Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Education policy leads to increased girls enrollment, reduced child marriage in north-west Nigeria

Despite security challenges, the education sector plans in six north-west Nigerian states led to a significant increase in girls’ enrollment in secondary schools and a reduction in the percentage of girls married before the age of 18, a new report has shown.

The report said before the introduction of state education plans, the average girls’ secondary school enrollment declined and rates of early marriage increased.

The study – Gender Review and Advocacy For Gender Responsive Education Sector Planning (GRESP) – was authored by the development Research and Projects Centre (dRPC) with the support of the Malala Fund.

The report covers a gender review of 11 years (2011 to 2023) of State Education Sector Plans (SESPs) in Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Sokoto, and Zamfara States.

SESPs is the only official education policy in Nigeria that mainstreams girls’ education goals within the education system and establishes performance indicators for government outcomes within the basic education system.

There was a five per cent increase in secondary school enrollment rates across the six states during the period of the education sector plans and the rate of child marriage fell by an average of 6.9 per cent across the states during the period of the plan, the report said.

It further pointed to an intersectionality between the two outcome indicators – enrollment and early marriage. Jigawa State, with the highest increase in enrollment for girls at the basic education level, was also the state with the second most significant reduction in the age of marriage.

Conversely, Kaduna State, which experienced the lowest change in enrollment rates for girls within the same period, also experienced the least change in the age of marriage for girls among the six states.

In terms of positive change in girls’ education outcomes, Jigawa State also takes the lead, followed by Kano, Zamfara, Sokoto, Katsina and Kaduna.


The dRPC researchers aimed to generate empirical evidence to show how the components of education sector plans and operational plans deliver a gender-responsive education system that keeps girls in school and supports their learning outcomes.

Applying a mixed method research methodology, the gender review first conducted a trend analysis of two girls’ education outcomes to establish patterns in the period before sector plans were introduced in Nigeria and the period during education sector planning in Nigeria.

At the launch of the report last Tuesday, experts said the review is timely and significant, coming against the background of the exogenous shocks to the school system in Nigeria. The shocks include COVID-19 and its impacts and the incessant attacks on schools and abductions of schoolchildren in the region

The researchers also conducted a Focus Group Discussion with a total of 180 school-age children.

Factors threatening school enrollment

The insecurity in north-west Nigeria has led to the compulsory closure of many schools. This is a major factor that would likely stop students, especially girls, from achieving their education plans for the future, the report states.

“Compulsory school closures had a significant impact on students’ psychological, social, and mental well-being, causing a large number of students to forget nearly everything they had learned at school prior to the start of the lockdown and school closure,” it added.

The attacks on some schools may have also deterred some students from going to school. About 14 per cent of female and male participants from educational schools and 7 per cent of girls in all-girls schools mentioned that insecurity and school attacks were factors that could stop them from achieving their educational plans.

The researchers also found that while insecurity was a factor, poverty and lack of financial support are also a threat to future education while COVID-19 also played an impact.

When asked about the impact of COVID-19 on their education, 13 per cent of students from girls’ schools responded indicating a loss of interest in continuing education as a result of COVID-19.

No boys gave such a response, the report said.

Other factors mentioned by participants included drug abuse and peer pressure, bribery and corruption, fear of not succeeding in school, fear of not getting employment after graduation, and discouragement by the community members.

The report noted that gender responsiveness in education sector planning calls for flexibility to adjust to these unpredictable challenges emerging from the environment impacting negatively on the education of all children, especially girls.

Second stage of analysis

The second stage of the gender review sought to explore relationships between the trend in girls’ education outcomes established in the first step in the analysis and the structures and functions of bureaucracy prescribed by the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) model of gender-responsive education.

The GPE model of Gender Responsive Education Sector Strategic Planning (GRESP) argues that during the formation phase of planning, the application of three specific process factors can contribute towards positive girls’ education outcomes.

The factors include: gender equality and girls’ education policies and strategies integrated into education sector plans; Stakeholders, including CSOs and local communities as well as government departments that are consulted during the design; and the GRESP has adequate financial resources allocated to gender equality and girls education strategies.

Here, the analysis found clear and consistent correlations, thus confirming the prescriptive powers of the GPE model of gender-responsive education planning.

Findings show that Jigawa, Kano, and Katsina states budgeted for activities derived from State Education Sector Plans (SESP). While in Kaduna, Sokoto, and Zamfara states, there was less alignment between the activities of the state education sector plans and annual budgets.

In terms of SESP activities in the annual budget, Jigawa State emerged as the state that allocated the most funds to SESP activities. On the contrary, Zamfara, Katsina, and Sokoto performed poorly in terms of allocating funds for SESP activities.

Call for Action

The report noted that with new administrations at the federal and state levels, this is the time for a definitive understanding of what works for girls’ education and what has not worked for girls in the education system of states implementing education sector plans over the 11 years of 2011 to 2023 in Nigeria.

Experts said the findings of the report provide an opportunity to strengthen the gender transformative plans through the advocacy of civil society stakeholders. They said evidence-informed advocacy is critical in Nigeria in 2023 given the recent findings of the 2022 UNESCO Global Education Monitoring (GEM) report, which showed that the out-of-school population of Nigeria virtually doubled between 2016 and 2022 to 20 million.

Trailing behind India and Pakistan, Nigeria now stands as the third country with the largest out-of-school population. The majority of these children are recognised by the Nigerian government to be girls, many of whom are in the northwestern states with education plans.

In its 2018 data on out-of-school children, the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) reported the estimated number in Nigeria as 10.1 million out of which there were approximately 3.2 million out-of-school children cumulatively in the six northwestern states covered in the dRPC report.

The 3.2 million is about 31.84 per cent of the total estimated number of out-of-school children in Nigeria. Out of this number, 1.9 million were boys and 1.2 million were girls.

Why the six north-west states?

In terms of criteria for selecting the states studied, the researchers said the review of the gender responsiveness of education sector plans of Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Sokoto, and Zamfara was “strategic and important for generating evidence of what works for girls’ education.”

The six states are accessing the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) funding.

The GPE is an independently governed partnership that includes national governments, multilateral organisations, civil society, the private sector, and foundations.

Established in 2002 as the Education for All Fast Track Initiative, the GPE has evolved and now designs evidence-informed and gender-responsive education sector plans.

GPE contends that gender responsiveness in education sector plans offers the most comprehensive and systematic approach to delivering change in girls’ education.

For a country such as Nigeria, GPE serves as a mobilisation point for donor coordination of multiple development impact investors, including the World Bank and the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) to fund the country-led basic education interventions very often with a specific focus on girls’ education.

Between 2012 and 2020 when Nigeria became a GPE partner, a total of $101 million has been awarded in grants to the West African country, of which $81 million has been disbursed as of January 2020.

States’ performance

In 2020, dRPC organised a gender workshop for the recipients of the grants to assess their education sector plans in terms of gender transformative, gender-responsive, integrated, or gender-blind characterisation.

The result shows that delegates from Kano and Jigawa states assessed their respective education sector plans as gender blind. Delegates from Sokoto and Katsina assessed their education sector plans as gender-responsive.

Meanwhile, delegates from Kaduna State assessed their plan as ranging between gender responsive and gender transformative. This was highlighted by the fact that the state has done much to mainstream gender into the education sector plan.

“We have rated Kaduna to be between transformative and responsive (high on the responsive and just going into the transformative scale),” the researchers said.

By Kabir Yusuf, Premium Times

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