In Nigeria, like many other Sub-Saharan African countries, girls continue to face numerous challenges that limit their access to quality education. This was worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic which saw a disruption in learning for children and compounded the already existing barriers to girls’ education. According to a 2022 report by UNICEF, there are currently about 18.5 million out-of-school children in Nigeria, and 60% of the 18 million out-of-school children in Nigeria are girls.
This is important because as was said by UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell at the Transforming Education Summit in her remarks titled – Advancing Gender Equality Through Education “When girls and women have an equal opportunity to learn – and when education supports gender equality for all – communities and societies prosper.” That is why the theme of this year’s 2022 United Nations International Day of the Girl Child is “Our Time is Now – Our Rights, Our Future”.
The excerpt and theme above are as apt for Nigeria as anywhere else with our legacy cultural lack of importance placed on girl child education exacerbated by socio-economic challenges, solutions for which are underpinned by one critical element – education.
KwaraLEARN (Leading Education Achievement and Reform Now), an initiative of the government of Kwara state to deliver dramatic improvements in learning outcomes in public schools for children across Kwara State is empowering children, including the girl child to thrive and lead growth and development in the state. KwaraLEARN delivers training and ongoing coaching to school teachers and leaders to enable them to deliver quality lessons to pupils.
The learning methods underpinning KwaraLEARN, have been independently studied by an academic team led by Professor Michael Kremer, the Nobel Prize-winning economist.
Their results found learning gains “among the largest in the international education literature,” with primary students taught using the methods utilised in KwaraLEARN gained nearly a year of learning ahead of their counterparts in other schools after just two years.
Crucially, the learning gains were equally large for girls and boys. The findings contrast with established research which shows girls in Sub-Saharan Africa are consistently disadvantaged in learning, with lower literacy rates than boys even when both have the same educational attainment.
Governor Abdulrazak’s support for transformative education through the KwaraLEARN program uses an approach that has gender parity built into its design.
Gender-sensitive school management includes ensuring that girls are given school leadership roles and equal learning opportunities as boys. Among other things, the holistic technology driven methods used in KwaraLEARN ensures that teachers and school leaders are trained to check on each and every pupil’s work during lesson delivery to ensure that no child is left behind, regardless of their gender.
All pupils are encouraged to participate equally – teachers are trained to call on both boys and girls in the classroom. As fewer girls than boys usually volunteer, teachers are trained to practise more cold calling to ensure equal participation.
Through KwaraLEARN enrollment drives, we are able to engage with parents and communities and raise awareness on the importance of girl child education.
This has seen an increase in the enrolment of out-of-school children into our government schools, especially in hard-to-reach and low-income communities as low-income households can now send both their boy and girl children to school and still be guaranteed a globally competitive education. Since its launch, the KwaraLEARN team has successfully enrolled 53,661 children into all our government schools across Ilorin East, Ilorin West, Baruten and Offa LGAs.
Out of these 53,661 newly enrolled students, 25, 282 of them are girls, who have now been provided with the opportunity of a holistic education that will contribute to their development and success in life.
With the use of technology and innovative teaching methodology, girls and boys in KwaraLEARN schools are provided with a globally competitive and transformative education, empowered with the skills that set them on the path to achieving their dreams.
Careful emphasis is placed on the monitoring of our pupils’ attendance performance among other indicators using technology. This way, the team effectively tracks pupil’s attendance, with girls’ attendance especially closely monitored to ensure no girl drops out of school unnoticed.
Once irregularity in girls’ attendance and performance across other indicators are noticed, the team is trained to swiftly intervene and address any challenges they might be facing and resolve them as quickly as possible.
The goal is to ensure that pupils, especially girls, stay in school and receive quality education that will enable them to thrive and develop wholly through the dramatic improvement in learning outcome that KwaraLEARN delivers.
To ensure girls’ safety and reduce gender-based violence in school, KwaraLEARN schools have a strict zero-tolerance policy for child abuse. Corporal punishment is prohibited in all KwaraLEARN schools, instead, students are motivated to work hard and stay focused through the use of positive behavioural management.
KwaraLEARN teachers and headteachers have been equipped to create a safe, enabling, and enjoyable school environment for children where they are happy to come and learn and develop their creative abilities, confidence, self-esteem, and core skills.
Girls are now protected from any form of abuse, ranging from sexual, emotional, or physical abuse in school, and teachers have been trained to identify and properly report any of such cases. There is also ongoing child safeguarding and protection training for teachers and school leaders.
As we celebrate the International Day of the Girl Child today, KwaraLEARN is recommitting to empower the girl child in Kwara State and continue to deliver dramatic improvements in learning outcomes in government schools for all children across Kwara State.
We also call on all other governments, policymakers and education stakeholders in Nigeria to invest in the future of the girl child and provide her with the opportunities and knowledge she needs to succeed in a digital age, be heard and seen.