By Sunny A. Ijomah
Anambra State government has reiterated its commitment to tackling the high rate of girl-child dropout from schools.
Commissioner for Basic Education, Prof Kate Omenugha, said this in Awka while hosting Women Information Network (WINET), a non-governmental organisation.
She regretted that keeping girls in schools and teaching them sexual reproductive health rights had remained a huge challenge to the government.
She said: “We have a huge challenge keeping the girls in schools and teaching them sexual reproductive health rights.
“Plans are underway to tackle the high rate of girl-child dropout from schools because girl-child education is a project that is dear to Governor Willie Obiano,” Prof. Omenugha stated.
She said that a research titled “Girl-Child Education as an investment for Anambra State: Challenges and Way Forward”, was done by the Ministry in 2016.
“The study which focused on Ayamelum, Anambra East, Anambra West, Awka North and Ogbaru local governments was done in about 326 households.
“It was discovered that the rate of girl-child drop out is high. When you listen to people talk about Anambra, you will think the challenge the state has is just boy-child dropout.
“But our study has actually shown that we have high rate of girl-child dropout,” the Commissioner added.
While commending the group for its efforts, she urged them to collaborate with the government so that the project would be replicated in other communities and not just Ebenebe.
Prof. Omenugha further revealed that the affected communities were mostly fishermen and farmers whose poverty indices were quite high.
“There is this ‘agiri’ cultural practice that encourages promiscuity and exposes girls to marry at the age of 10, and teenage pregnancy. Girls drop out from Primary Six and Junior Secondary School.
“What we discovered informed the government’s decision of shifting the J.S 3 exams, so that the children do not stay at home for too long in order not to get into trouble,” the Commissioner said.
She said about 50 girls and 50 boys from the area would be moved into the boarding school system by September.
“The idea is to take them away from their communities and keep them in boarding schools because nature and nurture help to transform a child.
“There are also plans to build Teachers’ Quarters and move more teachers to these areas,” Prof. Omenugha stresed.
She also suggested a partnership with the essay competition winner, Miss Veronica Nnalue, who she said, was very knowledgeable in sexual and reproductive health rights, to creative awareness among the girls.
Earlier, Executive Director WINET, Mrs. Miriam Menkiti, said the project with the theme “The right to be a girl”, was aimed at ending child marriage.
Said she: “The visit is to seek the Commissioner’s permission to sensitise about 100 students in Ebenebe community on gender-Based violence and sexual reproductive and health rights.
“A baseline survey by WINET in February 2017 to determine the practice of child and forced marriages in Ebenebe community revealed that a cultural practice known as “Tum num” is responsible for girl-child and forced marriages in the area.
“The practice insists that an unmarried girl-child, no matter her age (10 – 17), who gets pregnant, must get married to the man who impregnated her or any other man that wants her as she is forbidden to have a baby while living with her parents.