Thinking global, living local: Voices in a globalized world

Two Innovative Ways of Improving Education: A Nigerian Case Study

Written by on . Published in Searchlight.

This article was originally drafted by the African Center for Economic Transformation for the newsletter “West Africa Trends” as part of the Rockefeller Foundation’s Searchlight Process. For more Searchlight content on, please click here.

Conditional Cash Transfer Schemes to End the Crisis of Girl Child Education in Some States in Nigeria

West Africa lags behind in major education outcomes, especially enrolment of the girl child. Paramount among the reasons has been archaic socio-cultural practices coupled with poverty, which leave more than 6 million girls of school-going age in Nigeria without any education. This has created huge problems of gender disparity, especially in the northern part of the country. Girls’ education contributes to improvements in health, as well as political, social and economic empowerment, which all reduce poverty.

To address the situation, Nigeria launched a Conditional Cash Transfer program called “In Care of the Poor (COPE)” to provide cash transfers as well as skill training and micro-enterprise start-up funding. Beneficiaries get monthly payments for one year only, on condition that they send their children to school and get them vaccinated. If they satisfy the conditions for the year, they receive a further one-off grant to help them start up a small business. The program has a budget of $70 million and aims to reach 12,000 households in the pilot stage.

Programs like these give hope for the future, as parents can now see the cash transfer as an incentive, which will ultimately help them to accept the need for girls education even without compensation, as they begin to appreciate the benefits of educating girls. More importantly, the scheme will also reduce the burden of girl-child exploitation occasioned by economic reasons and will create the environment needed for girls education to thrive in the future. It is estimated that by the end of the pilot scheme in 2012, a projected increase of 10 to 15 per cent of attendance will be realized.

The real impact of the program will come from shifts in cultural attitudes. They will come from the realization that educating the girl child is beneficial for the entire family. However, it will take a number of years for those benefits to become visible. The danger, therefore, is that funding can disappear in the long term for various reasons, so the need for a sustainable model of funding the programs is of paramount importance. One way would be creating a foundation in which government and development partners can invest resources. Moreover, the promised cash flows to parents can be securitized and parents can then borrow against future cash flows and invest loans in income-generating activities. With added income, the need for the labor of the girl child would be diminished.

Interactive Radio Instruction to Boost Nomadic Education

In Africa, nomads constitute about 6% of the population and are found in at least 20 countries. Nigeria’s nomadic population numbers 9.4 million people and the majority of them are pastoralists; others are migrant folks and farmers. Due to their mobile lifestyle, nomads’ participation in formal education programs has been generally low. In Nigeria, as in other African countries, their education indicators including enrolment rates, participation, gender balance, achievement, progression to the next level of education and training have been poor. To address this, the Federal Government established the National Commission for Nomadic Education (NCNE) to implement nomadic education programs (NEP). NEP aims to provide and wider access to quality basic education for nomads in Nigeria, boosting literacy and equipping them with skills and competences to enhance their well-being and participation in the nation-building process.

The use of Interactive Radio Instruction (IRI) to provide distance education to nomads is one of the innovative approaches the Commission devised. Through this program, about 184,000 pupils have graduated and gained admission into junior secondary schools across the country. Additionally, the provision of primary education to the children of the nomads has resulted in an expansion of the program from 329 schools and 18,331 enrolled pupils to 3,117 schools and over half a million enrolled pupils.

IRI experience in more than two dozen countries over the past 25 years has shown that its use has led to significant and consistent improvements in school achievement and has helped overcome equity gaps between urban and rural children and between boys and girls. However, a major challenge could be powering the radios as batteries may not easily available to nomads. This could be overcome by using radios powered by cranking them manually. Such radios are not readily available, but governments and development partners could facilitate their availability.Books are the other key challenge. However, technologies like e-readers could provide nomads with portable libraries. For example, Ghana is piloting a program using the Kindle e-reader. The main problem with this intervention is, again, power. One way to remedy this would be to create stations for charging. Alternatively, solar technology could be used for charging or a courier system can distribute batteries.

Searchlight Process

The Rockefeller Foundation’s Research and Records Unit has undertaken an innovative approach to addressing this challenge by generating applicable intelligence that emerges from a forward-looking, on-the-ground perspective throughout Africa, Asia, and the Americas. It is known as the “Searchlight” function—a group of forward-looking, regionally-focused horizon scanning and trend monitoring grantees that conduct regular, ongoing scanning for novel ideas, research results, and "clues" to where the world is evolving.