By: Babagana Bukar Wakil, Maiduguri
British High Commissioner to Nigeria, has stressed on the need to strengthen the girl-child education in the country.
Laing said this at a virtual conversation hosted by the United Nations Children’s Fund to commemorate the International Day of the Girl-Child.
According to her, girl-child education is a powerful agenda; central to poverty reduction, a key to prosperity and a means of reducing early pregnancy and child marriage.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the day is marked annually to raise awareness on the plights of girls around the world and to fashion out ways to empower them and protect their rights.
The theme for this year’s celebration is “My Voice, Our Equal Future’’.
Speaking on the theme: “Empowering Girls Through Access to Education”, Laing said that many aspects of girls education were important, including its power to improve life expectancy, peace, stability and the economy.
According to her, if a mother is able to read and write, her child is more likely to live beyond the age of five, be immunised and also more likely to complete school.
She said that the rights and empowerment benefits of educating girls are not just for the individual girl but for the entire population to tap into.
The high commissioner, however, said that educating girls in Nigeria was still a big problem despite the giant strides made since the adoption of the Beijing declaration.
“There are probably four reasons for this, with poverty being the first,’’ she said.
Other reasons, according to her are culture, family planning and leadership.
Laing highlighted access to family planning as another reason for lack of education.
According to her, if the demography issue must be dealt with, women have to be given access to family planning in order to reduce the rate of out-of-school girls.
“Leadership is another issue that needs to be worked on if girls will have access to quality education.
“We have seen other countries that also have traditional practices in place turn education around.
“We need leaders from the grassroots to put education at the heart of a wider strategy to achieve all its benefits.
“Education is a huge priority for the UK and our approach is to go back to the basics and that means investing in teachers, helping them to understand how to do lesson planning and so on.
“We all know that even with limited resources, a good teacher can do a lot,’’ Ling said.
She noted that the commission was passionate about education, not just because it matters, “but because it is necessary to achieve other issues that are important for all countries, particularly Nigeria’’.
Peter Hawkins, the Country Representative of UNICEF in Nigeria, said that it was essential that all girls’ voices and actions were heard to ensure an equal future for them.
“The celebration this year focuses on re-imagining a world shaped by adolescent girls’ voices, vision and solutions to the key issues hindering their access to quality education.
“It focuses on the positive side of what they can achieve and the role models they can aspire to meet, especially in a country like Nigeria.
“It also brings to the attention of all partners, the need to support girls to acquire new skills towards their future,’’ Hawkins said.
He said that about 150 girls across Nigeria have been supported with digital literacy skills and creative writing in the past three days.
“There are girls who are setting examples for others in their community.
“These are the voices we celebrate today and we wish to hear more from them often in the discourse of our national development.
“We are supporting a movement for girls to build a group of adolescent girls who can raise their voices and seek opportunities for their future.
“UNICEF will continue to support equitable access to basic education for all girls in Nigeria, champion the voices that they have and achievements that they make,’’ the UNICEF chief said.