The Government of Nigeria launched the Adolescent Girls Initiative for Learning and Empowerment (AGILE). Through AGILE, the state governments of Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Sokoto, Kebbi and Plateau implement a scholarship program to enroll girls and keep them in to complete secondary schooling. The project is currently being scaled up to 11 additional states and will reach more than 15 million beneficiaries.
“There are many things you need to pay for to go to school – uniforms, books, footwear, food, and other things. I had to stop school when I could not pay for them” said Fatima Auwal, a fourth-year student at Government Girls Secondary School, Dawanau, Kano State-Nigeria.
Fatima lost her parents and had to stay with her uncle. After a while, she dropped out of school due to the increasing costs of school needs. Fatima's friend, Bilkisu Umar, who is being raised by her single mother, also dropped out of school as she could not afford it. Hauwa Ibrahim, who lost her mother, now stays with her grandmother who cannot afford to enroll her in secondary school. It is a similar story for thousands of other girls, particularly in Northern Nigeria.
In this locality, parents don’t care much about girls’ education, unlike the boys. They prefer to pay to send their sons to school than their daughters.
Bilkisu Garba Usman,
the Principal of Government Girls Secondary School (GGSS), Kwa, in Kano State
“In this locality, parents don’t care much about girls’ education, unlike the boys. They prefer to pay to send their sons to school than their daughters”, said Bilkisu Garba Usman, the Principal of Government Girls Secondary School (GGSS), Kwa, in Kano State.
In addition to poverty, cultural practices deeply rooted in social norms such as education preference for boys and early marriage for girls, contribute to the low enrolment and secondary school completion rates for the girls
The interventions include building secondary schools closer to communities, putting security and COVID measures in all schools, providing School Improvement Grants (SIG) for renovation and WASH facilities, creating an enabling environment, and giving financial incentives to support poor households. They also include training girls in life skills and digital literacy. Additionally, state-wide advocacy and behavioural change campaigns are deployed with traditional and religious leaders to address unfavourable traditions and social norms that impede adolescent girls’ education.
Financial Incentives are helping girls to remain in school
The financial incentive scheme aims to help parents of adolescent girls from poorest households to keep their girls in school by paying for school fees and related costs. It includes provision of NGN 5,000 (US$14) upon registration in the program and NGN 10,000 (US$28) each term to poor female students, conditional on their attendance or re-enrollment in school. More than 300,000 girls in six states are currently enrolled in the scheme.
The state governments conducted surveys to identify girls from poor households to participate in the program. The cash incentive was then transferred to dedicated bank accounts for each girl’s care giver.
According to Rabi Ahmed, Principal of Government Girls Secondary School, Dawanau,“In this rural area, most girls hawk trinkets on the streets to support their parents; but with the financial incentive scheme, many of them are in school.”
“Since the scheme commenced, there has been a 50% increase in female students’ attendance in my school; and the girls now attend school regularly”, said Bilkisu Garba Usman, Principal of Government Girls Secondary School (GGSS), Kwa.
The state governments hope that the financial incentive will also lead to a reduction in child marriage.
“Instead of a girl starting to give birth at age 13 and having 4 or 5 kids by the time she turns 20, if she completes secondary school, she may only start giving birth at 20. Therefore, we must ensure that girls complete 12 years of education to drop the fertility rate,” said Amina Buba, National Project Coordinator for AGILE.