Buganda King, Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II and Sokoto Sultan, Muhammadu Abubakar III. File Photo.
ABUJA, NIGERIA - The Kabaka of Buganda, Ronald Mutebi, and the Sultan of Sokoto in Nigeria, His Eminence Muhammadu Abubakar III, have called upon traditional leaders in Africa to come together and help keep girls in school.
The two traditional leaders revealed this while chairing the ‘Keeping Girls in School Summit'; a convening of African leaders, traditional rulers, religious heads, youth groups, advocates and thought leaders in Abuja, Nigeria.
The two-day event brings together influential traditional and religious leaders from across the continent to discuss the critical issue of keeping girls in school, to complete primary and secondary education and find solutions from within the rich, diverse cultures and values of Africa's thought leaders.
With poverty being one of the key drivers of keeping girls out of school, the summit also seeks to promote incorporating in-school skills that generate income, according to a statement from Keeping Girls in School (KGS).
Launched by South Africa's Department of Basic Education (DBE), the KGS programme targets the most vulnerable girls, aged 14-18 because of teenage pregnancy and their heightened risk of HIV infection.
"For decades, African governments and international development partners have been trying to improve and reduce suffering as a result of pregnancy and child birth. Very few improvements have been recorded in the health of women and children, despite studies showing that the health of children substantially improves when the mother is educated," the KGS statement said.
It added that completion of secondary education by girls has been found to significantly improve not only maternal and child health, but women's decision-making, as well as their ability to earn a living, thus improving the health and nutrition of families and communities.
"This undeniable link between the education of the mother and health and development outcomes of families, shows that the future of African families is dependent on the education of the girl."
According to KGS, the summit provides a platform for community leaders to share ideas and best practices and develop strategies and networks to keep girls in school.
It also serves as a means to sensitize and equip these leaders with the right skills to motivate parents and care givers to be deeply committed to ensuring that all girls in their constituencies complete at least 12 years of education.
Speaking at the event, the Sultan of Sokoto called upon all traditional and religious leaders on the continent to focus on the development of their communities, stressing that a key factor in the development of our communities is the education of our girls.
He further said "I believe traditional and religious leaders will lead in shaping the future of Africa by ensuring all girls complete secondary school education and learn life and livelihood skills in the process."
In attendance were Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari, the Nnabagereka of Buganda, Queen Sylvia Nagginda, the Emir of Kano (Nigeria) His Highness Muhammadu Sanusi II who presented a lead paper titled "Perspective on Development in Africa - population, education and investment".
Also present were; the Emir of Argungu (Kebbi state in Nigeria) His Highness Alhaji Samaila Mera, the Asantehene of Asante in Ghana, Archbishop of Abuja, Cardinal John Onaiyekan among others.
Officials from organizations fighting for children's rights such as the Children's Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF), the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Nigeria, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the Department for International Development (DFID) also attended.
The conference gives the attending traditional and religious leaders the opportunity to reflect and come up with ideas on how they would contribute to the movement of keeping girls in their communities, in school, by increasing enrolment, retention and completion of school as well as ensuring girls acquire life and livelihood skills.
This initiative would be amplified through the support of gender and youth-focused groups and organizations.
African Youth Groups will support the traditional and religious leaders by amplifying the initiative through encouraging the youth to mentor and actively participate in promoting ‘Keeping Girls in School' in their communities.
The Initiative also brings together African female leaders who will use their influence to promote Keeping Girls in School, serving as mentors and role models in their communities
Following the conference, it is envisioned that traditional and religious leaders will continue to have a platform for regular engagement and knowledge-sharing on keeping girls in School in Africa.