There are over 30 million out-of-school children, OOSC, across Sub Saharan Africa and one-third of that figure, over 10 million, is in Nigeria, according to UNESCO
Shara, a very remote rural community in Sumaila local government area of Kano state, in northwestern Nigeria, is a village where, until recently, not a single child goes to school. Over 10.5 million children of school age across Nigeria are not going to school which includes 40% of the country’s children of between the ages of 6 and 11. Moreover, 30% of pupils drop out of primary school and 54% do not get to complete junior secondary school.
Unbelievably, the community, whose inhabitants were in the habit of migrating and resettling somewhere else whenever a school is built close to them, has now not only secured a plot, but is also seeking the support of government and NGOs to help them build a school for their children. This development has generated a lot of excitement among the community’s children, many of whom are now eager to go to school and acquire education.
This is not unconnected with consistent advocacy efforts of the Centre for Information Technology and Development, CITAD, an NGO, whose fruitful yet exhaustive efforts have successfully changed the mindset of the members of the community, who themselves gathered money and acquired a plot of land on which the school will be built.
So passionate and eager are parents in the community now that they have accepted to see their children learn in an under-a-tree school before a proper structure is built for them. Therefore, today, children from the community are being taught basic literacy skills by volunteer teachers from neighboring communities under a tree which serves as their temporary class before a proper one is built for them.
“We are grateful to CITAD helping us get a school and for giving us uniforms, exercise books and learning materials,” said an excited Usman Sama’ila, wearing his new school uniform. “I want to be educated so that I can develop myself and my community.”
However, it took CITAD and a local CBO, Sitti Forum, series of advocacies and lobbying on the people of the community, who vehemently opposed Western education and were skeptical about allowing their children to be educated in Western-styled schools, to be able to convince them to send their children to school. The community initially rebuffed their overtures and much later began to listen and eventually heed their call.
“We carried out research as a forum and identified communities where there were no schools and decided to help such communities get schools so that their children will be able to acquire education,” said Saidu Saleh Sitti, the chair of Sitti Forum, a community-based organization working in the area. “We carried out advocacy to both elders and youth of the community, tried and convince them on the benefit of getting their children acquire education. It was really difficult trying to convince them.”
Speaking during a ceremony organized for the presentation of school uniforms and instructional materials donated to the pupils of the under-tree school, by the Centre for Information Technology and development, CITAD, in Shara recently, Abdulganiyu Rufa’i, coordinator of the Center’s education program said the Centre, which was working in the education sector in across the states of the northeastern region and Kano, wanted to give Shara’s children the opportunity to be educated.
“CITAD has been working towards the improvement of education in the northeastern states as well as in Kano. In Kano, we are working in Dawakin Tofa, Garun Mallam and Sumaila local government areas. We identified Shara community and are working here because we want to give the children of the community the opportunity to be educated,” he said.
“Our hope is to come up with community-driven efforts for educational development because of our realization that the government alone cannot handle education; education sector is too important and strategic for it to be left in the hands of the government, alone. Therefore, communities need to be empowered with innovative strategies to be able to bring about development of education within their domain.”
Rufai, who said the Centre, was working to improve enrollment and retention of children in school said they learnt about the community through their research which showed that not a single child in the community was attending school hence their decision to carry out advocacy to the members of the community which has now yielded good results.
Also speaking at the event, the education secretary for Sumaila local government, Sabo Aliyu, said the Centre was complementing the government’s effort and thanked CITAD for intervening in the community, which he said desperately needed education.
He stated that the local education authority would do everything possible to assist their efforts by constructing makeshift classes for the students as well as equip it with desks and chairs for both the students and their volunteer teachers, so as to facilitate learning process.
“I urge parents in this community to send their children to the school, including their girls. This is because if the girls are educated they have the opportunity to study for health-related courses and be able to take care of pregnant women in the community. This will solve you the trouble of exposing your women to men when they are sick or pregnant,” he said.
Bakari Hussaini is the special adviser to the governor of Kano state on education and while speaking at the event, he said millions of children were out of school in Kano state adding that the Governor Abdullahi Ganduje administration was coming up with a policy of free and fair education in the state, towards inclusive education in the state.
“The Kano state government is working on a free and compulsory education policy to address the huge challenge in the sector,” he said. “As I speak to you, millions of children across Kano state, who are of school age are not going to school, hence we are happy with the effort of CITAD and other NGOs working in the state.”
He added that the Kano state government will look into the possibility of building a proper school close to the community in the near future adding that education was the responsibility of all members of the society, and not the government alone.
“All members of Shara community, where ever they are in the country, and anyone that has anything to do with the community should contribute toward the development of education in the community,” he urged
Improving enrollment and retention of children in school will obviously help improve literacy levels among the next generation of Nigeria’s leaders, which will also afford them the opportunity break the cycle of poverty and make positive contributions towards the development of their country.
Moreover, the successful realization of the stand-alone Goal 4 (Education 2030) of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs, and the goals of the Global Partnership for Education, GPE, is tied to the achievement of inclusive and equitable quality education for children across the country.