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Primary school enrolment in FCT communities encouraged by scholarships

As efforts are reinforced to boost the low level of enrollment in primary and secondary children in Nigeria, non-governmental organizations are complementing the efforts of …

As efforts are reinforced to boost the low level of enrollment in primary and secondary children in Nigeria, non-governmental organizations are complementing the efforts of  government in some communities across the  Federal Capital Territory (FCT) through the provision of scholarship. In this report, Daily Trust Saturday examines the impact in these communities.

Education is regarded as the greatest investment a society and family can bequeath to the young ones.

As such, Nigeria, like other countries, has adopted education as an instrument for effecting national development. Also, governments and communities at the local, state and federal levels have made efforts to ensure eligible learners have access to quality education.

However, one of the biggest challenges Nigeria is currently facing asides being a country facing security challenges is, its large number of out-of-school children.

According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, Nigeria has about 13.2 million children that are out of school by world rankings. This figure comprises of those who have never been in school and those who dropped out or left school before completion of a level of education for various reasons.

Out of this number, an estimated 65 per cent are domiciled in the 19 northern states with the Federal Capital Territory inclusive.

However, to bridge the gap and improve children enrolment in primary schools, especially a non-profit organization—“Leader Joe 1808 Foundation”, with the core values of supporting education, healthcare, community development and reaching out to underprivileged persons, especially children in Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps, has developed a scholarship scheme to aid children’s enrolment in Jahi community of the Federal Capital Territory.

Speaking to Daily Trust Saturday, founder and President of the NGO, Mr Joseph Onus, noted that his organization was challenged by the developments and situations, especially low child enrolment in Nigeria.

He said “We have 92 scholarships for children particularly in the Federal Capital Territory, with over N1m cumulatively which we started since 2019.

“Secondly it is not a one-time programme as we buy school books, bags, and shoes annually and the major schools we go to are Local Education Area Primary School, Jahi II and Government Secondary School Area 11, Garki.

Speaking on the rationale behind the scholarship, Mr Onus added that “Our decision to embark on scholarship programs was because in most communities we visit for needs analysis, we discovered that they have large out-of-school children. My personal statement is that if these kids are not educated, they will be used as terrorists in future, they need to be educated otherwise our biological children who we spend so much on their education won’t be safe.” 

He added that “in line with the mandate of the United Nations Sustainability Goals – Promoting Quality Education (SDG4), and given the number of out-of-school children in the FCT, we thought it wise to make education extremely affordable – this means zero financial contributions from either parents or guardians.”

Speaking on the beneficiaries, he said “Over the years, the LeaderJoe1808 Foundation has engaged vigorously in providing quality education in primary schools within the FCT, namely; Local Education Area (LEA) Primary School Jahi II, GSS Area 11, Garki etc.” 

Impact

In a visit to the school, this reporter observed that in each section, at least 10 children were being catered for. These include paying their school fees, providing them with complete stationaries, changing their school uniforms annually, and intervening in needs that may arise either from the school or from them as children under the scholarship scheme.

This is subsequently followed by the zeal from other children who have never been to school clamouring for the intervention of the foundation and other NGOs to assist them to return to school. 

Beneficiary community speak 

In an interview, the Chief of Jahi community, Alhaji Salihu Adamu, said “the communities that have benefitted from scholarship programs have improved because they’ll be the ones to keep reminding us that they need more of their children in schools. Through the scholarship programs, these under-served communities have come to be abreast with the importance of education.

“In this community, most of the dwellers are petty traders and peasant farmers. They believe that immediately after giving birth and raising children to say 5-10 years, the next thing is to send them to farms or make them learn trade as school is not really in their agenda.

“The small boys learn a trade and farming while the small girls help their mothers do petty trading at home. However, with the coming of the foundation, there has been tremendous attitudinal change in enrolment, we now have about 70 per cent of our children going to school. Before now, it used to be around 20 per cent.

“As the community leader, I have seen great improvement in children enrolment in LEA primary schools and the parents are now willing to allow their children go to school,” he said.

A parent of one of the beneficiaries of the project, Musa Danbaki of Jahi 2 village, says due to the fact that his own parents brought him up without formal education, he felt there was no need to enrol his children in school.

“I am 35 years old and as early as seven years, I have started following my father to the farm, so I grew up knowing about only maize and yam farming which I do to feed my family.

“However, in February this year, my friend told me about an NGO giving scholarship to children to enrol in school and even buy books and uniform for them. At first, I doubted it until we were gathered at chief’s palace and the chief told us about the initiative. Right now, my two children – a boy and girl aged 8 and 10 respectively – are in school, and many of my friends too have enrolled their children,” he explained.

A widow, Mrs Hannah Abu, whose only child is at the Local Education Area Primary School Dutsen Garki Area 1, said lack of finance was the major reason why she couldn’t enrol her child in school.

Speaking in Hausa language, she said “Since my husband died two years ago, the only thing I do to survive is to fry akara and feed my 3-year-old daughter. I wanted to enrol her, but I could barely afford money to buy the uniform. But this NGO is God sent, my daughter is one of the beneficiaries and she is in school now.”

Another beneficiary, who also spoke in Hausa language, Mr Abu Abdullahi, a vulcanizer who has three boys aged 10, 12 and 15, said his father was an illiterate and only taught him how to patch tyres which is what he has taught his children.

“The only education my father gave me was how to patch tyres and that is what I have given to my children. However, this people came and changed the lives of my family. All my children are now back to school and they take care of their school needs. I thank them specially and hope many NGOs can help us too so that all the children in this community will go back to school.” 

Govt must complement NGO’s effort – Education expert

Speaking to Daily Trust Saturday, an education expert, Kassim Musa, said “Although non-governmental organizations are doing their best in driving growth and development of primary education through scholarships, government must sit up and carry out their duties and not fold their arms because NGOs and private individuals are doing it.”

Musa believes that necessary logistics and infrastructure should also be put in place by government to encourage early child enrolment.

“The government should also provide competent teachers to facilitate the teaching and learning in a more effective manner. Adequate teachers should be employed, at least to the ratio of 30 pupils to a teacher. In addition, government should provide rural infrastructure and amenities that can facilitate learning.

“It should also provide good roads to schools, teaching and learning materials, including registers, diaries, notebooks, desks, chairs, and maps. There should be access to potable water and functional electricity, laboratory equipment such as test tubes, cylinder, microscopes, and other essential materials,” he added. 

This piece was produced in partnership with Nigeria Health Watch through the Solutions Journalism Network