UNESCO Commends Ebonyi For Successfully Implementing School Health Education Programme.

By Oswald Agwu, Abakaliki

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization has commended Ebonyi state government for successfully implementing its health awareness Programme for adolescent school girls.

The programme tagged "Promoting School Health Education for Girls in COVID-19 era" was sponsored by UNESCO and Peking University, China, and implemented by the Ebonyi State Universal Basic Education Board.

It was pioneered in 5 local government areas of the state comprising Abakaliki, Afikpo, Ebonyi, Ezza South and Izzi,

The UNESCO, Nigeria National project officer for Health and Wellbeing, Oladeji Adeyemi, gave the commendation Tuesday in Abakaliki, Ebonyi state capital.

Adeyemi spoke during the dissemination of end line findings and close out of the programme.

He stressed that the issue of health and wellbeing of adolescents were of paramount importance to both the government and the United Nations, adding that the COVID-19 pandemic brought a lot of challenges including increase in gender based violence and other vices.

Adeyemi regretted that some adolescent girls dropped out of school in the aftermath of the pandemic while others regularly face bullying by male peers, teachers and even guardians which threatened their education.

He expressed gladness on the outcome of the programme which he observed has remedied most of the factors threatening the education of adolescents, especially girls in the selected schools and local government areas.

Adeyemi explained: "In the aftermath of COVID-19, a lot students were not able to go back to school.

"We heard about some of them getting pregnant, and report revealed that the rate of gender-based violence also increased, and school children were not excluded from those affected.

"This programme trained teachers on issues of adolescent health and wellbeing, and also raised peer educators among the children who helped to ensure that the impact of COVID-19 is mitigated.

"I am so glad that from the evaluation findings, we were able to get such girls back to school through this Programme.

"The students were able to testify today that the issue of bullying in school and other kinds of violence have stopped because they were able to develop a protocol for effective management of such matters."

The UNESCO representative noted that the outcome of the Programme was gladdening, and expressed hope that the state government would sustain it.

"This is something that makes us glad, and we really congratulate Ebonyi state for being able to implement this programme successfully, and for being able to help school girls by bringing some of them who could have dropped from school back.

"We do hope that the government will drive this initiative, to extend it to other schools and other local government areas in the state" he stressed.

In a welcome address, the chairman, Ebonyi state UBEB, Mrs Patience Ogodo, highlighted some of the issues identified in a baseline survey prior to the project to include knowledge gap on factual and age-appropriate information on adolescent health issues among in-school girls.

She also highlighted knowledge gap in family health education teaching methodology, lack of parent-child communication, gender based violence and menstrual hygiene concerns, among others.

She emphasized that the project was able to achieve many positive notable outcomes within the one year of its implementation in the state, September 2022 to September 2023.

The programme Manger for Ebonyi SUBEB, Grace Oboma, testified that the programme has enabled school girls drop certain myths about their feminity including menstruation, as well as emboldened them to seek health services and advice from qualified health facilities, among other benefits.

She added: "Before the inception of this programme, we didn't have teachers trained in family life and HIV education.

"But when this Programme came, our teachers were trained on how to educate and counsel adolescent girls.

"From master trainers who stepped down the training to the selected schools totaling 1, 354 across the 5 selected local government areas, the outcome was impressive."

Oboma expressed optimism that Governor Nwifuru, being education friendly would empower the sustainability of the programme after the closeout.

Some students and teachers who spoke commended the state UBEB and the UNESCO for such an initiative which they described as both impactful and exciting.

One of the girls from Holy child secondary school, Afikpo, Victoria Agboti said the outcome of the programme facilitated her return back to school after she got pregnant in her junior classes.

Agboti said: "I am grateful that UNESCO and SUBEB came to Ebonyi State with this programme because they changed my life.

"I would have dropped out of school but they took me back to school through the Programme, and I am now in Senior Secondary two class."

The Programme also featured the unveiling of the project training manual for use in schools.