Francis Sardauna writes that Governor Aminu Bello Masari of Katsina State in driving human capital development, is bankrolling the education and other essential needs of orphans and vulnerable girls in the state despite lean resources
In recent times, it has become crystal clear that investing in girl-child education is vital to driving human capital development in Nigeria, particularly in the northern part of the country where most parents believe that a woman’s place is in her husband’s kitchen and her primary role centres on the home.
It is against this background that the Katsina State government, under the leadership of Governor Aminu Bello Masari, recently disbursed funds to school girls through the Female Teachers Trainee Scholarship Scheme (FTTSS) under the support of Nigeria Partnership for Education Project (NIPEP) at Rimi Local Government Area of the state.
The educational scheme was 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 in Rimi town which was attended by prominent Nigerians, 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.
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.
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 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 programme, 361 female teachers were also supported with the sum of N50,000 each to further their education and obtain the minimum teaching qualification of Nigeria Certificate of Education (NCE) thereby reducing gender parity index from 0.77 to 0.94 as of 2017.
The girl-child school enrollment programme led to a significant increase in gross enrollment of pupils from 86 per cent in 2016 to 89 per cent in 2017, while transition from primary school to junior secondary school increase from 71 per cent in 2016 to 82 per cent in 2017.
The programme also enrolls young girls from poor families to pursue NCE programme at the state-owned Isah Kaita College of Education, Dutsin-ma and on graduation return to their respective communities to reciprocate the knowledge gained from the institution to rural dwellers.
These beneficiaries who receives N50,000 each annually, are often drawn from the 34 local government areas of the state, and the criteria for selection is that candidate must posse five credits, including the compulsory English and Mathematics in their O’level certificate.
Governor Masari, in his doggedness to revamp and sustain girl-child education and to tackle the spate of out-of-school children in the state, released the whooping sum of N188 million between 2015 to 2020 to cater for the school feels of 3,735 vulnerable girls to enable them acquire NCE programme in the state.
The Masari-led government has also given priority to the education, nutrition and financial needs of orphans and vulnerable children across the 361 political wards of the state, irrespective of religious, tribal or political affiliations.
Accordingly, 4010 orphans and vulnerable children have been supported with the sum of N54 million between 2015 to 2018 to improve their welfare and economic condition and that of their caregivers. Also five female orphans were married off by the state government to their suitors.
The administration also expended over N500 million for provision of bed and bedding, kitchen utensils, sewing machines, deep freezers and set of chairs for female orphans, while payment of dowry and other matrimonial requirements are always provided to the male orphans who want to marry by the state government.
Meanwhile, the Special Adviser to Governor Masari on Girl-child Education and Child Development, Mrs Amina Dauda, while unveiling the state government’s scorecard under her department, lamented that the present APC administration inherited serious challenges in terms of girls’ education and child development.
According to her, the administration inherited rampant cases of child labour, forced and early marriage, child trafficking, rape and other forms of child molestation in the state that necessitated the formulation of workable policies and programmes by Governor Masari to checkmate the atrocities.
She said: “In the year 2015, Masari’s administration inherited serious challenges with regards to girl-child education and development. 45 per cent of school aged girls and boys were out of school as of that time.
“Despite that, the Department of Girl child Education and Child Development has recorded tremendous achievements under the able leadership of His Excellency, Rt. Hon. Aminu Bello Masari in the areas of girl-child and orphans education.
“The Masari-led government in collaboration with UNICEF, has so far enrolled 3,735 young girls from poor families to pursue NCE programmes. The total amount of money released by the state government for the programme from 2015 to 2020 is to the tune of N188 million”.
She added that the state government renovated its orphans and children home, repaired two non-functional vehicles, employed 20 staff to man the affairs of the orphanage home and is currently bankrolling medical bills, educational needs, clothing, food items, baby supplements and other essential needs of the vulnerable children.
Mrs Dauda said: “Out of the 69 children admitted in the home from 2015 to 2018, 23 were fostered out to interested foster parents in various local government areas of the state. Parents of 13 abandoned and lost children were traced and reunited with them. Governor Aminu Bello Masari is the first ever governor to visit the children’s home immediately after his inauguration out of his passion to ascertain the well-being of the children”.
She explained that the sum of over N3.9 million was expended for furnishing of the rehabilitated orphanage home and N250,000 was given to one of the grown up orphans as business take off grant, while the purchased of food items and other essential commodities for Ramadan and Sallah clothes for the orphans engulfed N1,805,000.
While reiterating that the state government had employed 20 grown up orphans to serve in different capacities, the special adviser said her department has rehabilitated many teenage commercial sex workers and married some of them to their loves ones, while some are still pursuing their education.
She, however, stated that the state government in collaboration with a non-governmental organisation, Save the Children International (SCI), had in November 11, 2016, resuscitated the hitherto abandoned Children Parliament with 68 members drawn from the 34 LGAs.
Masari’s aide affirmed that the Children Parliament has provided Katsina State children the opportunity to participate actively in decision making process relevant to their lives and unveiled predicaments bedeviling them to government for possible actions, as well as enhance their legislative capacities at the tender age.
In spite of the numerable achievements, there is need for the executive, legislature and judicial arms of government to intensify efforts to ensure speedy passage of the Child’s Rights Act which has been in the State House of Assembly for over two years to avert the prevailing cases of rape, early marriage, child labour and forced marriage afflicting the state.