Choose to Challenge - 6,042 Women and Girls get a Second Chance at Education in Nigeria

Abuja, Nigeria
05 - Gender Equality

Safinatu Ibrahim, dropped out of school in 2004 when she was just in primary five, her parents could no longer afford to keep her in school. She began to accompany her mom to her restaurant, where she helped to serve customers -- mostly men who would often gawk and make passes at her. In 2020, she learnt about the accelerated second chance education through her neighbor and enrolled. On graduation, the 20-year-old remarks, “my dream is to go back to school”. Cases like Safinatus’ abound; see Aisha, for instance.

Aisha Adaba, 25years, never had a chance to go to school. Her parents were poor and could not afford it. At the age of 18, they married her off. To cater for her 2 children, she hawked roasted fish around her community. This made her vulnerable to verbal assault from men who were her major customers. One day, she narrowly escaped rape at the hands of one of her customers, and this sparked fear, making it difficult for her to continue her trade. That was when she learned about the Spotlight Initiative supported learning center and got enrolled. The diligent Aisha never missed a single class, “this is my second chance”. Aisha is taking steps towards education as she can now read and write.

Aisha and Safinatu are just 2 out of the 10.5 million children out of school in Nigeria according to a UNICEF report on education[1]. When girls are out of school, it increases their vulnerability to early marriage and other forms of violence against women and girls and other harmful practices. Girls must stay in school.

Creating a second chance at education for out-of-school women and girls

The EU-UN Spotlight Initiative through UNESCO launched the Accelerated Second Chance Education Programme just at the right time before the onset of the COVID pandemic. The pandemic caused girls to be unable to go to school causing a spiraling rise in cases of gender-based violence in Nigeria but the programme sustained efforts to ensure that the women and girls were able to keep learning, using radios when movement was stopped across the country. The programme offers basic literacy skills, Sexual, reproductive health rights (SHRH). It also teaches women and girls how to spot violence and harmful practices and where/how to seek help.

Six thousand and forty-six women and girls across 6 area councils in Abuja, Nigeria all with different faces and peculiar stories have today completed the 6-months learning period of basic literacy skills and are awarded certificates to mark the 2021 International women’s Day.

The plan is to mainstream the learners into formal education after building this foundation,

Ms. Cynthia Obazee - National Coordinator GESA

when asked what was next for the learners after graduation. GESA is the organization responsible for enrolling the women and girls into a second chance at learning across the Spotlight implementing states to curb the spread of violence against women and girls.

The IWD celebration and graduation ceremony, held in Abuja on 8th March 2021. It brought together partners from Government organizations, traditional leaders, CSOs, and the United Nations.

“The position of women cannot be overemphasized; women should be given all support that can empower them towards a better society, especially in the area of literacy. Many women have occupied high positions through quality education”, remarked M.s Abajiwa Olaitan

The Programme Manager Spotlight Initiative UNESCO highlighted the theme of the 2021 International Women’s Day, calling on all to choose to challenge anything working against the wellbeing of women.

[1] See reference: