Bring back our girls: why we must invest in development | ActionAid UK

Jane Moyo

Head of Media Relations

With Boko Haram releasing film of the abducted Nigerian schoolgirls and news of Nigeria’s acceptance of international assistance, ActionAid believes it remains important for the Nigerian government to take an active lead in promoting local solutions to the crisis.

Walking to school in Nigeria
Walking to school in Nigeria

Nigeria’s citizens and the parents of the abducted girls have been relentless in demanding action. And, the Nigerian-led ‘Bring Back Our Girls’ campaign – which my colleagues in Nigeria and around the world have been endorsing on social media – has been crucial in driving the plight of the abducted schoolgirls up the global agenda.

Yet as ActionAid in Nigeria keeps reiterating, long-term change is dependent on government action which in turn is dependent on political will.

In addition to internal security, Nigeria must address the social and economic development of its poorest people more systematically. That includes tackling underlying attitudes to gender inequality and the undervaluation of girls’ education as ActionAid’s Head of Programmes, David Archer has written in the Guardian.

ActionAid joins demonstrators marching through the Nigerian capital Abuja calling for the release of more than 200 schoolgirls abducted by militants.

Nigeria is home to more than 10 million out-of-school children

Nigeria is home to more than 10 million of the 57 million out-of-school children globally and this number is rising. The majority of these children in Nigeria are girls and most are in Northern Nigeria. Of those who do enrol, less than two-thirds complete primary school and even fewer begin, let alone complete, secondary school.

ActionAid has seen some significant successes in Nigeria by working with children, teachers, parents, community and religious leaders to make the case for girls’ education. So what is evident to my Nigerian colleagues is that nationally, much more government investment is required.

It is dispiriting that Nigeria invests less in education than almost any other country in Africa and that the response to horrendous attacks on schools has been to allow them to stay closed. Tellingly, the government only spends about 6% of its national budget on education when accepted best practice says it should be nearer to 20%.

Investing in education 

Action is needed to guarantee children’s safety, rightly starting with the safe return of the kidnapped schoolgirls. But increased investment in education is also important as is a renewed determination to tackle the inequality that causes poverty.

No-one pretends this is easy, but such ambition is well within Nigeria’s scope and could be pivotal in bringing about transformative change.

Worldwide, ActionAid is committed to helping women and girls break the cycle of poverty: to fulfil their potential and live lives without fear. The UK government is doubling all donations to our She Can appeal until 25 June.