Lagos Leads the Charge: EKOEXCEL Empowers Girls, Breaks Barriers on International Women’s Day

March 20, 2024

This International Women’s Day, themed “Invest in Women; Accelerate Progress,” Lagos State stands as a beacon of hope, showcasing how investment in girls’ education empowers them to rewrite their narratives and become the architects of their own destinies. Through the transformative EKOEXCEL program, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu is proving that quality education is not a privilege for the few, but a right for all, especially girls from low-income backgrounds.

“Educating a girl is like educating a nation,” says Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the former Director-General of the World Trade Organization. This powerful statement underscores the dangers of a society that neglects its girls. When girls are denied access to quality education, their potential remains untapped, hindering not just their own progress but also the overall development of the nation.

Lagos, however, is setting a different example. The EKOEXCEL program, a brainchild of the Sanwo-Olu administration, is equipping public primary schools with the tools and resources necessary to deliver excellent education. This includes well-trained teachers, engaging curriculum materials, and technology integration – all crucial ingredients for fostering a love of learning in every child.

“When we help others see how important it is to include women, we make the world a better place.” – Tope, a pupil at St. Agnes Nursery and Primary School, Maryland.

Topes’ experience reflects the program’s remarkable impact. EKOEXCEL boasts impressive results, particularly for girls. In the 2023 National Common Entrance Examination, which determines placement in prestigious federal unity colleges,  girls under EKOEXCEL outshone their peers. The top three scorers from the program were all girls, with Ololade Ganiyat achieving an exceptional score of 199, just four points shy of the national topper. This achievement is even more significant when compared to the low participation rates of girls in some other states. EKOEXCEL demonstrably increase girls’ confidence and encouraged them to compete at the highest levels.

In commemoration of International Women’s Day, Mrs. Eniola Olatunde (LASUBEB Director of ESTAB & Pensions) shared insights with the pupils of St. Agnes Nursery and Primary School in Maryland on the significance of gender equality in education. Joining her were Mrs. Alajiki, LASUBEB Director, and Mrs. Enitan Adewunmmi, Public Affairs Officer LASUBEB, who also addressed the pupils, amplifying the message of inclusion and empowerment.

Furthermore, Mrs Titi Akintan-Bankole, a Professional Counselor and Therapist, as well as a Certified Addiction Counselor, addressed the pupils of Ojodu Primary School III, enlightening them about the importance of strength and resilience. She educated the children about their rights and encouraged them to pursue their dreams.

“Investing in girls’ education is not just about closing the gender gap; it’s about building a more prosperous and peaceful society,” emphasizes Amina J. Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations. Lagos, under Governor Sanwo-Olu’s leadership, is demonstrating this truth in action.

The success of EKOEXCEL serves as a powerful model for other Nigerian states and West African countries. By prioritizing girls’ education and implementing innovative interventions, Lagos is paving the way for a brighter future where every girl, regardless of background, has the opportunity to excel and reach her full potential.

This International Women’s Day, let us celebrate the trailblazing spirit of girls like Aisha and the visionary leadership that invests in their dreams. By empowering girls through education, we empower not just individuals, but entire communities and nations, accelerating progress towards a more equitable and prosperous future for all.

This article appeared originally on Independent, March , 2024