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When parents are given money in Sokoto State, they let girls go to school

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NO girl has ever transited to secondary school in more than 40 years history of Mazangari Primary School in Bodinga, Sokoto State, until recently. The primary school – established in 1972 – broke the record last year through a cash transfer scheme that targets girls’ enrolment.

It is one of the success stories of the programme, says Maimuda Galadima who is the coordinator of Sokoto State Cash Transfer Programme in the state’s Ministry of Education. And there are many success stories, he adds.

The situation of other schools that had zero enrolment for girls, especially in primary one, has also changed.

“Going by the analysis of data collected for 2017/18 Enrolment Drive, 21 primary schools from 5 LGAs had zero enrolment for primary one.  However, cash transfer disbursement changed the situation and more enrolment figures were recorded from 18 of the schools which hitherto, had zero enrolment,” Galadima says.

The cash transfer programme was first carried out in the state by Unicef, the UN children’s agency.  The Girls’ Education Project, supported by the UKAid was implemented between 2014 and 2016 in selected communities. The success in the girls’ enrolment has made the state to sustain and scale up the project.

Parents in the selected communities are encouraged to enrol their daughters in school in which they get N5, 000 every quarter for doing so. The unconditional cash transfer is meant to increase girls’ enrolment, retention and completion of basic education.

An impact evaluation report of the pilot scheme by Unicef shows the that the state had an estimated increase in enrolment of 73 girls per treatment school between 2014 and 2016.

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In one of the schools visited by The ICIR, New Rimawa Model Primary School in Goronyo, the cash transfer helped to close the gap between boys and girls enrolment in school. During the 2014/2015 academic session, the primary school registered 172 girls and 383 boys. By 2017/2018 session, 528 boys and 506 girls were enrolled in the school.

The cash transfer helps in reducing the financial barriers to girls’ enrolment and attendance at school. Sokoto is the poorest state in Nigeria with 81 percent of the state’s population living in poverty, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

“The ability of an unconditional cash transfer to promote school enrolment is that lack of income is a primary reason why poor parents do not send their children to school,” says Azuka Menkiti, education specialist with Unicef.

“This reasoning is supported by evidence from cash transfer situational analysis and  community household mapping and listing of out-of-school children that indicates poverty-related issues as the most cited reasons that prevents  children especially girls from attending school,” Menkiti.

Experts say eradicating poverty or giving poor parents incentives may be the key to getting both girls and boys enrolled in school, especially in northern Nigerian where children roam the streets, begging for alms.

About 10.5 million children in Nigeria are out of school, the highest in the world.  However, the Universal Basic Education Commission says the figure is out-dated but there is no current data either.

Chikezie can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @KezieOmeje

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