Etisalat Bridges Education Gap in North-east with Back-to-school Initiative


Uchechukwu Nnaike

Etisalat Nigeria has further demonstrated its commitment to the welfare of children, who have been described as leaders of tomorrow through its recently concluded Community Schools Support Programme for the North-eastern part of the country.

The programme, which was executed in collaboration with Abuja Global Shapers Community, a non-governmental outfit, and governments of north eastern states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa, was aimed at supporting on-going efforts at bolstering pupil enrolment into primary schools, especially in the north-east.

It involved the delivery of educational materials such as school bags, school uniforms, exercise books and writing materials to primary one pupilsin 10 primary schools across the three states.

The benefitting schools were Borno-owned YerwaPractising Primary School; Abbaganaram Primary School; and Bulumkutu Primary School. Katuzu Community School,Gashua; Central Primary School, Potiskum; and LawanKawuri Primary School, Geidam arein Yobe State. Wuro Hausa Primary School, Yola Town; Community School, Demsa; and TudunWada Primary School, Mayo Belwa are in Adamawa State.
The back-to-school initiative is part of efforts to rebuild the north-east region which in recent years, has been affected by insurgency with the benefiting states as worse hit with unprecedented degrees of destruction, economic downturn and loss of lives.

Beside the destruction of physical structures and paralyzing economic activities in the affected states, the insurgency widened the educational gap between them and the rest of the country. For instance, as at 2013, 52 percent of males and 61 percent of females aged six and above in the north-east had not received education. Currently, the figure has risen to about 85 per cent with a glaring risk of losing more generations in terms of education.

According to the Permanent Secretary, Yobe State Ministry of Education, GremaModu: “One of our greatest problems now is education particularly enrolment. In this part of the country, we always lament poor enrolment; parents do not want their wards in school. Before the insurgency, we had this stigma of being educationally backward and this is due to some social, cultural and religious factors. We had been working on parents to allow their wards go to school. Some state governments had to embark on free feeding just to encourage pupils to go to school. All the gains appear to have been lost to the insurgency as most parents do not want their children in school anymore.”
It is pertinent to note that fixing the ruins in the region’s education sector will come at a huge cost, both financial and manpower and the home governments cannot bear the burden alone. It will require a home grown solution made up of cross-sector collaboration among public-spirited individuals and organisation.
Global bodies like the United Nations through its relevant organs and the World Bank, as well as countries like the UK, USA and Japan have all pledged one form of commitment or the other to the cause of rebuilding the region. These efforts are significant, but not adequate as they aim basically at infrastructural development and de-radicalisation of the region.
Locally, Etisalat Nigeria is making efforts aimed at proffering home-grown solutions, one of which is the Community Schools Support Programme.

The Vice-President, Regulatory and Corporate Affairs, Ibrahim Dikko, hinges this on the company’s corporate culture of adding value to communities through sustainable initiatives.

“The north-east is the most vulnerable region in the country today and we owe it a duty to support its rebuilding. It has gone through a lot of fierce challenges in the past years, a situation that has led to failures in almost all the spheres of life there. For us, this is a period to stand by them and contribute in some very strategic ways towards its reconstruction. We identify education as a primary concern in that it is the building block for the sustainable development of the people and the economies of the region.”

Etisalat’s foresight was echoed by the Permanent Secretary, Borno State Ministry of Education, Hassan Mustapha,during the Maiduguri leg of the programme.

According to him: “Today, if we are not mindful of the education sector, tomorrow, we will have incompetent lawyers and as a result, people will lose their liberty, we are going to have incompetent doctors and as a result, people will lose their lives, we are going to have incompetent engineers and as result, bridges will collapse, roads will fail. If we are to be called a civilised society, we should take time and make sacrifices for the future. This is the lesson Etisalat is teaching us.”

With hundreds of children now equipped to embrace education and return to school through the support of Etisalat and its partners, it will be safe to assume that the process of rebuilding the north-east has begun.