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Cash for girls’ education programme

The recent inauguration, in Sokoto State, of a cash-for-girls’ education programme is laudable, especially given the great importance of education for all, but more so for girls, especially in the northern part of the country where the literacy rate, particularly for girls is very low.
The scheme, through which cash for payment for text books and other school-related costs is being disbursed, is aimed at encouraging parents in states in the northern part of the country to send their daughters to school.
Being jointly implemented by the Federal Government and UNICEF, the programme, which is funded by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID), will this year benefit 23,000 girls in Niger and Sokoto states.
The number will increase next year to 50,000 while the programme will be expanded and replicated in other states subsequently.
The inaugural programme, according to UNICEF’s Communication Specialist (Media and External Relations), Mr. Geoffrey Njoku, saw several mothers receiving N5000 each, a quarter of the N20,000 to be disbursed annually for girls between the ages of six and 15.
The out-of-school syndrome has been a serious issue in Nigeria and Africa generally and girl-child education has been even more contentious especially among Muslims, not only in Nigeria and Africa, but in the Middle East, where young Pakistani education activist, Malala Yousuf was shot because of her campaign against the resolve of Taliban Islamic fundamentalists to stop girls from going to school.
Part of the campaign of the terrorist group, Boko Haram is to stop Western education and they are particularly against girl child education, which is why they abducted the Chibok girls.
Current statistics has it that about 10.5 million children are out of school, 60 per cent of which number are in the northern part of Nigeria, most of them girls.
The general clearly wrong notion in these areas is that educating the girl child is a waste. Those who hold these notions encourage early marriage for girls, which often results in Vesico Vagina Fistibula, VVF, which has been ravaging women in the north.
There is also widespread poverty in most of these areas, the result of which is that some parents are not able to send their children to school and keep them there.
The current cash for-girls’ education programme will, if well implemented, therefore, halt the retrogression which the out-of-school syndrome represents and will begin the march towards a brighter future for the children that will benefit from it, for their parents, for their communities and for the country as a whole.
It is well accepted that an educated girl is a far greater asset not only to herself but to the family, the community and the country, especially in terms of better earnings and better health care for  the family.
The Federal Government has, indeed, initiated several programmes aimed at improving school enrolment in the north and literacy generally in the country including the Almajiri schools, the Nomadic Education and the School Feeding programmes.
These have helped to some extents, but it is expected that this present initiative which comes with the added incentive of cash disbursements would see the enrolment figures swelling.
We believe that an educated citizenry, especially in the north would curb terrorism, diseases, poverty, infant and maternal mortality as well as ethno-religious crises.
Every effort must, therefore, be made to ensure that this initiative succeeds. Enough trained teachers must, for instance, be provided and properly motivated to drive the programme.
There must be sufficient classrooms and instructional materials and the schools and pupils must be properly secured against attacks such as have taken place in several schools in the North.
As efforts are being made to get the girls and boys in the north into schools, however, similar efforts must be made to ensure that no child in the Southern part of the country is out-of school.
The children who daily hawk on the streets of Lagos and other major cities of the South must be sent into schools, and those of them who populate the markets and serve as apprentices to all kinds of artisans must likewise be afforded education.
The society stands to benefit the most from an educated citizenry and no cost should be spared in efforts to achieve this. Again, we commend UNICEF, partner nations and non-governmental organizations that are collaborating with the Federal Government to achieve mass literacy and note that the world as a whole would benefit immensely from literacy for all.

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