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Girl’s Scholarship Program Launched in Nigeria

In memory of Anne Johnson, former Nigeria Country Program Director and dedicated PFD team member for over 20 years, PFD has created the Anne Johnson Memorial Scholarship. One of Anne’s greatest passions and development interests was girl’s education. PFD, in partnership with local partner Lift Above Poverty Organization (LAPO), will provide scholarships to girls in secondary school. In order to help break the cycle of poverty and allow for the next generation to thrive, the scholarships are awarded to the girls of microcredit borrowers.

malala quote When you educate a girl, you can break cycles of poverty in just one generation. When 10 percent more girls go to school, a country’s GDP increases on average by three percent (Educate Girls, Change the World).

While Nigeria has made strides in recent years in educating its children, there are still disparities by gender: boys attend secondary school (equivalent to American middle and high school levels) at a rate about 10% higher than girls, with that difference growing in the country’s poorer north where households often want girls to work rather than continue beyond primary school (elementary level in the USA). Meanwhile, amongst young people ages 15-24, the literacy rate for males is 76%, but only 58% for females, a difference of 31% (UNICEF, 2013).

Numerous studies have demonstrated the relationship in developing nations between education and social and economic well-being: females with a secondary education have lower fertility levels which in turn translates to better physical and economic health for them and their families. “Educating girls can transform whole communities” (Earth Policy Institute, 2011).

On October 8th, 2014 PFD announced the first ten winners of scholarships under The Anne Johnson Memorial Scholarship Fund at a ceremony in Benin City, Edo State. In order to be eligible, families must demonstrate both economic need and support for their daughters’ education. Economic need in Nigeria is substantial: the World Bank estimates that at least 46% of the population, or as many as 80 million people live in poverty in Nigeria (some sources place the estimate closer to 60%).  Chairperson of LAPO Scholarship Board, Prof. Christiana Okojie remarked on the impact of the scholarship program to families, “in the six years the LAPO Scholarship Scheme has existed, it has given succor to parents and brighter future[s] to many children of LAPO clients. Many parents have savored the joy of seeing their children excel through secondary and now through the university.”

Because there are so many girls qualifying for scholarships based on economic need, the names of eligible candidates were placed together, and a drawing was held. The educational seriousness of those candidates and their families’ support to their educational future were then assessed before the list of ten girls was finalized.

Along with the scholarship fund, PFD has provided over $2 million dollars to LAPO to loan to its borrowers, 93% of which are women. Since 2001, working with over 20 microfinance institutions, PFD has offered credit services to target vulnerable populations, particularly women, farmers and small entrepreneurs. PFD integrates training on business development and messaging on reproductive and family planning into its microfinance model.

Anne Johnson’s memory is honored and her legacy of work in Nigeria is continued through the new educational opportunities created for girls in Nigeria by the Scholarship Fund. Learn more about Anne Johnson’s life and work with PFD here.

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