By Chioma Obinna
The residents of Yola and Maiduguri gathered to witness the grand launch of childcare, health and sanitation facilities inÂ schools designated for married adolescent girls in Adamawa and Borno States recently.
These modernised schools have in them quality crÃ¨ches, clinics, toilets, bathrooms, kitchenettes, and water boreholes, courtesy of Action Health Incorporated.
For over 20 years, Action Health Incorporated (AHI), a non-governmental non-profit organization has been working on issues around adolescentsâ€™ sexual and reproductive health.Â In 2002, AHI extended her work to Northern Nigeria with the aim of expanding access to sexual and reproductive health information and services for underserved youths in this region.
Major categories of these underserved youths are the married adolescent girls who in the context of sexual and reproductive health services have been largely marginalized. Consequently in 2006, a survey was conducted to assess the situation of married adolescents in Northern Nigeria.
The survey revealed that married adolescent girls had low educational attainment, limited access to health services and information, low social status, and were at higher risk for maternal and child mortality.
Statistics have further shown that out of every 100 girls between ages 13 and 19 in North-East Nigeria, 73 are married (NARHS, 2005). Out of these married girls, only two eventually continue with schooling.
In recognition of the numerous benefits that the education of women holds for her as an individual, her family, her community and the nation, AHI embarked on efforts to ensure that married girls are reintegrated back to formal schools in North-East Nigeria.
Narrating the success story to Good Health Weekly, Mrs. Adenike Esiet said â€œConsidering the socio-cultural sensitivities that revolve around issues of girl-child education in Northern Nigeria, a lot had to be put in place to ensure that the aim of the project was achieved. Part of this was the selection and training of 100 women innovators, 25 from each State who are indigenes of the four focal states of the project (Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, and Yobe). These are women who got married when they were adolescents, but were able to continue with their education in spite of marriage.â€
Continuing, she said â€œToday, these women are socially and economically empowered and stand as role models for married girls. They also advocate in support of education for married adolescent girls. So far, the intensive advocacy efforts of these women have yielded tremendous progress; five schools designated for married girls in three States (Adamawa, Bauchi, and Borno), and over 4,000 married girls being mentored by the women innovators.â€
Esiet said â€œAs soon as schools were designated for married girls in Adamawa, Bauchi, and Borno States, AHI provided each school with basic equipments and supplies for a crÃ¨che and clinic. This was to ensure that married girls were not discouraged from enrolling in schools for lack of childcare facilities, and also ensure that minor ailments are taken care of without the girls necessarily having to boycott classes.â€
Speaking further, she said AHI, with further support from The David and Lucile Packard Foundation, took another step and provided one school in each of Yola and Maiduguri with water borehole, toilets, and kitchenettes.Â Bigger crÃ¨ches and clinics were also built to accommodate the increasing number of children who are brought to the crÃ¨ches daily. In Yola, the selected school was School of Islamic and Arabic Studies, while Women Day Secondary School Maiduguri was also a beneficiaryâ€
These facilities have been officially launched in Yola on February 16 and in Maiduguri on February 18.
At the official presentation of projects in Adamawa State, the wife of the Executive Governor of Adamawa State promised to ensure that more schools are built for married girls in the state.
She further donated 10 baby walkers and a power-generating set for ease of operation at the school crÃ¨che and clinic.
Amongst dignitaries at the event in Yola include Hajia Zainab Nyako, wife of the Executive Governor of Adamawa State; Hajia Aishatu Bello Tukur, State Commissioner for Women Affairs; Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education, Comrade Hamman Bello who represented the Hon. Commissioner Ministry of Education, Hon. Gabriel Adama amongst others.
In Maiduguri, the occasion was graced by dignitaries such as the State Commissioner for Education, Hajia Asabe Bashir; Hajia Laraba Dagash, an elder States woman, officials from the Maiduguri School of Nursing and Midwifery; Religious leaders; the AHI Executive Director; the Senior Country Advisor for the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Dr. Mairo Mandara; Borno State Women Innovators, members and staff of Community Health and Youth-Friendly Association (CHAYFA), the project implementing partner in Maiduguri, Borno State.