Jun 8, 2020

Sustaining Learning During a Pandemic

After the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the coronavirus a pandemic on 11th March 2020, the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Health confirmed the first case of COVID-19 in Lagos State on 27 February 2020. To respond to the looming possible spread of the disease, Federal Government of Nigeria took a series of steps one of which was to temporarily close down schools all over the country.

According to a report by UNESCO, 89% of children are currently out of school as a result of the COVID-19 closures. This percentage represents about 1.54 billion children and youth in primary, secondary and university. This includes nearly 743 million girls.

While recognizing the importance and necessity of initiating the closure of schools as a measure to curb the spread of the virus, this shutting down will affect populations differently and could further exacerbate the existing disparities with regards to girls' access to education. While some girls will continue with their education as soon as the pandemic is over and the gates of the schools reopen, others may never be able to return to school as a result of the effects such as parents losing sources of income and in some cases the disruption could bring suitors who may be accepted given that education is seen as an informal escape route to early marriage because ‘schooling’ is one of the major reasons given for the delay in getting the girl child married early.

Girl Child education has been an area of long-term advocacy by nongovernmental organizations and development partners in Nigeria. While there have been several attempts at improving the registration rates of girls in schools, the current pandemic can set back the progress that has been made. To mitigate this as much as possible, It became important for the education authorities to consider innovative ways of ensuring education continuity.

Globally, schools have tried to ensure continuity by switching to online learning. In Nigeria, to bridge the gap, Educational authorities are broadcasting lessons on state run television and radio stations. While this is laudable, access to these broadcasts are still a challenge for children in poor and remote households who are without electricity or cannot afford to own electronic appliances thus millions of children without remote- learning access have been left behind.

Education as a Vaccine has leveraged on these educational broadcasts to create an enabling environment for its beneficiaries in Kakuri, Tudun wada and Doka Communities of Kaduna state to have access to the virtual classes been broadcasted through disseminating information of its availability and platforms where it can be accessed , consistent updates of the airing times and schedule and providing data cost subsidies to those who have internet enabled phones to access other educational resources. Furthermore, we have pooled virtual resources that exist such as telecommunication student promo bonuses and packages and other sponsored resources to expand the available learning opportunities for AGYW in these communities. All this is done in a bid to ensure that learning continues and the post pandemic back to school transmission is smooth. In preparation for eventual re-opening of schools, arrangements are being made to support an additional 10 girls with scholarly materials in school, some supplies have been procured ahead of the school year and additional supplies will be purchased.

We have also put in place measures to respond to occurrence of Sexual and Gender Based violence (SGBV) in the communities. All over the world including Nigeria we have seen a rise in cases of SGBV due to the lockdown situation and the need to limit social interactions. Recognizing the need to ensure that Adolescent girls and young women in the communities we work in could be at risk of experiencing SGBV, to respond to this need, we have made available SGBV awareness and prevention information, including links to service providers such as the Sexual Assault and Referral centers (SARC), and also virtual counselling services. Members of the community who have also been trained to serve as custodians of the rights of women and girls have also been supported to report and refer cases of SGBV that occur in their communities. At a time when survivors could be potentially isolated from support systems and locked down with abusers, this will go a long way to provide a community based rapid response system of support for women and girls exposed to/or experiencing violence.

Feb 18, 2020

Rural Adolescents and Young People Access Sexual and Reproductive Health Information Through Tech

An excited student responding to a question
An excited student responding to a question

WHOOOPEEE! We are increasingly reaching more adolescents in rural Nigeria with sexual reproductive health information.

Young people are heterogeneous and have diverse needs. They can be found in urban, semi-urban and rural areas, some have access to education while others do not. They are influenced by their family, religion, peers, and environment. These influences may be positive, negative or conflicting. These influences may affect the kind of decisions they make in all spheres of their lives.  Being able to plan for the diverse groups and target their specific need is one way to reach young people with the right information they need to make informed decisions. One of our objectives is to provide sexual and reproductive health information to adolescents and young people in hard to reach spaces. In this reporting period, we will be sharing our engagements with young people in Taraba state.

It was an impactful experience and learning session for the students in Jalingo, Taraba state.  We discussed issues on sexual and reproductive health,  and body changes that both girls and boys experience during puberty. We also discussed good hygiene practices that adolescents can adopt to live healthy lives. Other issues that were discussed included basic information on HIV, its mode of transmission and prevention. In our visit, we reached 287 adolescents and young people in two separate schools. The sessions were participatory and the young people had lots of questions to ask. We responded to their questions and went further to introduce the MyQuestion service to the students; a service where a trained counselor is available to provide them with factual and non-judgmental responses to all their questions.  It is apparent from the MyQuestion platform that these young people we engaged with made immense use of the MyQuestion Service to ask questions about their sexual and reproductive health. This is evident as we had a 500% increase in the number of questions received from Taraba State this quarter (December 2019- February 2020) when compared with the last quarter (September –November 2019).

Some questions that were asked by the students include.

My boyfriend wants sex, but am still a virgin and not ready to break my virginity, what should I do in this situation? 17 Female from Taraba

I want to know how to track my menstrual cycle?  Am 21 Female from Taraba state

What is Masturbation? Female 16 years Taraba state

Just to mention a few.

Thank You! Your generous donations have supported us in providing young people with factual information. There are a lot of misconceptions around issues of sexual and reproductive health among adolescents and young people. Ensuring that they get the right information to help them live a fulfilled life is our greatest objective. Your continuous donations will help us provide more young people with factual information and refute misconceptions.

Students Listening with rapt attention
Students Listening with rapt attention
Empowering rural adolescents with SRH informed
Empowering rural adolescents with SRH informed
Feb 7, 2020

Supporting girls to engage their communities and self-champion their cause

AGY championing their cause supprtd by influencers
AGY championing their cause supprtd by influencers

Nigeria is a signatory to the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. The treaty recognizes access to health related education and information, including sexual and reproductive health as an important health right. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child says that adolescents have a right to health services that can meet their particular needs, including the right to information on sexual and reproductive health. Even though these frameworks exist, there are still gaps in providing a response to the SRHR information needs of AGYW and reducing their vulnerability to SGBV.

In addition to a National Strategic Framework, Nigeria released a National HIV Strategy for Adolescents and Young People in 2016, which provides a set of guidelines co-created with young people. This recognizes negative provider attitudes towards young people and their sexual activities, limited access to youth-friendly services as being key challenges preventing young people from taking up sexual health services. Most relevant to this, it also recognizes lack of education by parents/guardians on sexuality and reproductive health due to negative perceptions concerning youth sexuality education ad socio- cultural biases. This results in the adults around them, including parents and teachers being themselves ill-equipped and uncomfortable discussing sexuality. As a result, many adolescents live with huge knowledge gaps concerning their reproductive health. This accounts for some of the reasons why AYPs despite their elevated risks do not have access to a comprehensive education on their sexuality and tend to rely on their peers or experiences. This “by chance” approach to sexuality education gravely endangers the health of adolescents, diminishes their potential and compromises their safe and healthy transition to adulthood. Every young person has the right to be healthy, to have access to services and to have control in decision making. When the sexual and reproductive health rights of adolescents are recognized, for example, by giving age-appropriate information about sexual and reproductive health issues, it safeguards their future choices.

As part of building the agency of AGYW in Kaduna, Nigeria, EVA desires to bridge the communication gaps between mothers and their daughters/wards on SRHR/SGBV information. EVA supported young girls to organize an intergenerational experience sharing forum in their communities during which the young girls engaged their mothers in pertinent conversations that proved to be lively and engaging to both parties. The conversations were candid and non-judgmental. Given the essential role parents play in shaping their children’s knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors, the aim was to alleviate the discomfort around this particular subject, foster parent-child communications on sexuality, promote confidentiality and improve the AGYW’s ability to advocate for their cause to others. In total, 75 young girls were in attendance with 42 mothers across the communities.

To mark the 16 days of Activism against SGBV in November, EVA also supported the AGYW to hold community rallies, sensitizing and engaging their communities on SGBV. For many of these young girls, it has given them exposure to champion for and create change in bigger and more relevant spaces.

EVA successfully scaled up activities into a 4th new community in addition to the previous three we were working in. Community influencers who were culled from a selection of religious and social leaders in the community, have been trained on girl’s rights and gender based violence issues and are regularly supported to conduct community level activities within the community creating awareness on these issues. Safe space facilitators who will also champion peer to peer education in the community were also trained.

Lastly, one key impact this project hopes to achieve is the support of underprivileged AGYW in school by providing scholarly materials and other school essentials leveraging on the free Education policy adopted by Kaduna state government. EVA has successfully provided support to 30 AGYW and are finalizing plans to support an additional 15 in this new term who were identified with the help of the newly trained facilitators. EVA has experienced great rewards in working with Adolescent girls and young women and building their agency, giving them a voice and strengthening their capacity to have a say concerning their reproductive health, teaching them life skills and supporting them to carry out advocacy campaigns in their communities and champion their cause. With continuous support, we hope to scale up activities into one more community and support more girls in school.

Inter-generational experience sharing forum
Inter-generational experience sharing forum
training new safe space facilitators
training new safe space facilitators
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