Francis Sardauna writes that the kickoff of the 2018 disbursement of girls’ scholarship by Governor Aminu Masari, in collaboration with Nigeria Partnership for Education Project, will increase the enrolment of the girl-child in schools across Katsina State
Education is a fundamental human right that should be availed all citizens, irrespective of age, sex and nationality. It is a process through which an individual acquires knowledge and realises his/her potentialities and uses them for self-actualisation, to be useful to the society.
The importance of education in the life of an individual cannot be overemphasised. It is the light that shows the way by removing the darkness of ignorance; the salt that gives the taste of life, the medicine that cures, and the key which open doors.
According to a Chinese proverb, education is the best legacy to give to a child because “giving your child a skill is better than giving him one thousand pieces of gold.”
Despite the importance of education, many girls of school age in Nigeria today do not have adequate education, especially in the North. In the region, usually, when a girl clocks 12-14 years old, the elders of the community, including her parents, give her out for marriage. Notwithstanding that a girl who is given out in marriage at such very tender age is placed at very high risk. First, she is not mentally matured to be a mother, neither is her body physically ready to give birth.
In many parts of Africa, the traditional belief is that a woman’s place is in her husband’s kitchen and her primary role centres on the home. This belief has kept many girls away from away from school. This is despite the Child’s Rights Act of 2003, which prohibits child marriages and betrothals. In section 21 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, any marriage contracted by anyone less than 18 years old is invalid. This is why there have been a lot of emphasis, particularly in recent times, for all citizens to have access to basic education.
When a girl is given out in marriage at a very tender age, to a man who is old enough to be her grandfather, her right as a human has been abused. She has also been deprived of her right to education and will be doomed to be an illiterate forever, if her husband does not give her the opportunity to go to school after her wedding.
Leading the Change in Kastina
In recent times, it has become quite clear that investing in girl-child education is vital to driving human capital development in Nigeria, particularly in the northern part of the country. It is against this background that the Katsina State Government, under the leadership of Governor Aminu Bello Masari, on September 6 kicked off the disbursement of the girls’ scholarship, Female Teacher Trainee Scholarship Scheme (FTTSS) under the support of Nigeria Partnership for Education Project (NIPEP), at Rimi Local Government Area.
The educational schemes were aimed at improving the enrolment and empowerment of the girl-child in schools across the three senatorial zones of the state, where the state government designated the sum of N1,727,010,000 to cater for the improvement in access and quality of basic education, with particular emphasis on girl-child education in the state.
During the flag off of the scheme, 61,873 girls received the sum of N20,000 each. Out of these beneficiaries 36,865 were primary one girls, while 17,045 girls were selected from primary two and 7,963 were girls from primary three respectively.
Accordingly, the School Based Management Committees from the selected schools were not left out, as the governor in his determination to revamp girl-child education in state, doled out N250,000 to each committee, while 1,845 pre-primary and Integrated Qur’anic schools received N150,000 each.
Masari while distributing the funds to the beneficiaries, said: “The objective of the girls’ scholarship is to support parents to ensure that the girl-child attends school regularly, while the School Improvement Grant (SIG) is to support school School Based Management Committee (SBMC) to implement minor activities in their respective schools that will support increased enrollment, retention and completion for all pupils especially the girl-child.
“For the FTTSS, 361 female teachers have been supported with the sum of N50,000 each to further their education and obtain the minimum teaching qualification of NCE. The FTTSS programme has led to a significant increase in gross enrollment of pupils from 86 per cent in 2016 to 89 per cent in 2017, transition from primary school to junior secondary school increase from 71 per cent in 2016 to 82 per cent in 2017, teacher pupils ration reduced from 1:160 in 2016 to 1. 76 in 2017 and gender parity index reduced from 0:77 in 2016 to 0. 84 in 2017.”
Global Partnership Education Project
On his part, the state Commissioner for Education, Dr. Badamasi Lawal Charanchi, said the Global Partnership for Education Project (GEP) had supported the Nigerian government with $100 million in order to address issues related to education service delivery, especially at the basic level with particular emphasis on girl-child education.
According to him, Katsina was among the five states that are benefiting from the project, which will run for a period of four years, adding, “We are now in the third tranche of the disbursement exercise.”
Construction, Rehabilitation of New Schools
Charanchi said the state government had accorded priority to the education sector, thereby constructing numerous secondary schools across the three senatorial zones of the state.
He said: “The secondary schools includes New Day Secondary School Kasanki in Mashi Local Government, New Day Secondary School Gora in Malumfashi Local Government, New Day Secondary School Musawa in Musawa Local Government, Science Secondary School in Musawa, New Day Secondary School Kadisau in Faskari Local Government Area.
“Others includes Government Boarding Secondary School Dutsin Safe, Shema Government Boarding, Government Secondary School in Rimaye, Command Girls Science Boarding Secondary School in Barkiya, Command Boys Science Secondary School in Faskari, Governmenr Junior Secondary School in Daura, Government Junior Secondary School in Durmukul and Governmenr Junior Secondary School in Yankara.
“This is in addition to the rehabilitation, renovation and upgrading of over 120 secondary schools across the state. At the basic level, about 3,000 classrooms have been renovated, rehabilitated and upgraded. Instructional materials of over N154 million have been procured to add quality to education in the state.
“Another N136 million has been earmarked for the provision of computers to 18 secondary schools under science and technology education board. Just recently, the state government has expended the sum of over N400 million for payment of SSCE examination for 29,000 Katsina state indigenes.”
UNICEF ARISING Project
Interestingly, UNICEF also launched its pilot project on Anaemia Reduction in School and Non-School Girls (ARISING). UNICEF Country Representative in the state, Phadmabathi Yelda, while lauding the state’s effort on enrollment of girl-child in primary schools, said the project provided an opportunity to educate boys and girls on their roles and responsibilities in future, adding that it was also aimed at exploring ways in which communities can be engaged to address issues of health, education and nutrition by building their understanding and knowledge on critical issues.
Yelda, also commended the Masari-led government for improing the health and nutrition situation of children and women, especially in the areas of polio eradication, improvement in routine immunisation, as well as policies and guidelines on Primary Healthcare Under One Roof (PHCUOR), and the tackling of nutritional status of children.
She said: “I note that with the support of the state government, more and more girls will not only complete primary but also secondary education. The adolescent nutrition programme that has been launched today is to address iron deficiency. This project will be piloted three LGAs of Rimi, Kankia and Kafur and the lessons learned will inform the scale-up of the project, not only to other LGAs of Katsina State but other states in Nigeria. Katsina State was selected as a pilot for this project in Nigeria in view of the high political commitment of the government and her positive response to issues of children and women in the state.”
Yelda said reaching out with nutrition interventions to about 20 million girls with an average age of marriage being 15 years, would go a long way to not only reducing anaemia but will save the lives of many adolescent girls from maternal death and children from malnutrition in future.
“ARISING programme is therefore envisioned to break the intergenerational cycle of malnutrition in Nigeria through enhancement of the nutritional status of school and out of school girls and boys. This will be achieved through a set of objectives and outcomes backed by strategies that look at system strengthening, community engagement, innovative approaches and communication,” she added.
She, however, stressed that Katsina State ranked high among the states in Nigeria with infant mortality rate of 68 deaths per 1,000 live births and under-5 mortality rate of 135 deaths per 1,000 live births. Yelda “urged the state government to conduct MNCHW campaigns without further delay in the interest of the children,” saying, “UNICEF will continue to provide all necessary technical support for this project as well as other child survival and development programmes that will enhance the right and well-being of the children of Nigeria, particularly the most vulnerable.”