Ending girl-child dropouts with second chance education



As federal government mulls second chance school option as solution to school girls dropping out as a result of teen pregnancies ENE OSHABA examines the possibility of the scheme amidst poor implementation of the Child Rights Act (CRA), and the Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill (GEO-Bill) in Nigeria.

The Ministry of Women Affairs last week reiterated its commitment to ensuring more young women and girls stay in school. The ministry is working partnership with the Ministry of Education to increase enrolment, retention, and completion rates of the girl-child in primary and secondary schools across the country.

The ministry also revealed that it was promoting second chance education opportunity for young mothers, women who drop out of school due to early or unplanned pregnancy as part of its advocacy for the betterment of the girl-child especially as the world marks another International Girl-child Day.

The Minister, Dame Pauline Tallen, disclosed this in Abuja, while delivering a keynote address at the National Review Conference on 25 years of Beijing declaration held on the theme: Accelerating commitments in Nigeria.

The minister, who was represented by the Special Assistant (SA) to the Minister on Technical Matters, Princess Jumai Idonije, maintained that education remained pivotal in achieving the ministry’s mandate.

According to Tallen, “When the girl-child is educated half of society’s poor social indices and issues is resolved.  We are in partnership with the Ministry of Education at all levels to increase enrolment, retention and completion rates of the girl-child in primary and secondary schools in Nigeria.

“We are also promoting second chance education for young mothers and women who dropped out of school due to early pregnancy. No doubt, remarkable progress has been made in advocating for the girl-child and with the girl-child, as we continue to interrogate the place of the girl-child in National Development.

“But Covid-19 effect on the education of the girl-child has set us back many years. For this reason, we will as part of the upcoming international Day of the Girl-Child launch a nationwide campaign to support the enrolment, retention, and completion rate of girls in school.”

Speaking further the minister noted that: “When this works out, our girls will no longer be dropouts, traumatised and their brains won’t be blocked while waiting at home to give birth.”

Girl-child Day

On December 19, 2011, United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 66/170 to declare October 11 as the International Day of the Girl Child, to recognise girls’ rights and the unique challenges girls face around the world

The day focuses attention on the need to address the challenges girls face and to promote girls’ empowerment and the fulfilment of their human rights such as safety, education, and healthy life from their critical formative years until they mature into women.

Part of measures to scale this up in Nigeria is the establishment of the Child Rights Act (CRA) and the Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill (GEO-Bill) but successful implementation of these laws has remained a huge challenge in Nigeria.

Mixed reactions

Sharing her thoughts on the second chance education, the Programmes Manager, Alliances for Africa, a women and girls rights advocate, Blessing Duru, noted the implications of having the scheme.

Duru described the second chance education as another form of discrimination against the girl-child which could increase stigmatisation.

The programme manager added that it was better to integrate the girl-child back to school rather than creating a separate school for pregnant school dropouts.

“I think the best bet is to integrate them back to their normal schools because having a separate school will increase stigmatisation.

“The idea is that if you have them in the same school they will tend to educate other girls on the implications of such actions and that will help other girls to make better choices and informed decisions that have to do with their career and school.”

On whether it was the best decisions to have pregnant girls in the school, Duru said there was no harm in allowing that, saying it will not affect the other girls but rather be a lesson for them.

“This would rather be a lesson to other girls so they can learn while seeing the challenges of being pregnant and coming to school. How the pregnant girls will cope in school will be an eye opener for other girls to concentrate on their studies and not be distracted,” she said.

“It will help them see a d have access to the real conversation and messages which they receive and also learn to abstain,” she added.

Holding boys accountable

Continuing, Duru said only girls should not bear the brunt noting that the boys who got them pregnant should be held accountable.

“Though we are still struggling with holding boys accountable when they get young girls pregnant, in my view, I think we should intensify educating the boys on the implications of getting girls pregnant or getting involved in sexual activities when they are supposed to be concentrating on their studies.

She maintained that self education for boys was important and regretted the fact that there are no correctional centres in most states where boys can be taken for counselling to be better and more responsible.

“It is a two-way thing, once a boy gets a girl pregnant it is important to draw his attention to the act and make him understand the implications, but as it is now we do not have any form of structure to address that issue and that is why the girls usually take the blame when it happens.”

The programme manager, who expressed doubt in the successful running of the second chance education, however, said it was a good thing to try new ways to getting lasting solutions.

“I don’t see a possibility in running such school now because it is new and there may be obstacles and challenges, but on the other hand it is good to try new ways even if faces challenges it will provide opportunity to come back to the drawing board , review, upgrade and try again.

“At the moment with Covid-19 situation it won’t be easy but no harm in trying because Kenya tried this and they had to get a legal framework to make it a reality and that’s why in Kenya even while pregnant you will continue school. There is no harm in trying this out i. Nigeria, if this may help us get it right,” she said.

Isolation may be counter productive

For girl-child advocate Irene Ugba there was no need keeping the girls to themselves, “I think it is better to find a way of integrating pregnant girls back to proper school because what is the point of keeping them to themselves,” she said.

Ugba likened the situation to that of special needs children, noting that recently the new guideline is that they should be in same school with other children to enable faster learning and tolerance for them.

“I would have taught that there should be a way of integrating young pregnant women back to school because they are still girls. Just like special needs children who are being integrated into normal schools to enable them learn faster, and also learn tolerance,” she said.

It’s a welcome devt

But contrarily, the National Coordinator of Change Managers International and the 100 Women Lobby Group, Mrs. Felicia Onibon, has described the second chance education plan as a welcome development.

According to Onibon, it was unfair that young women and girls who are pregnant will stop school while the boys who get them pregnant continue with their education.

“I am not supporting immorality but I don’t think a girl’s education should stop because she is pregnant as has always been the case,” she said.

On her part, a Former Head teacher, Dayfol Schools, Ms Gloria Ehikowoicho, said all stakeholders must play their part in instilling the right values in young boys and girls especially at adolescent age.

She maintained that abstinence was the best option as the pregnant girl after giving birth would still be out of school to nurse her baby.

 Second chance education: End to girl dropouts in sight?

As federal government mulls second chance school option as solution to school girls dropping out as a result of teen pregnancies ENE OSHABA examines the possibility of the scheme amidst poor implementation of the Child Rights Act (CRA), and the Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill (GEO-Bill) in Nigeria.

The Ministry of Women Affairs last week reiterated its commitment to ensuring more young women and girls stay in school. The ministry is working partnership with the Ministry of Education to increase enrolment, retention, and completion rates of the girl-child in primary and secondary schools across the country.

The ministry also revealed that it was promoting second chance education opportunity for young mothers, women who drop out of school due to early or unplanned pregnancy as part of its advocacy for the betterment of the girl-child especially as the world marks another International Girl-child Day.

The Minister, Dame Pauline Tallen, disclosed this in Abuja, while delivering a keynote address at the National Review Conference on 25 years of Beijing declaration held on the theme: Accelerating commitments in Nigeria.

The minister, who was represented by the Special Assistant (SA) to the Minister on Technical Matters, Princess Jumai Idonije, maintained that education remained pivotal in achieving the ministry’s mandate.

According to Tallen, “When the girl-child is educated half of society’s poor social indices and issues is resolved.  We are in partnership with the Ministry of Education at all levels to increase enrolment, retention and completion rates of the girl-child in primary and secondary schools in Nigeria.

“We are also promoting second chance education for young mothers and women who dropped out of school due to early pregnancy. No doubt, remarkable progress has been made in advocating for the girl-child and with the girl-child, as we continue to interrogate the place of the girl-child in National Development.

“But Covid-19 effect on the education of the girl-child has set us back many years. For this reason, we will as part of the upcoming international Day of the Girl-Child launch a nationwide campaign to support the enrolment, retention, and completion rate of girls in school.”

Speaking further the minister noted that: “When this works out, our girls will no longer be dropouts, traumatised and their brains won’t be blocked while waiting at home to give birth.”

Girl-child Day

On December 19, 2011, United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 66/170 to declare October 11 as the International Day of the Girl Child, to recognise girls’ rights and the unique challenges girls face around the world

The day focuses attention on the need to address the challenges girls face and to promote girls’ empowerment and the fulfilment of their human rights such as safety, education, and healthy life from their critical formative years until they mature into women.

Part of measures to scale this up in Nigeria is the establishment of the Child Rights Act (CRA) and the Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill (GEO-Bill) but successful implementation of these laws has remained a huge challenge in Nigeria.

Mixed reactions

Sharing her thoughts on the second chance education, the Programmes Manager, Alliances for Africa, a women and girls rights advocate, Blessing Duru, noted the implications of having the scheme.

Duru described the second chance education as another form of discrimination against the girl-child which could increase stigmatisation.

The programme manager added that it was better to integrate the girl-child back to school rather than creating a separate school for pregnant school dropouts.

“I think the best bet is to integrate them back to their normal schools because having a separate school will increase stigmatisation.

“The idea is that if you have them in the same school they will tend to educate other girls on the implications of such actions and that will help other girls to make better choices and informed decisions that have to do with their career and school.”

On whether it was the best decisions to have pregnant girls in the school, Duru said there was no harm in allowing that, saying it will not affect the other girls but rather be a lesson for them.

“This would rather be a lesson to other girls so they can learn while seeing the challenges of being pregnant and coming to school. How the pregnant girls will cope in school will be an eye opener for other girls to concentrate on their studies and not be distracted,” she said.

“It will help them see a d have access to the real conversation and messages which they receive and also learn to abstain,” she added.

Holding boys accountable

Continuing, Duru said only girls should not bear the brunt noting that the boys who got them pregnant should be held accountable.

“Though we are still struggling with holding boys accountable when they get young girls pregnant, in my view, I think we should intensify educating the boys on the implications of getting girls pregnant or getting involved in sexual activities when they are supposed to be concentrating on their studies.

She maintained that self education for boys was important and regretted the fact that there are no correctional centres in most states where boys can be taken for counselling to be better and more responsible.

“It is a two-way thing, once a boy gets a girl pregnant it is important to draw his attention to the act and make him understand the implications, but as it is now we do not have any form of structure to address that issue and that is why the girls usually take the blame when it happens.”

The programme manager, who expressed doubt in the successful running of the second chance education, however, said it was a good thing to try new ways to getting lasting solutions.

“I don’t see a possibility in running such school now because it is new and there may be obstacles and challenges, but on the other hand it is good to try new ways even if faces challenges it will provide opportunity to come back to the drawing board , review, upgrade and try again.

“At the moment with Covid-19 situation it won’t be easy but no harm in trying because Kenya tried this and they had to get a legal framework to make it a reality and that’s why in Kenya even while pregnant you will continue school. There is no harm in trying this out i. Nigeria, if this may help us get it right,” she said.

Isolation may be counter productive

For girl-child advocate Irene Ugba there was no need keeping the girls to themselves, “I think it is better to find a way of integrating pregnant girls back to proper school because what is the point of keeping them to themselves,” she said.

Ugba likened the situation to that of special needs children, noting that recently the new guideline is that they should be in same school with other children to enable faster learning and tolerance for them.

“I would have taught that there should be a way of integrating young pregnant women back to school because they are still girls. Just like special needs children who are being integrated into normal schools to enable them learn faster, and also learn tolerance,” she said.

It’s a welcome devt

But contrarily, the National Coordinator of Change Managers International and the 100 Women Lobby Group, Mrs. Felicia Onibon, has described the second chance education plan as a welcome development.

According to Onibon, it was unfair that young women and girls who are pregnant will stop school while the boys who get them pregnant continue with their education.

“I am not supporting immorality but I don’t think a girl’s education should stop because she is pregnant as has always been the case,” she said.

On her part, a Former Head teacher, Dayfol Schools, Ms Gloria Ehikowoicho, said all stakeholders must play their part in instilling the right values in young boys and girls especially at adolescent age.

She maintained that abstinence was the best option as the pregnant girl after giving birth would still be out of school to nurse her baby.

Education ministry’s counters dissenting views

Countering the dissenting view of some gender experts on the scheme, especially that having a separate school for young mothers and women school dropouts was discriminatory, the Director of Press and Public Relations, Ministry of Education, Benjamin BenGoom, said the major reason for the idea was to get them properly educated even in their condition.

BenGoom explained that it is not morally good and wise to allow pregnant girls to mix up with the other girls, saying it may have negative implications and influence on those who are not pregnant or the younger girls in the school.

“If a 16 year-old-girl is drops out from school, unfortunately because of pregnancy, it is not wise to mix them up with younger girls in the class or hostels because whether we like it or not such girls have seen the other side of life and asking them to stay in same place with younger girls who are growing up normally will be a bad example for the children.

“The idea of a second chance education is to get these girls properly educated so they can be fixed back to the society. The fact that they found themselves in such situations is already stigmatising that is why we want to assist them to continue their education.

“The focus should be on the second chance and this is not in any way discriminatory because we have school for the blind, the deaf and other groups who we don’t also allow to mix up in the regular class,” he explained.

The spokesman disclosed that the ministry was already at an advanced stage of kick-starting the second chance education program, adding that the project was aimed at benefiting adolescent-girl school dropouts, and children who have never been to school and adult illiterates.

“We have these group of persons captured in the Adolescent Girl-child Education (AGILE) programme to until Nigeria reaches the desirable level of literacy for all.

“The schools will be located in designated areas across the country,” he disclosed.

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