In this piece, DOOSUUR IWAMBE writes that school participation has posed a daunting challenge to the authorities across Nigeria, a phenomenon that is particularly prevalent in northern part of the country.
Despite introduction of the Cash Transfer Programme (CTP) in some of the areas, it has not stopped some parents from sending their female children on hawking errands to make ends meet.
Under the scorching afternoon sun, 13-year-old Mainna Idris, an indigene of Kawara-manu Maiyama local government area in Kebbi State was sighted among several other girls hawking masa, “a popular Hausa delicacy’’, within the school premises of Kawara-manu Primary School.
On sighting the media team that paid a visit to the school, she rushed towards the team, probably in a bid to advertise her wares. Unfortunately, she tripped and fell down scattering all her goods on the ground.
The Daily Times inquired to know the worth of the goods and everything summed up to N1000.
When asked why she was not in school like the other children who were already benefiting from the Cash Transfer Programme (CTP) introduced by the United Nation’s Children Fund (UNICEF) and funded by Educate A Child (EAC), a vital long-term supporter of UNHCR’s work to extend quality primary education to children around the world she said: “I would have loved to be in school;
however, when the programme started, my parents were contacted but instead of me, they decided to enrol my two brothers.
“I am the eldest in the family of three; so my two brothers are benefiting from the programme. I hawk this masa (pointing to the scattered food on the ground) in the morning and attend the Islamic school in the evening’’, she said.
Also, 10-year-old Aisha Ibrahim who was hawking beans in the same school simply said: “I do not know why I am not in school’’.
On her part, 12-year-old Habiba Isha who looks older than the age said but for the attitude of her parents who preferred the boys to be enrolled in the school, she would have been a beneficiary of the programme.
Aisha whose story was the same like that of Ms Idris said “I like the school but my parents insisted that my brothers should be enrolled.
“I am always not happy seeing my friends in school while I engage in hawking under the sun. Even though my younger brother is in school, I would have loved to be a beneficiary as well.
On how much she made from the hawking business every day and what she does with the money, she said “Sometimes I make like one thousand five hundred naira to two thousand naira every day. When the business is very bad, I make like one thousand naira.
“My mother will at the end of each sales use part of the money to buy food that we feed on at home, while I attend Islamic school every day except for Thursday and Fridays’’, she added.
The Nigerian government and UNICEF with their international partners in its bid to reduce the increasing number of out of school children in the country recently put at about 10 million have continued to introduce different strategies.
The overall goal of EAC/Cash Transfers Programme according to UNICEF is to expand access to quality basic education for 501,749 out-of-school children (OOSC) by 2020 in Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto and Zamfara.
Meanwhile, Hajara Musa, an indigene of Kawara community in Maiyama Local Government Area of Kebbi State, whose four children are already benefiting from the CTP programme, said that she has so far been paid the sum of N64, 000.00.
She said that her children – Asha Musa 9, Mariam Musa 8, Lima Musa 7 and Faiza Musa 6 are currently doing very well since they got enrolled in the programme.
“I used the money I was paid to sew school uniforms; buy sandals and books for them.
Even though I do not know how to read and write, I can see the difference between my children and those of my neighbours who are not participating in the programme’’, she said.
On how she intends to retain her children in school, the CTP recipient said that she has invested some of the money in some small scale businesses with the hope that whatever profit made from it, will be channelled to sustain her children in school.
“From the money UNICEF gave me, I bought grains like millet, beans and soya bean.
I will resell the wares once the price starts increasing. I intend to save the profit I make from each bag so that whenever the need arises for us to pay anything connected to our children’s school, I will do so without begging for assistance”, Musa said.
Aisha Musa expressed appreciation to the initiators of the idea, saying she is enjoying the programme. She added that her ambition is to become a nurse.
Another beneficiary, 30-year-old Hafsat Kalifa also has two kids currently benefiting from the programme said “So far, I have been paid N32, 000.00 thrice. I have used part of the money to buy uniforms and sandals for my children while the remaining has been plug into business to enable me sustain the programme”.
Speaking on the gains the programme has achieved so far, Headmaster, Kawara-manu Primary School, Mallam Labaran Falke, said that the total number of children enrolment in the school before the CTP was 300, but with the programme in place, the figure increased drastically to 667 pupils with more seeking to be enrolled.
“When this programme started, we told the village head to tell them but they didn’t take it serious. After the payment had started, they came to complain about not being registered. Only a few came and they were registered and given their money.
“Some students here don’t have uniform; this CTP is divided into two, and those who got payments from the first one bought uniforms for their children but the new ones are yet to.
Before CTP, they were not wearing uniforms; they just came like the lmajiris but now, they have uniforms, shoes and some of them have socks, including books for writing.
“However, due to lack of space for class rooms, when some of them bring their children, we reject them on the excuse that we have closed registration.
Lack of adequate space for class rooms has led to stoppage of students’ intake. We need government to construct more class rooms for us to provide enough chairs.
This is class three; they don’t have enough chairs and the ones in there are not good.
They don’t have tables to use when they want to write. The children used to put their books on their laps and to write; it is not convenient’’, he added.
In the meantime, the Education Secretary, Mayama LGA, Bello Labbo had said that about 64 schools in the community are currently benefiting from the programme.
While calling on the state government and stakeholders to look into the issue of infrastructure, he added that the number of enrolment is outgrowing the current facilities on ground.
“There are chairs but they are inadequate and so the children sit on the ground. The enrolment before the intervention of UNICEF was very poor but since the introduction of the CTP, it has been overwhelming’’, he explained.
UNICEF had disclosed that 501,749 out-of-school children are being targeted in its Educate A Child (EAC) programme in four northern states.
The EAC programme was introduced as “a funding window” to reduce the number of out-of-school children in Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto and Zamfara states by 2020.
Part of its components according to UNICEF, include the Cash Transfer Programme (CTP) in addition to other grant opportunities.
Speaking during a media dialogue, the CTP coordinator in Kebbi state, pointed out that about 31,000 pupils in the state are currently being paid N8,000 every academic term to encourage learning.
According to him, CTP was introduced as a social security net to assist “the poorest of the poor in accessing education.”
“The pupils are being given the sum of N24, 000 every year through the women caregivers like their mothers to enrol, stay in school and complete their education,” he said.
“The Cash transfer intervention under the EAC aims to reach 41,391 child beneficiaries and their female caregivers in four years – 31,044 in Kebbi State and 10,347 in Zamfara State.
“Kebbi and Zamfara States are considered as ‘educationally disadvantaged’ states in Nigeria.
Despite the fact that primary education is officially free and compulsory, there are high numbers of out-of-school children, which this project aims to address.
“The poverty level of rural community members has to large extend restricted their level of participation in the education of their children.
Majority of them cannot afford to purchase basic learning materials; not to mention supporting school infrastructural development.
The Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, said the high number out-of-school children in the North pose serious danger to the children and the nation at large.
Mr. Mohammed, who was represented by Uche Chuta, an Assistant Director in the Ministry of Information, identified major causes of the menace as poverty, early marriage, illiteracy and teenage pregnancy.
Through the programme, UNICEF and its partners disburse N8, 000 to the children every term to encourage them to remain in school and get formal education.
Evidences have confirmed that the CTP project had succeeded in mobilising more children back to school.