EACH morning, from Monday to Friday, eight- year- old Farida Sanusi is filled with enthusiasm while going to school. Like every other ambitious child, she looks forward to a day her dream of becoming a nurse will come true.
But her hunger for knowledge wanes as soon as she steps into the premises of her school− New Rimawa Model Primary School, Goronyo Local Government, Sokoto State. Her dimming interest is not as a result of desert encroachment that is already catching up with the school and her village, but the learning conditions that threaten her future dream, and her mates’.
First, there are no furniture in her classroom. So, Farida sits on the floor alongside her classmates in Primary 4A. When they want to write, they place their lesson notes on the floor. Farida never likes that, hence the reason she sometimes contemplates dropping out of school.
Farida’s classroom is not the only one without furniture, other classrooms, including Early Childhood Class have none. Every pupil sits on the floor to learn, and their teachers too.
New Rimawa Model Primary School, established in 1970, is only model in name− from falling ceilings; blown-off roofs to a total absence of furniture and shortage of classrooms and qualified teachers. In reality, nothing is model about the only primary school in Rimawa village. For the past eight years,the state government has neglected the school.
The trio of Amina Abdullahi in Primary 3, Maryam Farouk in Primary 5 and Rafiyah Zayyal in Primary 4 are in the same shoes as Farida. They are also attending the school because they are optimistic of a brighter future education will afford them.
During the raining season, most pupils stay back at home because the classrooms’ roofs leak. “It is not safe to come to school or hide when it is raining because we are always drenched,” says Maryam Farouk, a primary ‘five’ pupil.
There are only eight teachers in the entire school; four of the teachers including the headmaster are holders of National Certificate for Education (NCE), the basic qualification for teaching profession. Three teachers are Grade 11 certificates holders ,while the rest hold Senior Secondary School Certificates.
Despite the shortage of qualified teachers, student enrollment, especially of girl-child, continues to increase.
Farida and her mates were among those attracted to education through the Cash Transfer Programme (CTP) initiative of United Nations Children Education Fund (UNICEF).
UNICEF Nigeria under its Girls’ Education Project Phase 3(GEP3) created incentives through the CTP to attract more girls to school in the village, having been identified as one of those with high numbers of out-of-school girls. But there are still other challenges.
RIMAWAL YET TO BENEFIT FROM TAMBUWAL’S STATE OF EMERGENCY IN EDUCATION
Yusuf Abubakar, headmaster of the school is helpless about the challenges of infrastructure the school is facing.
Sokoto State government has allocated 27 percent of its annual budget in 2016 and 2017 to education, but New Rimawa Model School was excluded from the list of beneficiaries .
Despite a visit by the state Commissioner for Education to the school and request by the headmaster, nothing has changed. The best of furniture in the school was stones and broken planks.
“I have made request for furniture but up till now, there is no response. We also need government to construct more classrooms,” he says.
He is worried that the absence of critical facility like furniture and additional classrooms can discourage pupils from coming to school. “The furniture is very important to the school but we don’t have any, that one can affect the availability of students in the school because the interest is not there,” Abubakar adds.
When Aminu Tambuwal, Governor of Sokoto State was sworn in in 2015, he declared a state of emergency in education in the state due to the high population of out of school children in the state.
In addition to the UNICEF’s CTP, the state of emergency helped in the enrollment drive, because the Governor leads the advocacy, says Muhammad Jabir Kilgori, a former Commissioner for Basic Education in the state, and now the Commissioner for Higher Education.
Kilgori says the government has addressed the problem of dilapidation of infrastructure in the state, but the evidence of such intervention is not seen at New Rimawa Model School. The state has employed over 4000 teachers in the last three years. Rimawa where the student population is ballooning got no additional staff. Already two blocks of classrooms have their roofs blown off and have remained so for years.
Twice, the school benefited from the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) interventions – first in 2012 and 2014. The buildings were renovated and painted, but there was no provision for furniture, Abubakar told ICIR.
Kilgori who visited the school when he was the Commissioner for Basic Education only made empty promise, the headmaster said.
HOW CASH TRANSFER PROGRAMME INCREASED GIRLS ENROLMENT IN RIMAWA
More than any other time, girl child enrolment at Rimawa Model Secondary School between 2014 and 2018 has been on the increase. It is due largely to one factor− parents, particularly mothers were paid to let their girls go to school.
In the 2014/2015 academic session, there were 555 pupils in the school register, only 172 of them were girls. The number went up in the 2015/2016 academic session when the school had 732 pupils of which 295 were girls.
For 2016/2017, 405 of the 884 pupils in the school were girls and 506 girls were in the school for the 2017/2018 academic session out of the total 1,034 pupils in the school.
Presently, the school register reveals that there are a total of 1,170 pupils from Early Childhood Class to Primary Six in the school, 525 of them are girls.
According to UNICEF, 60 percent of the estimated 10.5million out of school children in Nigeria are girls, and are in Northern Nigeria.
Farida, Amina, and others are the beneficiaries of this opportunity. Otherwise, they would not have been hawking for their mothers, and later be married out as is the practice in that region.
Good news is most parents in the village are becoming wiser.
Nura Yau, a Primary 3 teacher at the school, said there were only 15 girls and 35 boys in his class in the past. But more girls are now coming to school. He expressed gratefulness to UNICEF for the introduction of unconditional cash transfer programme.
Uwani Abdullahi, mother of Amina Abdullahi, said the programme is a great motivation for her to send her three daughters to school.
In its community mapping and listing of out-of-school children in selected local governments in Sokoto State, UNICEF said it found poverty–related reasons to be the most important determining factor regarding demand for education and why children are not in school.
To address poverty-related non-attendance, UNICEF initiated the Cash Transfer Programme (CTP) in 2014 in two states−Niger and Sokoto, expecting to increase girls’ enrolment and attendance in the selected schools to contribute to increased enrolment and retention of girls in basic education.
Under the programme, female caregivers of girls within the ages of six to 15 in the catchment areas of selected schools with the highest proportion of out-school girls are eligible with the girl child as the intended beneficiary to receive N5000 per transfer per term (three terms per year). The programme is funded by UK Department for International Development (DFID) and runs for two years.
The cash transfer programme has triggered what the existing infrastructure and personnel are struggling to cope with.
And between 2016 and 2017, UNICEF said 54,081 disbursements were made to girl child beneficiaries in Sokoto State, in which 11,341 girls benefitted. 73 girls increased per CTP school with 32.4 percent impact.
Because of the programme, Azuka Menkiti, UNICEF Education Specialist, said it has increased both expenditure on girls’ education and increased household income.
Uwani confirmed that the cash transfer programme has impacted on her livelihood as she spends the money paid to her to buy school uniforms, shoes, and books for her three daughters in the school.
“The money has helped my family very well, after buying the school things, I used part of the money to buy goats and rear them, waiting for sale.”
Hauwa Rafila, mother of Rafila Zayyal wants the cash transfer programme to continue so that other women whose daughters are still at home can also benefit and be able to attend the school.
Many women in the village want their daughters to go school so that they can take care of themselves and their own children, when they (their mothers) are no longer alive, she says.
The state government, Kilgori says, budgeted N400million in its 2017 annual budget for the sustainability of the cash transfer programme to cover not just six local governments but all 23 local government councils in the state, having seen its impact.
Kilgori told ICIR this will take care of the fears of dropping out of children when the UNICEF CTP ends.
Parents are given N15000 per term by the state government, and Hauwa says her daughter and those of others would not stop schooling even if the CTP stops, “because we are now empowered to take care of our daughters’ needs.”
Sani Jabbi, a traditional ruler and a representative of the Sultanate in state’s cash transfer committee says the state has recorded tremendous enrollment of both girls and boys in school and community empowerment. Hawking by girls has gone down, and we are not relenting in advocacy and sensitization, he said.
But beyond the CTP by UNICEF and commitment by the state government to sustain it afterward, there is a dire need to continue to attract both boys and girls to school and also retain them for completion of the education.
There are needs to be changes in the educational system as a whole, such as improving educational management, teaching skills, schools infrastructure and learning materials. There are also needs to be changes outside schools – in education funding and governance structures and systems and in the social and cultural attitudes of parents and communities.