Former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Lamido Sanusi, has made a passionate call for scaling up girl-child education and women empowerment in sub-Saharan Africa.
Sanusi spoke at a three-day Transforming Education Summit tagged ‘Transforming Education through Grassroots Innovation: A Localised Teacher-Led Approach’ on the sidelines of the ongoning UN General Assembly in New York.
The former CBN boss, who was the 14th Emir of Kano, said he had devoted his lifetime to advancing the cause of the girl-child, women empowerment and gender equality.
“I have had a lifetime commitment and advocacy to access to quality education and gender equality,” Sanusi, the immediate-past Emir of Kano, said.
“In my work as governor of the central bank, I pushed for gender representation at the highest levels, in the boards and management of the banks.
“And as Emir or Kano, I pushed for codification of putting law to address the Rights of Women.
“As an SDGs advocate, I have focused on girl child education in particular, as the main SDG that I’m focused on are SDG four and SDG five,” he said.
Sanusi pointed out that providing the girl child an education and the opportunity to earn income and contribute meaningfully to the society was a single silver bullet that would address many of the other SDGs.
“I am often asked why I advocate for the girl child and my response is simple: if you educate the girl child, you deal with so many other socio-economic issues and make progress towards breaking the intergenerational cycle of illiteracy and poverty.”
The former CBN chief said it had become imperative to emphasise the importance of quality teachers in curbing inequalities in learning outcomes, particularly in under-served regions.
He regretted that currently, “there’s a deficit of 69 million teachers” globally adding, many of those who are at work, especially in Sub Saharan Africa, Southern Africa, and Southern Asia, lacked basic qualifications and training to keep pace with changes in education.
Sanusi said the aim of his project, ‘His Highness Muhammad Sanusi II Sustainable Development Goals (HHMSII SDGs) Challenge, was to assist teachers.
He said the project aimed to inspire and catalyse teacher-led grassroots innovation that supported the achievement of SDGs, particularly quality education and gender equality.
“We are fostering the limitless potential of teachers to nurture their ideas and innovations. And in doing so, to create a radical transformation in education systems throughout Sub-Saharan Africa.
“In particular, we have our female teachers, because we know approaching educational change this way is better for girls, better for the communities in which they live, and critical to addressing the other SDGs.”
According to him, addressing SDG four (education) and SDG five (gender) was the most effective root to addressing all the other SDGs.
“Teachers are a powerful force. Each teacher will directly impact a minimum of 3,000 students in their career, and many more students indirectly.
“Therefore, there cannot be quality education if the teachers do not have the right competence and tools to impact students positively.
“Only by engaging and empowering teachers, particularly those closest to the problem, can we implement solutions that truly transform our education systems,” Sanusi said.
He said so far, the programme had invited 35 teacher-led projects in its portfolio through its incubator and accelerator programmes while more than 2000 teachers have been engaged through its open e-learning platform, and impacted more than 30,000 students.
In 2023, Sanusi said the project would scale up its portfolio ten-fold through the launch of our pre incubator programme.
“I’m very delighted at the dynamic selection of all cohorts so far. And this is evidence that the implementation of SDG four and five in Africa is attainable.
“There’s still challenges in the report, which showcase brilliant educational projects from our cohorts covering different aspects of education, from novel curricula to foundational skills and complex populations.”
The former CBN governor said the project was unique because it was bottom-up rather than a top-down approach.
“We ask ordinary teachers working in villages and towns in Africa, to come up with ideas for how they can improve education of their children and we selected from among them, cohorts, providing them with training, refine their ideas, and give them financial support to upscale.”
The Muhammad Sanusi II SDGs Challenge was launched in 2020 with 10 project leaders in cohort one; each received an initial grant of $500, follow up funding of $10,000 each, and requisite training to further catalyse their projects.
Applications for cohort two opened in June 2022 with more than 1,700 applications out of which 25 innovative projects were selected across eight African countries.
The countries are Nigeria, Ghana, Zambia, Gambia, Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda, and Kenya, with about 52 per cent of the projects focused on girls.
Initial grant for cohort two is 2,000 dollars and possible follow up funding of 10,000 dollars each at the acceleration stage while there would be a showcase event for pitch and selection of an accelerator programme in December 2022.