Girls can still fulfill their dreams through second chance education

Date: Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Fatima during a class session. Photo: Neem Foundation

Fatima during a class session. Photo: Neem Foundation

Across Nigeria, girls are experiencing various forms of gender-based violence, with many forced into child marriage. In the northern part of Nigeria, girls are married off between the ages of 15 and 18, resulting in high rates of school dropouts. A 2013/14 report by UNESCO revealed that Nigeria has more primary school children out of school than any other country in the world 10.5 million children, representing 14% of the 70 million children out of school globally. Over 60% of this figure are girls who reside in the Northern part of the country. These statistics have attributed early marriage as one of the causes of school dropout.

This is the story of Fatima Abubakar Sani* a 22-year-old mother of two girls from Kofar Danmarke in Sokoto North, who is a survivor of early child marriage and consequently, denied access to formal education. Fatima’s story is not unique as this is the reality of thousands of girls in the northeast region.

Fatima suffered physical, sexual, psychological, and economic violence. She was also denied socializing with other people in the “Kunle” (confined) system of marriage in the northern part of Nigeria.

But through joint efforts of EU-UN Spotlight Initiative project, Neem Foundation identified Fatima through the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs in Sokoto state and enrolled her into the (Neem Foundation Second Chance Education Centre. She is currently benefitting from value-based education, second chance education (in basic literacy and numeracy), psychosocial support services (through group and individual counselling & Expressive therapy), Socio-economic and skill acquisition.

Through the Spotlight Initiative project, she is now able to identify alphabets, read three letter words, write her name, and solve simple arithmetic problems. She has equally shown remarkable improvement through her psychological healing process from ‘severe to mild’. Fatima was also able to convince her husband to enroll their daughters into formal education, after having witnessed impact of the project on Fatima’s life.

In her words,” I have been impacted significantly by my encounter with the joint EU-UN Spotlight Initiative project through Neem Foundation and by the grace of God I will do my best to advocate for girls like me that were forced into early marriage to be given a second chance to education to fulfil their dreams. All hope is not lost. I want to appreciate joint EU-UN Spotlight Initiative and the tireless efforts of Neem Foundation Staff in impacting our lives”.

*Not real name

UN Women in Nigeria through the joint EU-UN Spotlight Initiative, engaged Fatima and thousands of other participants in Northern Nigeria through partnership with Second Chance Education partner, Neem Foundation. The Second Chance Education programme provides access to women and girls who missed a first opportunity at education due to gender-based violence. Participants are provided with functional literacy skills, re-integration into formal education (where so desired), livelihood support, psychosocial support, business ethics support through UN Women Kolibri portal, and access to markets through engagement with private sector partners in Nigeria.