfara — Anka, Talata-Mafara, Shinkafi, Kaura-Namoda, Bugudu and Tsafe.
He added that each of the schools had three mentors who were trained to relate with the girls on their challenges, observing that 960 girls were also trained on social, vocational and health based issues.
“Zamfara is one of the educationally disadvantaged states of the federation with very poor and low enrollment, retention level and strong disparity between boys and girls enrollment.
“Our targets are the children, women of reproductive age, youth and the community structures,’’ he said.
He admitted that there had been state involvement through creative and dynamic leadership of State’s Universal Basic Education Board.
This feat nonetheless, Fatinikun said that insecurity in some communities and local government area have hindered the educational progress of some girls.
“Some communities are very volatile and so there is need for the government to provide security for schools in the area.
“Low infrastructure development is another threat to the education of the girl-child; so there is need to provide quality facilities conducive for learning for the girls,’’ he said.
Mothers Association, a group which was formed to boost G4G initiative, therefore, appealed to the state government to empower parents, especially women; and mentors so that children would be able to further their education.
The chairperson of the association, Hajiya Amina Abdullahi, made the appeal at a field trip on the assessment of the project implementation at the Tudun Wada Primary School, Talata-Mafara, Zamfara.
Amina said that while the men struggled for daily up-keep of the family, the women should be encouraged through empowerment programme to run small scale businesses and assist in ensuring that their children were given quality education.
The chairperson, however, commended UNICEF support for the initiative, noting that it had inculcated more discipline, hygiene and zeal to search for knowledge among the children.
Some of the beneficiaries have also pledged to re-enrol their out-of-school peers back to classes through G4G project.
One of the beneficiaries, Fatima Abba, 13, said that the G4G programme had improved her status in her community and also encouraged her peers to go to school.
Abba, who said she was aspiring to be a social worker, expressed happiness over the support and encouragement she received from her parents for her education.
Similarly, Ummi Hassan, another beneficiary, said that the project had improved her in skills acquisition as well as given her the zeal to remain in school to complete education.
According to her, through interaction with peers and mentoring techniques employed by participating pupils in the G4G, she has successfully re-enrolled about 10 out-of-school-girls back to the classroom.
“Since I started participating in the G4G meetings, I learnt that basic education is all I need to achieve my desire of becoming a doctor to help women in my community.
“Therefore, I have pledged to encourage and re-enrol my peers that were in the past attending school and later drop out to come back,’’ she said.
Also, Hadiza Isa, a primary six pupil, observed that the G4G project introduced by UNICEF would end girl-child molestation in their schools and community at large.
“Our mentors said that we should not allow boys or men to touch our body because we want education. Our body should be for me alone and that whoever does that, we should tell them no,” she said.
Adeyemi writes for News Agency of Nigeria.