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Free education: Kano battles to take girl-child off streets

Over the years, the Kano State Government, with the assistance of various donor agencies, has adopted measures to address the issue of girl-child education. The…

Over the years, the Kano State Government, with the assistance of various donor agencies, has adopted measures to address the issue of girl-child education.

The number of children hawking in the streets of Kano on a daily basis has been a growing concern to many, and probably a setback to the recent declaration of free and compulsory basic education by the state government.

It is normal to see these girls in the streets of Kano as early as 7:30am, hawking various commodities when they are supposed to be in school.

Maryama Yahuzam, 15, who hails from Madobi Local Government Area, hawks bambara nuts. She dropped out of primary three because her parents are very poor and could not afford to pay her school fees, she told Daily Trust on Sunday.

“In our area, girls like me have no future in western education, even though we are interested in it. Many of us are from very poor families, so we hawk to make a living. Most of us are not hawking for our parents, but for other people. I make at least N300 a day, and that is what I usually take to my mother. If I go to school, who will do that for her, and who will give her the N300 she will save to get me what I need during my marriage processes?’’ Maryam asked.

Another girl, Barira Hamza, a 12-year-old groundnut hawker along the Zaria-Zoo road, said that in her village, Gano, in Dawakin Kudu Local Government Area, girls that are educated are more respected than those that are not. According to her, even though they really wanted to go to school, it is so expensive that they cannot afford it. She added that hawking has been the only option for most of them in the village even though that is not what they want.

“If you are educated, no matter how little it is, you earn more respect in the community. This is because if a girl attends primary school, she is regarded as a better person than us. When it comes to marriage, her dowry is even higher than that of a girl who has not attended primary school,’’ she said.

Some years back, the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) programme was introduced in Kano State through the Education Sector Support Programme in Nigeria (ESSPIN) as a three-year pilot scholarship programme aimed at supporting girl-child education. It was targeted at girls from poor families to help them access basic education.

The programme was a partnership between the ESSPIN-UKAID, the World Bank and the Kano State Ministry of Education. It was gathered that 3,000 girls from three ESSPIN-supported local government areas were selected by their communities to benefit from the programme.

Kano is said to be the first state in Nigeria to implement this programme. However, it was not without challenges as it took many years of advocacy, reviews of the education reform strategy and behaviour change to attain government and community support.

According to the ESSPIN, conditional cash transfers are small payments to the families of girls to cover incidental cost of attending schools, such as uniforms and stationery and offset the lost income from street hawking.  The programme was expected to keep girls from poor homes off the streets and save them from physical and psychological abuse they may encounter while hawking.

It was also aimed at encouraging transition of girls to junior secondary school, thereby shielding them from the hazards of early marriage, and as a result, reducing maternal and child mortality, as well as empowering them with knowledge and skills to eventually raise the financial status of their families and improve their self esteem.

It was also gathered that during that period, the CCT programme was successful as girl-child enrolment in schools and retention increased.

Because of the success recorded in Kano State, other states adopted the system and donor agencies waded in to support the initiative.

It was further gathered that when the ESSPIN folded up, other donor agencies tried to sustain the CCT programme, but to no avail. This inability to continue led to some of these girls dropping out of school and taking to street hawking to make a living.

According to a seasoned educationist, Malam Idris Basheer, there is the need for an effective measure that will ensure the enrolment and retention of girls in school. “More girls of school age are out there in the streets of the city hawking, and if you ask, they will tell you they are trying to make a living, therefore, authorities need to do something that will ensure that girls are enrolled and retained in school,’’ he said.

Following the declaration of free and compulsory education in Kano up to secondary school level, the state government held a two-day stakeholders summit titled, Exploring the Fundamentals of Free and Compulsory Basic and Secondary Education in Kano State. During the summit, Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje said quality education was the perfect way of bridging the gap between different cultures and reconciling various civilisations.

But the father of one of such out-of-school girls, Malam Isah Bala Dawaki, said they needed financial backing more than western education.

“Taking the current socio-economic trend of our country into consideration, many of us believe that our girls need financial assistance more than western education. Their lives usually depend on marital life. And no amount of certificate will get your daughter married because people don’t eat or buy with their certificates. This is what I have seen as a father,’’ he said.

Also, a seasoned educationist in Kano, Hajiya Aisha Ado, said there was a strong need to restore public confidence in the educational system in the country. She added that special emphasis should be placed on children with special needs, as well as those gifted.

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