In Kaduna, women and young girls who never had the opportunity to go to school and the school drop-outs are rushing to make up for the lost opportunity at the Care-NGO School for functional literacy, a free adult education school run by a university lecturer, writes John Shiklam
You could see the enthusiasm they exude as they sang excitedly in procession during their matriculation at the school premises within the precinct of Matari West area of Sabon –Tasha, a suburb of Kaduna metropolis.
Most of them are married women whose age ranges from 28 to 60 years, but their thirst for formal education has made them equal. They are making up for the lost time. They missed the chance to acquire early education.
From the youngest to the oldest, all of them have one story or the other to tell, but with something common to them all. They dropped out of school during their younger days. While some of them explained that their parents, because of their economic condition did not send them to school, others said they dropped out either because of lack of sponsorship or some unfortunate events in their lives.
Tina Emmanuel, a 28 year old house wife is one of the new ‘pupils’ at the school. Tina who spoke in an interview during the matriculation regretted that she failed to listen to her parents’ good counsel on the need to go to school, saying that she is now paying for refusing to listen to them.
“When my parents were forcing me to go to school, I refused. I was so stubborn and rude. I took everything for granted,” she said, adding that she eventually got pregnant and had to marry.
According to her, she felt the pain of lack of formal education, when at the slightest misunderstanding with her husband; she will be called an illiterate. This insult, she stressed, always hit her hard and since then she made up her mind to go back to school.
“When I got married, my husband started insulting me, calling me an illiterate any time we quarrel. He forgot that he was the one that impregnated me which also contributed to my inability to go to school. Whenever he calls me an illiterate, I will just cry. For that reason I vowed that I must go back to school.
He even asked me which school I would like to go, I told him I will want to go to secondary school. He now asked me to leave Port-Harcourt and come to Kaduna and enrol in a school. So, I came to Kaduna to stay with his mother. It was my neighbour who is also a student here that told me about Care NGO and she brought me here to enrol. I am so happy that I am back to school. There are many women like me who missed the opportunity to go to school. I will like to further my education after my study here. I am determined” Tina declared.
But Martha Dominic, 26, also a house wife, she had no opportunity to ever see the four wall of a classroom early in life. She lost her father, when she was barely old enough to start primary School.
“My dad died when I was young and my mum was not in a position to send me to school. I couldn’t go to primary school. I am so happy now because, before, I was not able to read, but now I can read. I have just written my junior WAEC and now I am in SS1 and by the grace of God I hope to go to the University or Polytechnic after I finish from here” she said.
Now, any woman who is determined to go back to school and needs financial aid to do so can find help with her education. The man behind the initiative, Prof. Bala Dogo of the Kaduna State University (KASU) says, “we realised that many people couldn’t complete school for one reason or the other, so we decided we should do something like this so that we can give them the second opportunity to acquire education and at the same time, provide some vocational training for them to make employable” he said.
He added further that, apart from the academic aspect, the students are also trained in some vocational skills that include soap making, computer training, tailoring and modern agriculture.
Dogo said the school was founded in 1994 in Ungwan- Dosa in the northern part of Kaduna city, but it was relocated from the area to Sabon-Tasha due to the bloody ethno-religious crisis that engulfed Kaduna in the past which has fragmented settlements in the city along religious line.
He disclosed that about 600 people have graduated from the centre since its inception adding that many of them are now graduates of universities, polytechnics and colleges of education.
“Some of them are working in both private and public organisations. I know some of them who are working in the banks, Civil Defence, government ministries and several others who are making it in business.
“I am happy that we have been able to touch the lives of people, we have been able to provide a direction in their lives and I think that if all of us should develop the habit of contributing to the development of people and our communities, some of the social problems bedevilling us would be reduced”, he said.
The Care-NGO school is divided into three categories: Those who never attended primary school, those who completed their primary school but couldn’t go to secondary school and those who dropped-out of secondary school.
Majority of the students are married women most of who didn’t have the opportunity for primary education.
According to Dogo, at the end of the programme, the students will be registered in a primary school to enable them sit for the school Leaving Certificate Examiniations, while those enrolled for secondary school are registered with the Government Secondary School (GSS), Sabo and other private school to enable them sit for the Junior Secondary School Examinations (JSSE) and West Africa Examinations Council (WAEC).
Although, it has not been easy combining his university teaching job with social work , Prof. Dogo says he is so passionate about providing functional literacy and skills to people, especially the youths.
“We in the university are supposed to do three things. We are supposed to lecture, we are supposed to research and do community service. My own way of serving the community is to provide education to those who didn’t have the chance to go to school early in life” he said.
But, the major challenge facing the Care- NGO School of Functional Literacy is lack of funds and the basic facilities for teaching and learning.
Dogo said the centre needs more furniture and classrooms as the population of the pupils keeps on increasing, pointing out that the NGO has been using every available resources at its disposal judiciously to meet its needs, but that there is so much more to be done.
He said the only source of revenue for running the programme is the token amount paid by the students and proceeds of rent from shops owned by the organisation.
Dogo who run the school along with his wife, Maria, disclosed further that initially when the programme started, it was free but as time went on, they had to ask the students to pay some token in view of limited resources and the economic situation which could no longer permit the programme to be free.
“When the number of the students increased we had to ask them to pay a token. They started by paying N200. Now they are paying N1000 every four months, but some people could not afford it.”
“We pay the teachers from the money we collect from the students. We augment it with the money we realise from payment of rents by people renting our shops. We also make some money when people use our hall for wedding receptions and other functions.”
Dogo told the 40 matriculating students that education has no age limit and charged them to work hard to realise their dream in life.
Kaduna state commissioner for Women Affairs and Social Development, Mrs Maria Dogo who was represented at the matriculation ceremony by a senior official in the ministry, Mrs Paulina Kure commended the university teacher for initiating free literacy programme for many women who she noted, missed the opportunity of going to school.
She said that the state government will partner with organisations that are making positive contributions in developing and empowering the people.
She urged the women to acquire skills that will help them and their families and appealed to them to ensure that their children are properly brought up and educated in order to be good citizens.
Also in his remarks at the occasion, the community leader of Matari West, Deacon Bawa Arage commended Prof. Bala for his contribution to the community and urged other influential people in the area to emulate him.
Some northern women in a remedial class
The women who enrolled at the school
Dogo ...initiator of the project to educate women