Girls’ Education In Niger
Niger, a country of 25 million people located in landlocked West Africa, is amid a wide-scale education crisis. Extreme poverty, unsafe schools, low-quality education, border conflicts, risk of sexual harassment and conservative gender norms significantly impact girls’ education in Niger. However, investing in the improvement of Nigerien girls’ education could improve the economy, create safer societies, increase women’s literacy rates, reduce child marriage and minimize conflicts, among many more benefits.

Nigerien Education Crisis

Niger currently lies at the bottom of the Girls’ Opportunity Index and is one of the most difficult countries for a girl to receive a full 12 years of education. Girls often have to travel long distances to get to school and face a significant risk of sexual harassment along the way. Another barrier to girls’ education in Niger is strict gender norms, including expectations that women solely participate in childcare, cooking and obtaining water from wells. Only 14% of women are literate in comparison to 42% of men. Improved girls’ education in Niger could have prominent social and economic impacts.

Benefits of Girls’ Education in Niger

  1. Women Gain More Economic Power: Nigerien women who have had an education have more control over their economic decisions. Experts determine that education for women can lead to a 0.3% increase in a country’s GDP. Additionally, with only one extra year of education, women’s earnings can increase by 20%. Women also have more power to make decisions on farms if they have higher education levels. Niger’s economy is primarily centered around agriculture, so this power to make agriculture-related decisions is advantageous for women individually as well as the country’s economy as a whole.
  2. Lower Rates of Child Marriage: About 75% of girls in Niger marry by the time they reach 15 years old and 45% of girls become pregnant by the age of 18. Girls who receive an education are less likely to enter into child marriage and become pregnant through force. Education gives young girls more opportunities while establishing independence and self-sufficiency in addition to providing knowledge to make informed decisions.
  3. Health Improvements: A child is 50% more likely to live past 5 years old if the child’s mother obtained a higher education. Additionally, the child has twice the potential of attending school themselves and a 50% higher chance of receiving vaccinations. Educated mothers also have more potential of having a say over when they will have children and how many children they will have. This demonstrates how girls’ education can contribute to the general improvement of people’s health and the well-being of the future generation.

Improvements in Girls Education

President of Niger Mohamed Bazoum has made girls’ education a primary focus of his mandate so that the country can reap the abundant benefits of girls’ education in Niger. President Bazoum recognizes that education is critical for the future of Niger and plans to focus on developing the education sector for the well-being of the nation’s young girls. He has committed to increasing Niger’s education budget to 22% by 2024. He has also promised to establish more schools and school dormitories so that fewer girls need to embark on risky journeys to get to their schools. Lastly, Bazoum has implemented a ‘zero straw-hut schools’ initiative, which will facilitate the building of better quality school infrastructure to improve the teaching environment.

Improving girls’ education will provide economic, social and health advantages, which will enhance the quality of life in Niger. The benefits of girls’ education in Niger stand to serve not just women but the entire population and should undergo implementation imminently.

– Isabella Elmasry
Photo: Flickr

Study Hall Educational Foundation
Numerous studies have indicated a strong association between poverty and education. Out-of-school rates are the highest in poor countries such as India. Poverty and a lack of education have an inextricable connection, creating a vicious cycle difficult to escape. Illiteracy and lack of schooling keep young people from obtaining better-paying jobs as adults, making it near impossible to ever rise up from poverty. In low-income countries, girls are more likely to withdraw from school — or never attend — than boys. However, the organization, Study Hall Educational Foundation (SHEF), is transforming the lives of girls in India.

Daughters Cannot Attend School

There are several reasons why many girls in India do not have access to education. In rural areas, even if school is free, parents must pay for books and transportation. Parents typically believe educating girls is a waste of money, and would rather have them contribute to family income.

Often, girls stay home to look after younger siblings. Additionally, many end up in early marriages as soon as they reach puberty against their will. These factors could explain why the literacy rate for males 15 and older in India is above 82%, while for girls and women, it is barely 66%. Yet just one extra year of schooling can increase a woman’s earnings by up to 10%, thereby helping to raise her out of poverty.

Help for Girls in India

A nonprofit organization is working to change these daunting statistics. Study Hall Educational Foundation has a history of transforming the lives of Indian girls. Through a network of model schools and outreach programs, it promotes girls’ rights, enabling their access to schooling. Foundation administrators believe a lack of education directly affects a girl’s future ability to earn good wages and to escape poverty.

Urvashi Sahni, Study Hall’s founder, is an activist who became married as a teenager. She had two daughters by her early 20s, and later lost her sister tragically — burned to death over a dowry dispute. It was that anger and frustration that inspired Sahni to found Study Hall. Her work to promote gender equality and education has impacted more than 5 million children, according to the Foundation.

A prime example of Study Hall’s pioneering work is the Prerna Girls School in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh. Founded in 2003, its enrollment has grown to more than 1,000, providing accessible and affordable education to girls from marginalized, low-income communities — most of whom would not have the opportunity to study otherwise. Many of the girls come from local slums, working as domestic help for neighbors. Although many also come from abusive homes, that fact has not abated their excitement to study and eventually join the professional workforce.

From Slums to Orchards

Another Study Hall program is GyanSetu — or Bridge of Learning — a network of support centers operating from small huts in slums and rural mango orchards. Children attend an accelerated learning program before enrolling in formal schools while continuing to receive supplementary education and support.

Increasing schooling among those 15 or older by just two years would allow nearly 60 million to rise out of poverty, according to UNESCO. That has a better chance of happening thanks to programs like those administered by Study Hall Educational Foundation, helping Indian girls have a better life.

– Sarah Betuel
Photo: Hippopx

Pearls Africa Foundation
Nigerian female programmer Abisoye Ajayi-Akinfolarin’s love for computers led her to a life’s mission to help lift girls out of poverty through science, technology, engineering and math by teaching them how to code. Ajayi-Akinfolarin founded the Pearls Africa Foundation, which provides more than technological skills, giving girls tools to become financially independent.

About Abisoye Ajayi-Akinfolarin

After graduating from the University of Lagos, Ajayi-Akinfolarin founded the Pearls Africa Foundation in 2012, leaving her job to dedicate all her time to the Foundation. a statistic indicating that less than 8% of Nigerian women had professional, managerial or technological jobs, a staggeringly low number, drove her to establish the Foundation. She wanted to give women and girls the opportunity to acquire the skills to change that statistic and lift themselves out of poverty. In 2018, she earned the title of CNN Hero of the Year in acknowledgment of her efforts.

The Girls and Women of Makoko

Lagos, Nigeria, has a thriving economy of oil, finance and manufacturing, however, the world’s largest “floating slum,” Makoko, is on a lagoon in the city within which 250,000 people live. The slum city rests on stilts and its residents use canoes for transport. Gentrification led to the displacement of some members of the slum community until many deemed it unconstitutional. Most people in Makoko, including women and girls, do not have access to regular food, water, electricity or education. Drawing inspiration from the aim of helping the girls of Makoko, Ajayi-Akinfolarin began the Pearls Africa Foundation.

Pearls Africa Foundation Programs

The Pearls Africa Foundation has 10 different programs to help girls learn to code, keep them safe and secure and prepare them for educational and career-oriented opportunities. The flagship program of the Pearls Africa Foundation is Girls Coding, which provides underserved girls with an education in computer programming and coding, including courses such as HTML, CSS, JavaScript and Python. This training prepares the girls to compete for STEM jobs and achieve financial independence.

Similar programs are Lady Labs, which teaches basic IT and technology skills and provides IT experience. Empowered Hands provides vocational training such as bead-making, fashion designing, hair styling, Aso-oke weaving and more. Pearls Africa actively searches for internship placements for its students and provides scholarship opportunities through its EducateHer program.

Its mentoring activity, Safe Space, gives girls a place to cope with and address psychological trauma from their daily environments. Mentors answer questions and guide young girls in areas such as sexual health and dealing with abuse as well as cultural practices. This allows girls to understand and address their mental health issues, heal from the impacts of abuse, receive career guidance and more. Safe Space holds workshops every month to help girls build life skills and become successful in their careers.

The Foundation also has three different outreach programs: Community Outreach, Medical Outreach and School Outreach. Respectively, these efforts involve a feeding program and donations, providing free healthcare assistance in Lagos and mentoring girls in secondary schools.

Each of the programs of the Pearls Africa Foundation provides young girls in Nigeria with the tools to lift themselves out of poverty and lead successful, fulfilling lives.

– Sana Mamtaney
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Alliance to End Educational Poverty
The G7 Alliance, otherwise known as Group of Seven, is a global intergovernmental organization made up of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States. The key principles of this organization are freedom and human rights, democracy and the rule of law and prosperity. The organization promotes sustainable development through “a community of values” by convening at yearly G7 summits. Most recently, the G7 has entered an alliance to end educational poverty in developing countries. 

The G7 Alliance and Goal 5

The G7 Alliance derives from Goal 5 of the G7 Alliance’s Global Goals. The goal is to achieve gender equality. The G7 hopes to do this by ensuring equal access to quality primary and secondary education for both boys and girls. Together, the priorities aid in the path to end poverty in developing countries by 2030.

The G7’s 2021 effort toward Goal 5 includes sending 40 million more girls to school within the next five years. To achieve this, G7 countries will allocate $15 billion to support women and girls’ education in low- and middle-income countries. This movement also includes action to aid in an additional 20 million girls across the world learning how to read by 10 years of age.

Many developing countries already neglected education, especially for women and girls, before the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic inflicted a new set of conditions that worsened education reform in countries that need it most. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, 132 million girls around the world lacked access to an adequate education. Additionally, only one in four countries has equal likelihoods of upper-secondary school attendance for boys and girls.

According to Save the Children, the effects of the pandemic have threatened to reverse the gains that many areas have made regarding girls’ education in recent years. About 11 million girls are currently at risk of completely losing their access to education. In Ethiopia alone, the COVID-19 pandemic forced over 26 million children to leave school due to school closures. 

Moving Forward in the Alliance to End Educational Poverty

The G7 Alliance’s commitment toward Goal 5 is one of the largest in terms of scope and projected impacts. However, the Alliance has yet to decide the details of where the funding must come from and where the funding must go.

The G7’s alliance to end educational poverty is placing education at the forefront of policy reform and international aid as countries adjust to the constant new norms that come with each day of the COVID-19 pandemic. This priority could positively affect global economics and accelerate overall global recovery and wellbeing.

– Kylie Lally
Photo: Flickr