Girls’ Education for Viable and Sustainable Development in Niger
The UNESCO Regional Office for West Africa Sahel successfully concluded a pilot project, implemented with the financial support of the Government of Japan, aimed to contribute to tackling gender inequalities in Niger’s education system. A closing ceremony to share achievements, lessons and findings with high-level officials of Niger’s education ministries and local actors was organized in Niamey, Niger, on June 2, 2016.
Since May 2015, UNESCO Dakar coordinated the pilot project “Tackling gender inequalities in Niger’s education system” funded by the Government of Japan and implemented by the Ministry of Primary Education, Literacy, Promotion of National Languages and Civic Education and the Ministry of Secondary Education.
The closing ceremony was held on 2 June 2016 bringing together officials from several ministries dealing with education, as well as a wide range of education stakeholders including local actors, civil society and development partners. The Japanese Embassy in Cote d‘Ivoire representing the donor and UNESCO Dakar were also in attendance.
In his speech during the ceremony, Mr Gwang-Chol Chang from UNESCO Dakar emphasized that “girls’ education is one of the most powerful transformative factors to improve the lives of girls themselves, their families and society in general.”
Mr. Yukuo Murata, Counsellor at the Japanese Embassy in Cote d’Ivoire echoed UNESCO’s remark, saying that the development of women’s potential for the economic development of Niger is extremely important, and that young girls should be equitably offered the chance to access to education. Mr. Murata expressed his full satisfaction with the outcome of the project.
Mr. Moumouni Moussa, Director of the Cabinet of the Ministry of Secondary Education, noted the invaluable achievements and the need to widely share the experience and lessons learnt and opened the meeting for further deliberations on the findings of the project.
Successful project achievements
Despite the impressive improvement particularly in terms of primary education participation since 2000, gender disparities persist at all levels of education in Niger. This project, aiming to improve girls’ and women’s access to and participation in education, was implemented on a pilot scale in 10 primary and 4 lower secondary schools in the Torodi District, in the Tillabéri Region.
Positive results achieved within the one-year implementation period include:
- Accurate information of the local context and challenges in the pilot district was obtained through consultation with local education actors;
- Strong commitment of local education actors to promoting girls’ access to and retention in school, increasing girls’ enrolment up to 44% in pilot schools, as well as decrease in the number of early marriages as a result of several awareness raising activities that reached more than 1,500 people in the communities;
- Girls’ punctuality, regularity and participation in school overall improved and gender equality was noticed in the assignment of tasks in the classroom as a result of the training on gender-sensitive approach and communication of the 85 female teachers;
- The project also succeeded in supporting learning of about 1,300 students, mostly girls, through remedial courses in French and mathematics;
- Advocacy materials were developed, notably: a poster illustrating the benefits of girls’ education, an advocacy document targeting decision-makers and partners on the importance of girls’ education, including recommendations and a collection of good practices, and a 4 minute-video on main achievements.
Recommendations for future consideration
The pilot project resulted in the formulation of several recommendations for consideration in designing and implementing future interventions. These recommendations include:
- Identified needs regarding the school environment (infrastructures, latrines, water, electricity supply, etc.) should be urgently addressed to sustain the level of commitment of all the actors, including school directors, teachers, parents, girls, etc.;
- The project achievements should be strengthened and consolidated, with awareness raising and remedial courses included in the School Management Committees’ annual action plan and budget, and teachers’ capacity development programmes;
- An operational system to monitor and evaluate the promotion of gender equality should be established in school;
- Synergies between partners should be reinforced to achieve higher impact and sustainable results.
A question & answer session followed the presentation of the project, which provided a discussion forum between decision-makers at the central level and local actors around the following topics:
- How to ensure the sustainability of the pilot project and share its experience widely;
- The need for a “school renaissance” through genuine partnerships between managers at the central level and actors at the decentralized and school levels;
- The need for central authorities to be more sensitive to local needs and conditions.
Overall, participants agreed to the fact that stakeholders at all levels should fulfil their respective role and responsibilities to support quality education for all in Niger. “Let’s capitalize on the results of this pilot project and work together to make further progress in improving gender equality and the quality of education”, the Director of Cabinet of the Ministry of Secondary Education urged education actors in his concluding remarks.
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