“My father is a farmer and we don’t have too much money. But he did buy me Maths and English textbooks.”
Habibah Yakubu knew from an early age that education was important. But when she went to primary school she was one of only seven girls who attended.
This is a common problem in Nigeria. Around 8 million children of primary school age are out school and the majority of these children are girls.
Today, thanks to UKaid from DFID supporting a programme called the Girls’ Education Project (GEP), Habibah is training to be a teacher and encouraging more girls into the classroom.
Getting girls into school
GEP is a joint initiative between the Federal Government of Nigeria, DFID and UNICEF which aims to get more girls into school and to improve their quality of life.
Increasing the number of female teachers in rural schools is a key element of the GEP programme and its trainee teacher scholarship is encouraging more women into the classroom.
Habibah is one of their latest recruits and she’s looking forward to taking her new found teaching skills back to her village, “I grew up in Nagopita village and attended the primary school there from 1995 to 1999. Now, because of the scholarship, I can show girls in my village the happiness of education,” she says.
Role models and mentors
GEP was launched in December 2004 and was rolled out in six northern states in Nigeria with the worst disparities between boys’ and girls’ enrolment in primary school.
Qualified female teachers, who are likely to return to their rural villages, help to make schools girl friendly. They act as role models and mentors, promoting education and ensuring that parents are happy to send their girls to school.
“The day I was preparing to come to this college my mother was very happy, and my father too. There is a big difference now in our family; my father listens to my suggestions now because he feels I am educated.
“I will use myself as an example of someone who was given the opportunity to go to school. Whatever it is that a person hopes to get from this life, you need an education in order to achieve it.”
Fighting for children to be educated
Grace Bumba is another newly qualified teacher thanks to the support of UKaid and the GEP. In addition to teaching, she has become a role model and mentor to girls in her poor rural community. Her enthusiasm for education is infectious and she has convinced many parents to send their girls to primary school.
“When a woman is educated,” she explains, “she will fight for her children to be educated.”
Video: Grace and the Girls’ Education Project in Nigeria (Video by Chris Morgan)
If we are to achieve MDG 2, success in Nigeria is vital since the country accounts for 10% of all children currently out of school across the world. As Nigeria prepares to celebrate 50 years of independence, DFID continues to work with the government and other partners like UNICEF to give more children an education and an opportunity to escape from poverty.
The bigger picture on education
Quality education underpins all of the MDGs and is at the centre of the challenges we face in the 21st century. Health, environment, security and prosperity: all are linked by education. Not only is education a human right - it is also one of the best routes out of poverty.
Although the number of primary-aged out-of-school children has dropped from 105 million in 1999, 72 million primary-aged children are still out of school. The 2010 Education for All Global Monitoring Report estimates business as usual would leave 56 million children out of school in 2015.
We need a renewed international drive to meet MDG 2 that focuses not just on enrolment and completion, but also on the quality of education. The economic and social benefits of education are strengthened when children are in school and learning.
Supporting girls to complete a full cycle of basic education is vital. Education beyond the primary level is particularly important in improving girls’ life chances, delaying early motherhood, and in having healthier, better nourished children.
DFID supports some 5 million children in school, and we have helped train over 100,000 teachers and built, or refurbished, 12,000 classrooms.