On Wednesday, October 11, a day earmarked for the celebration of the girl child by the United Nations, the Lagos State governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, joined Nigerians and the rest of the world to celebrate the girl child.
Sanwo-Olu recognised the unique challenges faced by girls worldwide, especially in Lagos State.
The governor used the occasion of the event themed “Invest in Girls’ Rights: Our Leadership, Our Well-being” to highlight his administration’s achievements in child education, especially for girls, through the EKO Excellence in Child Education and Learning (EKOEXCEL) programme.
EKOEXCEL, launched in 2019 by Sanwo-Olu and managed by the Lagos State Universal Basic Education Board (LASUBEB), has been transformative for the girls in Lagos’s public primary schools.
According to Hakeem Babatunde Shittu, who oversees the programme, the Lagos State government has invested heavily in girl child education.
Shittu admitted that the initiative had become a beacon of hope and progress that illustrates the profound impact of investing in girls’ rights from a young age.
The 2023 International Day of the Girl Child event was a collaborative effort between UNICEF and Plan International, uniting adolescent girls with advocates for their rights, including UN leaders, NGOs, businesses, and governments.
This event painted a vision of a world where girls actively influence policies, business practices, and research priorities.
But it’s a vision that requires global commitment and specific funding to become a reality.
Speaking in commemoration of the event, UN Secretary-General António Guterres emphasised the importance of investing in girls’ rights, saying, “Women and girls can lead us to a fairer future…let us amplify girls’ voices and recommit to working together to build a world where every girl can lead and thrive.”
His words resonate deeply with the global community as it strives to empower girls to shape policies, influence business practices, and direct research priorities.
Sanwo-Olu admitted that the EKOEXCEL programme had played a significant role in fostering gender parity and empowering girls to take the lead in their education. By providing equal opportunities, it has created a nurturing environment where girls can truly thrive.
One of the programme’s key achievements is its commitment to professional development for teachers.
Over 13,000 teachers have transitioned from analogue to digital teaching, equipping them with the tools and skills needed to provide high-quality education.
This shift has not only improved teachers’ effectiveness but has also enhanced the learning experiences of their students, including the girls.
Moreover, the programme’s focus on gender-responsive teaching techniques ensures that girls are active participants in the classroom.
Teachers are trained to engage both boys and girls equally, erasing the lines of traditional gender barriers. This has led to increased confidence and participation among female students.
EKOEXCEL doesn’t stop at academics; it encourages girls to participate in co-curricular activities and sports.
Offering a wide range of options, from athletics to chess and taekwondo, the programme challenges stereotypes and promotes a holistic approach to education.
Girls are given leadership roles and nurturing qualities that will serve them well in the future.
But the programme’s impact extends beyond the classroom. Its gender-focused monitoring system ensures that girls’ attendance and academic performance are closely tracked.
This proactive approach ensures that girls receive the support they need to succeed and don’t fall through the cracks unnoticed.
And the results are inspiring. In the recent National Common Entrance Examinations, girls from Lagos’s public primary schools under the EKOEXCEL programme achieved exceptional scores.
Top performers like Ololade Ganiyat, Ugwu Victoria, and Chima Faith Mesomachukwu showcased their excellence, a testament to the programme’s effectiveness in promoting gender parity.
EKOEXCEL’s commitment to gender equality isn’t limited to the classroom; it extends to the recruitment of female teachers, school leaders, and supervisors who serve as role models. This fosters a more inclusive and empowering educational environment.