By Alkasim Abdulkadir
As the debate of child marriages rages on in Nigeria I had cause to remember an encounter two years ago that further restates the great need for girl child education in Northern Nigeria. A foremost education advocate Hajiya Amina K. Ahmed approached me to produce a documentary on one of the pupils at the Maizube Nomadic School, where she serves as a member of the school’s board. I was intrigued by the request; I was curious and wondered on end what remarkable thing the pupil had done or invented.
Then I got the brief. Maizube Nomadic School is part of the sprawling Maizube Farm, an agricultural holding operated by the former Head of State Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, as part of the CSR of the farm it provided an all expenses paid formal and vocational education for the hundreds of nomadic children that stayed within a 20 kilometer radius of the farm, they lived in hamlets or temporary nomadic settlements known as Rugga. They received school uniforms and books for free. Other facilities available at the school were an agric nursery, basketball and volleyball courts and also a well equipped multi-media laboratory.
The school management had entered its pupils for the Pan African Mathematics Olympiad, a global test of mathematical competence -administered in Nigeria by the National Mathematics Institute. Amongst the best 3 candidates adjudged to have passed the mathematics test for the Olympiad that came out of Niger State, was the script of one Nafisa Ibrahim Madako a regular nomadic girl. The competence of her quantitative skill sparked a huge interest across the state, for this she got a scholarship to see her through secondary and tertiary levels, a certificate and a bronze medal for her mental exertions. The recognition not only brought immense pride to her family but to the entire Fulani community in Niger State.
In the cause of shooting the documentary, we visited the then 11 year old Nafisa at the nomadic settlement where she lived with her parents. Her daily activities included helping with the house chores, joining her peers for Quranic lessons where her father Ibrahim Madako was the teacher, afterwards she brought back milk and cow dung from the grazing fields before heading to school. I asked her father what motivated him to enroll Nafisa at the Maizube School. “Times have changed, our children need to study so that they can come back and help us, they need to learn everything they can so that they can come back and help us and our animals”. Without any doubt not every girl like Nafisa is privileged with such -a father in support of education and an educational intervention that is functional.
Action Aid International (AAIN) discovered in a research that there was gap in favor of boys in school enrolment, retention and completion. The study on girls’ education revealed factors affecting girls’ education as cost of education, school environment, government policies and there implementation, the culture and religious inhibitions amongst others.
The report further states that girls are often sent to generate income for families by selling wares, food stuffs in the market or on the streets. Early marriage has also militated against girl attendance, retention and achievements in school. About 30% of school Age girls drop out of school haven already begun childbearing at an early age. School Census shows an enrolment figure of 24,422,918 (male -13,302,269, 54.5%; female – 11,120,649: 45.5%) indicating a gender parity of 83.6%. About 65% of primary school children in the North are male while 35% are female. With a total of between 8-10 million children of primary school age out of school, Nigeria has one of the highest out of school population in the world.
The National Commission for Nomadic Education (NCNE) established by Decree No 41 of December 1989 is meant to provide nomads with relevant and functional basic education; and to improve the survival skills of the nomads by providing them with knowledge and skills that will enable them raise their productivity and levels of income. However, the girl child in Nigeria’s villages and sub-urban centers has a greater chance of seeing the four walls of a class room when compared to a nomadic girl child, in spite of federal government’s intervention.
Nevertheless the intervention is not without its challenges, there is a dearth of teachers in terms of quantity and quality, there are only 4,208 teachers for 1,321 schools (a ratio of about 3 teachers per school) and a significant percentage of more than 60% lack the minimum requisite teaching qualification prescribed by government.
Nafisa has just concluded her JSS 3 exams at the New Horizon College in Minna, an Ivy-league type secondary where she’s on scholarship endowed by Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar; For Nafisa Ibrahim Madako the nomad who became an Olympian her dream of becoming an accountant inches closer every day.
Editor at Citizens Platform, @alkayy on Twitter.
Source: Citizens Platform
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