ABUJA, Nigeria – The Sultan of Sokoto (Nigeria), His Eminence Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III, together with The Kabaka of Bugundu (Uganda), His Highness Ronald Edward Frederick Kimera Muwenda Mutebi II, today, chaired the ‘Keeping Girls in School Summit’; a convening of African leaders, traditional rulers, religious heads, youth groups, advocates and thought leaders, in Abuja, Nigeria.
The two-day event brings together influential traditional and religious leaders from across the continent to discuss the critical issue of keeping girls in school to complete primary and secondary education (i.e. 12 years of education) and find solutions from within the rich, diverse cultures and values of Africa’s thought leaders. With poverty being one of the key drivers of keeping girls out of school, the Summit also seeks to promote incorporating in-school skills that generate income.
For decades, African governments and international development partners have been trying to improve and reduce suffering as a result of pregnancy and childbirth. Very few improvements have been recorded in the health of women and children, despite studies showing that the health of children substantially improves when the mother is educated. Completion of secondary education by girls has been found to significantly improve not only maternal and child health, but women’s decision-making, as well as their ability to earn a living; thus improving the health and nutrition of families and communities. This undeniable link between the education of the mother and health and development outcomes of families, shows that the future of African families is dependent on the education of the girl.
The Summit provides a platform for community leaders to share ideas and best practices and develop strategies and networks to keep girls in school. It also serves as a means to sensitize and equip these leaders with the right skills to motivate parents and care givers to be deeply committed to ensuring all girls in their constituencies complete at least 12 years of education.
Speaking at the event, The Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III called on all traditional and religious leaders on the continent to focus on the development of their communities; stating, “A key factor in the development of our communities is the education of our girls.”
He further stated, “I believe traditional and religious leaders will lead in shaping the future of Africa by ensuring all girls complete secondary school education and learn life and livelihood skills in the process.”
In attendance were His Excellency, Muhammadu Buhari, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, The Emir of Kano (Nigeria) His Highness Muhammadu Sanusi II who presented a lead paper titled “Perspective on Development in Africa – population, education and investment”; The Emir of Argungu (Kebbi state, Nigeria) His Highness Alhaji Samaila Mera; The Nnabagereka of Buganda Queen Sylvia Nagginda; The Asantehene of Asante Ghana,; Archbishop of Abuja, Cardinal John Onaiyekan; Sheikh Sheriff Ibrahim Saleh ; Queen Mother of the Asante, Her Majesty, Nana Ama Konadu; Sultan of Zinder (Niger Republic) His Highness, Alh. Aboubacar Sanda as well as representatives from international organisations such as the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF), the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Nigeria, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the Department for International Development (DFID) and others. Also in attendance were representatives of various ministries, departments and agencies in Nigeria including the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Muhammad Musa Bello and the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu who in his remarks reiterated the importance of girls’ education.
The conference gives the attending traditional and religious leaders the opportunity to reflect and come up with ideas on how they would contribute to the movement of keeping girls in school in their communities by increasing enrolment, retention and completion of school as well as ensuring girls acquire life and livelihood skills. This initiative would be amplified through the support of gender and youth-focused groups and organizations.
African Youth Groups will support the traditional and religious leaders by amplifying the initiative through encouraging the youth to mentor and actively participating in promoting Keeping Girls in School in their communities. The Initiative also brings together African female leaders who will use their influence to promote keeping girls in school; serving as mentors and role models in their communities
Following the conference, it is envisioned that traditional and religious leaders will continue to have a platform for regular engagement and knowledge-sharing on keeping girls in School in Africa.
About Keeping Girls in School:
Keeping Girls in School is an initiative aimed at starting a social movement in Africa that will rapidly set the stage to leapfrog improvement in maternal and child health and the status of women and girls in Africa. This initiative will engage and support traditional and religious leaders who shape social norms, culture and behaviour of a mass majority of people in Africa, regardless of class, religion or gender, to develop strategies and solutions from within and use their positions to ensure African girls finish at least twelve of year of school.