By Asmau Ahmad
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has pushed for the compulsory education of the girl-child as a protection mechanism from forced early marriage.
UNICEF Country Representative to Nigeria, Mr Peter Hawkins, spoke when he featured as a special guest on the News Agency of Nigeria interview programme in Abuja.
Hawkins, who said that child marriage remained a big issue in the country, urged all stakeholders to look for ways to prevent this to keep children, who are supposed to be in schools, in the schools.
“How do we ensure that girls are able to complete the full grade 12 up to the age of 18 so they can make decisions about their future.
“That is the most important issue that we need to take into consideration.
“The result of girls not going to school, especially junior secondary, is that they get married or they’re married off and I think that we must push for the girls to go to school.
“That, in effect, delays the marriage if they’re going to school.
If they don’t go to school, it accelerates the marriage because it is a protection mechanism.
“So, we need to look at those too in UNICEF as many of the traditional, religious leaders across the country say to me when we talk about child marriage.
“Child marriage is a big issue and I’m sure you will come on to it in Nigeria.”
Hawkins said girl-child education was one of the main priority issues UNICEF was working on because of its profound effect on the health of the adolescent girls.
He said that the Girls Education Programme (GEP) of UNICEF was an intervention designed to highlight issues of girls and education in the country.
“The programme will continue not as GEP but other interventions; what it did was to highlight the issue of girls and education and it looked into many different elements.
“One is access, which is about distance and so on; how do girls get to school, how can they go to school? Are our families prioritising the girls to be able to go to school.
“Secondly is about the environment in the school which is about gender, teachers- that is women and men teachers in the school, to make it possible.
“The third is the transition from basic education to junior secondary education and that has many different aspects.”
The UNICEF representative, therefore, urged the government to consider the social aspect of the education of the girl-child such as the provision of WASH facilities and travelling distance to and from schools.
Hawkins said that these, among many others, would encourage the girl-child to learn and continue learning.