World Bank Approves Fresh $700m for Girl Education Accessibility in Nigeria
By Adedapo Adesanya
The World Bank has approved additional financing of $700 million for Nigeria to scale up the Adolescent Girls Initiative for Learning and Empowerment (AGILE) programme to improve secondary education opportunities among girls in targeted states.
The additional financing, according to the global lender, will improve project activities from the current seven states to 11 additional states and increase the targeted beneficiaries to include out-of-school (OOS) girls, those who are married, and those who have disabilities.
Nigeria has over 12 -15 million out-of-school children in the school-age group, reportedly one of the largest, with the majority of them concentrated in Northern Nigeria, where secondary school completion rates among girls are lower than in the country’s southern region.
There are also high levels of violence around schools, and an estimated 1 million children were affected by increased insecurity in 2020-2021; many of them may not have returned to school. With girls being at risk from gender-based violence, an array of issues, including poverty and negative cultural practices, stand as barriers to education for girls.
In the initial seven AGILE programme implementing states – Borno, Ekiti, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, and Plateau – the number of girls in secondary schools has increased from about 900,000 to over 1.6 million.
Under the programme, over 5,000 classrooms have been renovated, and over 250,000 eligible girls have received scholarships. The AGILE programme has supported the construction and rehabilitation of WASH facilities in secondary schools and the installation of computers and solar panels, which make attending school more convenient and conducive for both girls and boys.
Other areas covered by the scheme include life skills, systems strengthening, and advocacy, which are other key aspects of the programme that address social norms impeding girls’ education.
Speaking on this development, Mr Shubham Chaudhuri, World Bank Country Director for Nigeria, said closing the gender gaps in economic empowerment by ensuring girls have access to education and skills is key for Nigeria’s development and economic prosperity.
“Nigeria’s working population will soon be one of the youngest and largest around the world, which means that investing in adolescent girls is imperative when addressing overall economic prospects and growth.”
On her part, Ms Aisha Garba, the Task Team Lead on AGILE, said, “A larger number of vulnerable girls will be reached in 18 states providing digital skills, a more conducive learning environment and life skills, towards seeing over 8.6 million girls completing their secondary education.
“States will also be supported to construct community secondary schools, employ more female teachers, use energy efficient measures, and be more inclusive of girls living with disabilities.”
In addition to girls, the project’s over 15 million students and beneficiaries will also include teachers, administrators, families, communities, and staff in existing and newly constructed schools. With the additional financing, the programme will be implemented in 18 states and, if actualised, will help Nigeria to achieve better education and health outcomes for girls.