Lagos - Nigeria has joined the continent in commemorating the Day of the African Child amid concern at the prevalence of child marriages in the country.
The theme for this year's celebration is "25 Years after the Adoption of the African Children's Charter: Accelerating our Collective Efforts to End Child Marriage in Africa."
The United Nations Children's Fund believes the theme is apt.
In Nigeria, the Multiple Indicators Cluster Survey (MICS 4) 2011, shows that there is a five per cent increase in the number of girls married before age 15. It was 13 percent in 2007 and MICS 2011 indicates it is now 18 per cent.
UNICEF believes that investments in girls' education and getting more girls' into school delays marriage and impacts the incidence of child marriage.
"Girls' Education is vital because educated girls become better mothers, have fewer and healthier children and more empowered. An educated girl will have a better life, as will her family. Every additional year of schooling delays age at marriage," said Jean Gough, UNICEF Representative in Nigeria.
UNICEF, Gough said, is helping the government address the challenge of ensuring all children especially girls have access to quality education.
The Girls' Education Project, funded by the UK's Department of International Development (DFID) and implemented by UNICEF, aims to get 1 million more girls into school by 2020, while at the same improving the quality of education.
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The project is helping to train female teachers through the female teachers' service scheme and deploy them to rural areas, where the predominance of male teachers deters many parents from sending their girls to school.
Another intervention under this project is the conditional cash transfer scheme provides cash to girls to help defray some school-related costs like textbooks, uniforms and others.
The project, aims to encourage parents to send their daughters to school. It is expected to reach more than 50 000 girls this year in Sokoto and Niger States.
"Getting girls into schooling, and remain in school is particularly important in a country where 10,5 million children are out of school, and more than 60 percent of them are girls. It is a win for everybody and has an impact on child marriage," said Gough.
The Day of the African Child has been celebrated on June 16 every year since 1991, when it was first initiated by the then Organisation of African Unity.
It honors those who participated in the Soweto Uprising (South Africa) in 1976 on that day. It also raises awareness of the continuing need for improvement of the education provided to African children.
- CAJ News