Chasing Elusive Devt in Troubled Madagali

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After years of the ravaging effects of the Boko Haram insurgency in the North-east, some measure of peace is finally returning to Adamawa State, although development is yet to return fully to the town of Madagali, and its environs. Daji Sani, who visited some of the affected areas, writes

The visit to Madagali was borne out of a zeal to find out the true situation of the current security challenges and the level of destruction caused by the Boko Haram insurgency on education especially primary schools, which is a foundation to a child’s education.

Reviving Madagali
Madagali was among the seven Local Government Areas in Adamawa State under the control of the insurgents before they were liberated by the military. Having degraded the insurgents in these affected areas, only Madagali is still experiencing series of attacks.
This development has raised a lot of questionings and discussions on why Madagali cannot be completely free from the onslaughts of insurgency like the other six local government councils of Michika, Hong, Gombi, Maiha, Mubi North and Mubi South of the state, which were under the control of the insurgents before they were liberated.

Fear Factor
When THISDAY visited Bebel, Hyambula Jalingo Gulak Gulak Shuwa, Pallam Birishishiwa villages and Madagali town in Madagali local government area, it discovered that although many residents displaced by the insurgency have returned to these areas but they were still living in fear due to some series of attacks meted on them by the terrorists.

Some of them confessed that the security situation has improved better than when they were displaced in 2014, but they called for more security personnel to enable them go to their farms and do their businesses without harassment or molestation or even being killed by the insurgents.

Security Network
THISDAY discovered that every village has established a security network to alert the villagers to flee whenever the insurgents are coming for an attack while the able men among them come out to assist the military in engaging the insurgents.

“We cannot continue to run; we have resolved to assist the military to fight the insurgents instead of running. This resolution by the residents has drastically reduced the number of casualties but we need more soldiers to go after these boys inside Sambisa forest.”

“I think the only solution is to go after the insurgents, we don’t need to wait for them to attack us before we act, that will enable us to wipe them completely out of Sambisa” said Usman, one of the villagers

Ripple Effects
However, all government institutions were destroyed including primary schools by the insurgency. The terrorists had targeted teachers, pupils and schools with fierce hatred; and as a result, destroyed many schools between 2009 and 2015; and some schools were forced to shut down.

Checks revealed that the effects of these attacks on schools and on the future development of the restive region had brought together a coalition of Nigerian business leaders, working with the UN Special Envoy for Education, Gordon Brown; the Global Business Coalition for Education; and A World at School; to brainstorm on the way forward at a World Economic Forum held in Nigeria on May 7, 2014.

The outcome of the meeting at the WEF followed the launching of a “Safe Schools Initiative” (SSI) now called “Towards Safe Schools Initiative Project” (TSSIP) in response to the growing number of attacks on the right to education, including the kidnapping of more than 200 girls by the Boko Haram insurgents.

The SSI was saddled with responsibilities of focusing on schools and community interventions, with special measures for the most at-risk and vulnerable children. The initiative will eventually build community security groups to promote safe zones for education, consisting of teachers, parents, police, community leaders and young people themselves in especially the frontline states namely, Adamawa, Borno and Yobe.

Vital Interventions
However, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) under the premises of the TSSIP with funding support from the Government of Norway, had intervened in some projects such as the provision of Temporary Learning Spaces (TLS) and the renovation of 40 primary schools destroyed by the Boko Haram insurgency across seven Local Government Areas of Madagali, Michika, Maiha, Mubi North, Mubi South, Gombi and Hong in Adamawa State.

To carry out the renovations in the focus areas, UNICEF is working with the School-Based Management Committees (SBMCs) – community-based groups comprising of parents, teachers, youths, traditional and religious leaders -established to promote good learning environment and safe zones for education in these seven LGAs worst affected by the insurgency in the state.

Schools Safety
THISDAY also visited some primary schools in Madagali such as Bebel Girls’ Primary School, Hyambula Primary School, Jalingo Gulak Primary School, Gulak Central Primary School, Shuwa Central Primary School, Pallam Primary School, Birishishiwa Primary School, Madagali Central Primary School and in other LGAs of the state.

The SBMC Chairman of Bebel Primary school in Madagali, Alhaji Ardo Umaru, said they had entered into an agreement with UNICEF to provide labour and feeding as the renovation lasted, while UNICEF provides the funding to procure materials for the job. He further added that most of them had received the fund and have started the renovation.
Umaru revealed that 40 primary schools in the seven affected LGAs of the state were benefitting from the gesture, adding that they have unanimously resolved to support the project and any other developmental projects brought to them by any organisation or individual.

“We will no longer fold our hands and watch government and NGOs do everything for us, that is why we have recently mobilised our youths, women, men, religious and traditional leaders for us to join hands together and face squarely the humanitarian crisis ravaging our areas due to the onslaught of the Boko Haram insurgency on us,” he said.
Bebel Girls’ Primary School is made up of three blocks with about six classrooms; and one block of classrooms was destroyed by insurgents, leaving the other classrooms with no furniture. Pupils sit on mats inside empty classrooms and some sit under trees to learn.

The head teacher of Bebel Girls’ Primary School, Mrs. Maryamu Yawale, said SBMC in the school had proposed to renovate a block of two classrooms and has already received grants for the renovation work and have started the renovation.

She said apart from renovating the classrooms, the school is dire in need of a fence and more classroom blocks which can accommodate more numbers of pupils because some schools in neighbouring villages were shut down as a result of the activities of the insurgency and were yet to be re-opened. As a result of that, the number of pupils enrolled in the school has increased from 280 to 510.

Also speaking on the renovation issue, Education Specialist at the UNICEF Nigeria Bauchi Field Office, Mairama Dikwa, told THISDAY that UNICEF is not supporting the renovation of the whole schools but it will be supporting the renovation of at least a block of two classrooms or three classrooms in each school, depending on their proposals submitted by the SBMCs.

“We are not renovating the whole schools; but rather some classrooms and as it is in each school, we will be renovating at least a block of two classrooms; some might have three classrooms depending on their proposals. UNICEF is spending over N25 million for the renovation work of classrooms in 40 schools,” Hajiya Dikwa said.
She said series of meetings were held with the affected school SBMCs, State Universal Basic Education (SUBEB) and Education in Emergencies Working Groups (EIEWG) in order to agree on the structures and best way to provide Temporary Learning Spaces (TLS), considering the level of damage and destruction of schools/classrooms caused by the insurgents’ activities.

Dikwa further explained that the SBMCs have proposed that classrooms be renovated in all the 40 schools since they have all been affected rather than having TLS besides dilapidated structures. SUBEB and the LGEAs conducted an assessment and also interacted with SBMCs in all the schools, with bill of quantities developed and shared with UNICEF for consideration.

“During the interaction, all SBMCs committed to take the cost of labour and feeding to of workers during the renovation. UNICEF then sought approval from the Government of Norway, the donor, for provision of grants to SBMCs for renovations and it was approved.

“UNICEF has hence processed grants to SBMCs in 40 TSSIP schools to renovate dilapidated classrooms in their respective schools in the seven LGAs of Adamawa, namely, Madagali, Michika, Maiha, Mubi North, Mubi South, Gombi and Hong, with funding support from the Government of Norway. The renovation was officially flagged-off recently,” she said
Deputy Permanent Secretary of the State Ministry of Education, Mr. Pius Francis, at the flag-off ceremony at Balwhona Village few kilometres to Sambisa forest, had said the project was funded by UNICEF to improve learning outcomes in the state.

While expressing appreciation to UNICEF, he said the primary schools in those areas were badly damaged by the insurgency and needed quick intervention so that the pupils will have enabling environment for learning.
However, THISDAY also visited some primary schools in Michika, Hong, Mahia, Gombi and Mubi North and South to interact with residents and stakeholders in these areas to ascertain the current situations of these primary schools.

Pupils’ Discomfort
The discovery in some of these schools and the testimonies of stakeholders in the areas visited were so pathetic and needed quick and more interventions despite the intervention of the Federal Government NGOs, and International Partners like UNICEF who had built some temporary structures to enable learning in those areas.

Some schools could be described as ‘Tree Schools’ because they were completely burnt to ashes and the pupils studying under trees; while in some, only the walls were left standing without a roof on them, and others, the insurgents had used the school furniture to build tents in their hide-outs; creating a pathetic situation where the pupils have to sit on the floor or even under trees to be taught.

However checks revealed that 216,054 out of school boys and girls, aged 3 to 17, affected by the Boko Haram crisis (114,721 Males) and (101,333 females); are attending school because of interventions under the TSSIP. 21,719 school boys and girls, aged 3 to 17 years, (11,598 boys) and (10,121 girls) affected by crisis, are being taught by teachers who have been trained in psychosocial support. The training was provided by UNICEF under the Towards Safe School Initiative Project.

Additionally, 47,041 school boys and girls, aged 3 to 17, affected by the crisis, have received learning materials comprising: 20,385 school bags with assorted learning materials; 194 Early Child Development kits; 232 School in a Box; 2,225 plastic mats; and 200 recreational kits provided to IDPs’ camps and schools in return communities for enhanced teaching and learning under the Towards Safe School Initiative Project.

Furthermore, while 4,322 girls from eight schools have been provided with school uniforms; 50 Temporary Learning Spaces (TLS) established in IDPs’ camps, Host Communities, and return areas under the UNICEF-supported intervention; 991 children, 506 of them girls, are also attending school in six prefab classrooms installed with 120 pupils’ desks and chairs; including 6 teacher’ tables in two primary schools in Madagali LGA under the TSSIP.

However, experts say the major challenges of education in the Northeast include the non-release of government counterpart funding, and the low motivation of teachers; and a lot needs to be done to revive the restive region and bring it back to its feet.