Hope for Borno’s Future

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L-R: Chief Executive Officer, The Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE); Oscar Onyema, President, NSE; Abimbola Ogunbanjo, Ag. Head, Corporate Services Division, NSE; Pai Gamde, one of the teachers of the school (middle) addressing the team, Governor of Borno State, Alhaji Kashim Shettima and Head, Oando Foundation, Adekanla Adegoke. While the pupils watch

The Nigerian Stock Exchange, in partnership with several organisations, recently inaugurated a model school in Boko Haram ravaged Maiduguri, writes Solomon Elusoji

In 2009, the leader of an Islamic militant sect, Boko Haram, Mohammed Yusuf, was killed by Nigerian security operatives in Borno. Yusuf’s death, in hindsight, was the catalyst that Boko Haram needed to become a full fledged militant organisation, decimating lives and property and even declaring sovereignty on parts of Nigerian territory. In 2013, the militant group made international headlines when it kidnapped 276 schoolgirls in Chibok, a community in Borno.

“Schooling in the worst-affected parts of the country has become almost impossible,” the Economist wrote in 2014. “Most secondary schools in Borno, where the girls were kidnapped, have closed. A staggering 10 million Nigerian youngsters are not in school, out of a total population of 160 million, more than at the end of military rule in 1999. Most of them are girls. Instead of learning to read, young women are married off in their teens. Out-of-school boys are often recruited into terrorist ranks, perpetuating a cycle of poverty and instability.”

Although the North-east educational challenges preceded Boko Haram, the sect has only helped in deepening the crisis and plunging the future of the region into great uncertainty. It is not a coincidence that one of the sect’s major goals is to eradicate western education.

“Having that many children out-of-school is a recipe for disaster,” the former governor of Ekiti and now Minister of Solid Minerals, Kayode Fayemi, said, as quoted in the Economist article. “They are cannon fodder for the terrorist agenda.”

Recently, wife of the Chief of Army Staff, Hajiya Umma Buratai, averred that the poor quality of education in the North was a major contributing factor to the rise of Boko Haram. “If the Boko Haram terrorists had received quality and sound education, they would have abstained from violence and criminality,” she said.

Although, in recent times, the Nigerian Military has made inroads in the fight against the Islamic militant sect, restoring relative peace to Borno, arguably the hardest hit state from Boko Haram’s vile antics, a lack of quality education still plagues the region.

According to the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Nigeria now has 10 per cent of the world’s out-of-school children with 52 per cent of children being out-of-school in the North-east region of the country. Of those who attend school, 72 per cent are unable to read upon completion of grade six. In Borno, only 35 per cent of female and 46 per cent of male adolescents are literate. Sadly, it is estimated that about 600 teachers have been murdered, 19,000 teachers displaced, and 1,200 schools damaged or destroyed. This has resulted in 600,000 children losing access to learning since 2013. In IDP camps, 75 per cent of children do not attend school. In host communities where as many as 92 per cent of the displaced have found refuge, the already thin educational resources are being stretched even further.

It was the reality of these depressing facts that galvanised the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE), in June 2016, decide to intervene in what could snowball into another disastrous Boko Haram-esque situation, where uneducated, idle youths are recruited into a violent organisation for the purpose of terrifying the Nigerian state.

So, on October 18, in support of the recovery effort articulated in the Recovery and Peace Building Assessment (RPBA) Report for North-east Nigeria, by the Federal Government of Nigeria, North-east State Governments, the European Union (EU), the United Nations (UN) and the World Bank (WB) which highlights education as one of the strategic areas requiring urgent attention in the region, the NSE inaugurated Maisandari Alamderi Model Nursery and Primary School at Abuja Talakawa district of Maiduguri.

The school is made up of two blocks of classrooms which can accommodate 330 pupils and an administrative block consisting of a staff room, sickbay, security office and restrooms. It is designed to provide a safe and conducive environment for pupils. To ensure the sustainability of the school in delivering high-quality education, the NSE is collaborating with Bridge International Academies, one of the world’s leading education service providers, to provide well-trained teachers, develop world-class curriculum in line with national and local standards, as well as introduce technology induced lessons to improve pupil learning outcomes, deliver results for families and ameliorate the educational challenges in the state.

“As an organisation, we will continue to do our best to support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) number 4, which seeks to achieve inclusive and equitable quality education for all by 2030,” the Chief Executive Officer of the NSE, Oscar Onyema, said at the inauguration. “We run an Adopt-a-school initiative as well as several other financial literacy programmes that contribute to the SDG #4. Looking forward, we plan to expand the scope of this project and hope that this school will be the first of many. We hope to use this occasion to call the attention of our eco-system- listed companies, capital market operators, investors, regulators and policy makers- to the plight of the IDPs and encourage more meaningful and sustainable interventions by all.”

Onyeama also used the opportunity to pay gratitude to the organisations – Bridge International Academies, Oando Foundation, MTN Foundation, CSCS Plc and AXA Mansard Insurance – that partnered with the NSE to make the project possible.

“Worthy of special note and mention is the critical role played by the Borno State Government in ensuring the actualisation of this project,” the NSE chief added. “The State Government, SUBEB Chair, Local Government and most importantly, governor facilitated the process by providing land and security and welcoming us with open arms. His Excellency Governor Shettima took personal interest in ensuring the full implementation of this project. I salute you Sir. I also wish to thank all those who have worked on this project at The Nigerian Stock Exchange. They made several trips to Maiduguri, and spent countless hours planning and strategising on how to make this work in an impactful and sustainable way. I am glad that we did not only build this school, but will continue to support it in the coming years.”