Since 2017, by law, girls in Niger must attend school until they are 16 years old, however, this law is rarely respected.
“I want to study, to become responsible, and take care of my village”, says a 13-year-old Nigerian girl. “I want to teach and be a role model for other girls, and my cousin dreams of becoming a doctor”, insists her friend.
Despite hopes of becoming a doctor, teacher or a successful businesswoman, they add: “Our parents make the final decisions, they decide whether we go to school”.
With a population of 20 million, Niger has the third lowest number of girls in school after South Sudan and the Central African Republic. Only 50% of girls go to primary school, only 10% reach secondary school and only 2% reach high school.
The region of Tillabéry on the Ganguel Plateau, although located only a few kilometers from the capital of Niamey, is a deeply rural area where the lack of schooling is particularly noticeable. While 50% of girls in the region have access to primary schools, the schools are often poorly developed straw huts, lacking electric and latrines. Furthermore, only 16% of girls in the region have access to the Saga Fondo secondary school.
As noted above, there are many challenges, particularly related to infrastructure, as nearly half of the schools are straw huts and only 1 in 10 schools has latrines.
Access to toilets is a major barrier to keeping girls in school. In many cases, young girls are forced to travel several kilometers home to relieve themselves and often do not return. Once they reach their teenage years and hit menstruation, many girls fall behind or drop out completely.
In addition to the lack of infrastructure, the communities in Niger are largely traditional and religious. In rural communities in particular, girls are destined to marry young, and to take care of household chores and children. Today, 75% of young Nigerian women are married before the age of 18. In this context, the education of young girls is not a priority for their families, who are often very poor and see these marriages as a way to reduce their expenses.
Since 2019, SOS SAHEL has been contributing to a program known as “Dignity for Women” set up by AMADE (the World Association of Children’s Friends). This program is dedicated to the protection of young girls and ensures their access to secondary education. Infrastructure challenges have also been addressed as a part of this program. Sturdy classrooms with latrines have been built to replace the existing straw huts.
To date, on the Ganguel Plateau, SOS SAHEL and its partners have:
- Built and equipped 6 classrooms for the primary schools of Daraina, Sétoré and Karey Gorou and 4 classrooms for Saga Fondo Secondary School
- Constructed 3 latrines for the primary schools of Sétoré and Daraina, and Saga Fondo Secondary School
- Ensured water access for the Kosseye School and the Saga Fondo Secondary School. These schools will also be connected to the national electricity network.
Today following the implementation of this program in the region of Tillabéry, the rate of enrolment in primary school has reached 90% and 50% of these schoolchildren are female! Overall, there are 1,060 students in the four schools of Sétoré, Kosseye, Karey Gorou and Daraina, including 528 girls.
At the secondary level, enrollment rate is at 50%. In total there are 497 students in Saga Fondo Secondary School, 190 of which are girls.
In addition to these developments, members of local associations have been trained to raise awareness among the community (community leaders, village chiefs…) on the benefits of schooling of young girls and concerns related to early and forced marriages.
The proverb goes: “To educate a girl is to educate a whole village”. Every child and every teenager, girls, and boys alike, all have the right to go to school.