Educating the African girl-child

Over the past few decades, there has been a clarion call to recognize, promote, and protect the right and development of the girl child globally and with special attention on Africa. The status of the girl child in Africa is getting worse by the day. In Africa, the needs of men are elevated above those of women are elevated thereby creating a divide in the status of men and women.

On this basis, every year on a day like today, the world celebrates the International Day of the Girl Child, with the 2020 theme focussing on “My Voice, Our Equal Future”. This day aims to give more opportunity for girls and increases awareness of gender inequality faced by girls worldwide, these inequalities include; lack of access to education, sexual and reproductive health rights, violence against women, forced marriages and protection from discriminations.

With the Covid-19 outbreak, human kind, particularly girls, are living under the sword of Damocles, girls risk being its biggest victims. The coronavirus has already caused over 743 million girls to miss out on their education and 10 million are forecast to never return to school after Covid-19. West and Central Africa are likely to be worse affected with over 128 million children with girls constituting over 70% in the region being out-of-school due to the coronavirus. Millions of boys and girls are still at home and unable to access any form of education be it formal or non-formal.As the world is tending to achieve the global goals by 2030, Africa experiences students performing poorly in their academics, a phenomenon that seriously crippled African education system and limited its students from opportunities.

Covid-19 may manifest as crisis within crisis for girl child because even prior to Covid-19, millions of girls around the world are being denied education; they are exploited and discriminated on the basis of, early marriage, pregnancy, violence at school, lack of funding, child/domestic labour, poor sanitation, lack of adequate female teachers, growing up in a conflict zone, disabilities and marginalized.
Countries like Nigeria, in West Africa, are now facing existential threat as the country has the largest number of extremely poor people in the world  with about 90 million, nearly half of the population, living in extreme poverty. One in every five of the world’s out-of-school children is in Nigeria, despite legislations that guarantee their right to education and prohibit the withdrawal of girls from schools in order to ensure the completion of basic education. However, a setback is the non-applicability of the Child’s Rights Act in all states in Nigeria, as such only 61% of 6-11-year-olds regularly attend primary school and only 35.6% of children aged 36-59 months receive early childhood education.

Furthermore, girls are now exposed to gender-based violence, teen pregnancy during school closure, extremely high risk of not going back to school. It is now the collective responsibility of the government of Nigeria and relevant International organization like ONE Campaign with the help of its ONE Nigeria Champion to promote an inclusive policy framework of enrolling girls and boys back to school by exploring the existing formula of enrollment drive campaign towards retention of girls and boys after the pandemic, where ONE Campaign team will play a key role in initiating collaborative social mobilization activities and programmes that will lead to awareness of the rights, privileges, roles and responsibilities of all stakeholders in the basic education sector. 
Zanna Samaila,Damaturu, Yobe state