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Education is a fundamental right of every child, providing the key to a brighter future and the opportunity for personal growth. It is education that breathes life into dreams, fueling the empowerment of women and girls, nurturing vibrant communities, and serving as the linchpin in tackling complex issues like family planning, lowering fertility rates, and eradicating the shackles of child marriage. After all, our future depends on hers and her future depends on an education.
However, in Nigeria, a country with a population exceeding 200 million a staggering 20 million children are currently out of school, presenting a severe education crisis. This alarming situation not only robs these children of their basic right to education but also poses significant challenges for Nigeria’s development goals and its aspirations for a prosperous future.
Education, the bedrock of progress and development, faces an uphill battle in Nigeria, plagued by systemic issues, social challenges, and limited resources, all of which hinder the provision of quality education to its citizens.
One of the most significant issues plaguing Nigeria’s education system is the lack of access to quality education, particularly in rural areas. Many children, especially girls, are denied the opportunity to attend school due to cultural norms, poverty, and gender disparities. In recent years, Nigeria has faced security challenges, particularly in the northern region, where attacks on schools and abductions of students have become distressingly common. These incidents cast a dark shadow over education, instilling fear in children and their families, resulting in decreased school enrollment and an increase in dropout rates.
Nigeria’s education crisis, with 20 million children out of school, demands immediate attention. Recognizing the pressing need, Population Media Center, supported by funding from UKAid, and in collaboration with Save The Children International, has taken decisive action to shed light on education issues across Nigeria and address the challenge.
One study found “that education affected fertility mostly through the educational attainment of girls, particularly through their early teens (the “lower secondary” level of schooling). Generally considered the last stage of basic education, completing at least the lower secondary level had a greater effect on fertility decline than completing only primary schooling. Kenya showed a substantial increase in girls’ educational attainment, from 12% reaching the lower secondary level in the mid-1970s to 59% in the mid-2010s. Contraceptive prevalence in Kenya also grew steadily, from 5% to 51%, while the total fertility rate dropped from 7.64 births per woman to 4.06.”
Education plays a crucial role in promoting family planning and lowering fertility rates. Education empowers individuals, particularly women, by providing them with knowledge, information, and critical thinking skills. Educated individuals are more likely to make informed decisions about their reproductive health, including family planning. They have a better understanding of contraceptive methods, their benefits, and how to access them. Education helps individuals take control of their reproductive choices, leading to a decline in unplanned pregnancies and a greater ability to plan the timing and size of their families.
Education promotes awareness about the importance of family planning in terms of health, economic stability, and overall well-being. Through comprehensive sexuality education, individuals learn about reproductive health, contraception, sexually transmitted infections, and responsible sexual behavior. This knowledge helps dispel myths, misconceptions, and cultural barriers related to family planning, enabling individuals to make informed choices.
Education often leads to delayed marriage and parenthood. When individuals, especially girls, have access to quality education, they are more likely to stay in school and pursue higher education or vocational training. This delay in marriage and childbirth allows individuals to focus on personal growth, career development, and financial stability before starting a family. Consequently, delayed parenthood is associated with lower fertility rates.
Education has a transformative effect on women’s status in society. When girls and women receive an education, they are more likely to have increased autonomy, decision-making power, and access to resources. This empowerment leads to greater control over their reproductive choices and the ability to negotiate family planning with their partners. Educated women are also more likely to engage in family planning discussions and have better access to healthcare services, including contraceptives.
Education is closely linked to socioeconomic development. As educational attainment increases, there is a corresponding improvement in income levels, employment opportunities, and overall economic well-being. Higher levels of education are associated with lower fertility rates, as individuals prioritize other aspects of their lives, such as career advancement and financial stability. This positive relationship between education and socioeconomic development contributes to a decline in fertility rates.
Education is a powerful tool for addressing gender inequality, which has implications for family planning. In societies where gender disparities exist, women often have limited control over their reproductive choices. By promoting education, particularly for girls and women, gender inequalities can be challenged, leading to greater reproductive autonomy and increased access to family planning services.
The people of Jigawa, Kaduna, and Kano States are beginning to feel the transformative impact of Population Media Center-Nigeria (PMC-Nigeria) as it prepares to release yet another hit Entertainment-Education program. This program is designed to bring out-of-school children back to school and is part of what is called the “PLANE Window 3” Project.
PLANE Window 3’s Community Support for Learning is part of the United Kingdom’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office’s (FCDO) funded “Partnership for Learning for All in Nigerian Education” – or PLANE. The PLANE program supports achieving the UK Aid’s strategic objectives, particularly tackling extreme poverty and helping the world’s most vulnerable.
The program will also work to strengthen resilience and response to crises, support prosperity in Nigeria, and strengthen governance in the education sector. This brings together a short-term focus on improving the life chances of Nigeria’s most vulnerable children with medium-term goals to support recovery and stability and longer-term development goals to improve the overall education system.
With Save the Children International as the consortium lead, other partners are Population Media Center (PMC), Disability Rights Advocacy Centre (DRAC) (Kano, Jigawa), Women with Disability and Self Reliance Foundation (WWDRSF) (Kaduna), Popular Theatre and Health Education (POTHE) (Jigawa), Global improvement of less privilege person initiative (GIOPINI) (Kano), and Kishimi Shelter and Care Foundation (KSCF) (Kaduna).
The overall goal of this activity is for girls and boys to have the improved skills and supportive community learning environment needed to thrive and access inclusive education in North and West Nigeria. It will support more children and young people acquiring abilities to transition to more productive life opportunities. This project will use evidence-based approaches to enable and increase community-based support for learning for marginalized children, especially girls, and children with disabilities. It builds foundational competencies, fostering empowerment, strengthening protection systems, and supporting families to overcome demand-side barriers to access quality inclusive education opportunities. It will guarantee that more inclusive and effective education systems deliver foundational skills.
At the heart of the project lies a resounding vision – to deliver foundational skills through more inclusive and effective education systems across Nigeria. To achieve this, we’re joining forces with both state and non-state basic education providers, rallying together to ensure improved learning outcomes, especially for marginalized groups.
The inception phase of the project involves a flurry of activities such as advocacy and entry visits, establishment of consortium systems and procedures, community identification, research to understand existing structures, and training of community focal points on project interventions.
Together, we’ll venture into uncharted horizons, guided by the PLANE Window 3 project, as we redefine the landscape of education and empower the future generations of Northwest Nigeria.
Additional intervention strategies for the PLANE Window 3 Projects include: