Monday, June 16, 2014

International Day of the African Child: Impossible Odds, Unstoppable Girls

(Nigerians Report Online celebrates the United Nations International Day of the African Child in honour of the missing Chibok school girls in northern Nigeria.) International Day of the African Child: Impossible Odds, Unstoppable Girls

Nigerian born Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike, WNBA basketball star sisters and Stanford graduates determined to do something to help Nigerian girls get educated, launched a fundraising competition Wednesday, June 11, 2014, open to middle and high school basketball teams across the US. The goal is to raise money to support UNICEF programs focusing on girls' education and empowerment in Nigeria.

Nigeria has 10.5 million out-of-school children, the highest number in the world, followed by Pakistan, Jean Gough, UNICEF Representative in Nigeria has said.

Gough said about 60 per cent of those children are girls and most of them are in the northern part of the country, stressing further that almost one out of every three primary age children is out of school and roughly one out of four junior secondary age children is out of school.

The grim statistics were made known in a press statement to commemorate this year’s Day of the African Child, with the theme ‘A child friendly, quality, free and compulsory education for all children in Africa’.

According to her, insecurity threatens gains in girls’ education, noting that parents are unwilling to enrol their daughters in school, especially in the northeast.

She lamented that due to security challenges, numerous children currently have no access to school in some parts of the north, particularly the northeast.

“Schools have been closed for security reasons and where schools in the affected areas still function, children and teachers are often afraid to attend. In comparatively safe areas in the northeast, schools are often overcrowded, understaffed and have insufficient teaching materials,” she noted.

Gough stressed that because of the violence, many parents are unwilling to enrol their daughters or are withdrawing those already in school.

“We know that girls’ education is vital, because educated girls become better mothers, have fewer, healthier children. Every additional year of schooling reduces the probability of child mortality by 5-10 per cent. Educated mothers want their children to have better educational opportunities. This would mean more girls enrolling, attending and staying in school, transiting to senior secondary school and eventually playing more productive social and economic roles within their families and communities,” she further said.

According to her, the Girls’ Education Project implemented by UNICEF in northern states, with funding from the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), aims to enrol an additional one million girls in school by 2020.

She stated that grassroots’ support is crucial to overcoming the security and other challenges in order to meet this ambitious goal.

“Involving local communities in initiatives to safeguard education is crucial in protecting the children,” said Gough, adding “The communities will know the primary concerns of parents, girls and boys. Together they can develop networks for support to keep schools safe.”

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