By Hassan Zaggi
Eleven-year-old primary 4 pupil of New Rimawa Model Primary School in Goronyo Local Government Area, Sokoto State, Amina Abdulazeez, has disclosed that the Cash Transfer Programme (CTP), an initiative of the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), has improved her health status and that of the entire community.
UNICEF introduced the CTP in Sokoto and Niger states in 2014 with the aim of empowering parents and caregivers to send their female children to school.
The programme was also aimed at tackling the challenge of poverty which has hindered most parents in the northern part of the country from sending their female children to school by giving the benefitting families N5,000 for each girl-child per term.
In an exclusive interview with The AUTHORITY, Amina noted that her enrolment in the school has made her know how to take care of her environment and keep herself clean. This, she said, has positively affected the entire community.
“The education I have acquired since I was enrolled in this school has affected by health status. My enrolment in school has changed my mentality on how to take care of myself and my environment. I am now conscious of what I do, especially in relations to my health as I now know that I have to regularly clean my immediate environment, wash my cloth and take good care of myself. The money my parents receive for this programme has been of help to us in this regard.
“This is has affected even those who don’t come to school because they have seen our change in life style and have positively affected them to take care of themselves,” Amina reiterated.
Also speaking exclusively with The AUTHORITY, the youth leader of the Goronyo community, Yayaha Umaru, reiterated that the CTP has brought tremendous improvement in the health status of the residents of the area.
According to him: “The school enrolment of our girls has improved our health condition because our children go home and clean up themselves and the environment. This has led to the drastic decrease in illnesses like diarrhea, malaria and dysentery that we normally see in the area.
“In fact, the rate of sicknesses have decrease because our children are now very conscious of what they eat and how it is prepared. They always ensure that the environment is clean. Their lifestyle has indeed rubbed in the entire community. Our health, no doubt, has increase tremendously.
“We pray for the government to continue with this programme because we have seen its positive impacts in our lives as a community.”
Responding to a question on how the community intends to sustain the programe considering its immense importance, the youth leader said: “We are working hard to ensure that we sustain the enrolment even when the CTP stops because we have seen the value of education for the girl-child.
“We, the men of the area are working hard to ensure that we support our women who are currently engaged in menial trades and other small scale economic ventures to ensure that we sustain that enrolment.”
On her part, one of the women leaders of the community, Mairo Abdullahi, explained that the enrolment of girls in the school has changed the face of the community, because, according to her: “The teachers ensure that all children that come to the school are clean. Also, those who come to school with some items to sell are always cautioned to ensure it is clean. The lifestyle of our children has totally change.
“Even when they are at home they always maintain high hygiene standards. In fact, you can clearly see the difference between our daughters who are in school and those who did not go to school.”
Responding to a question from The AUTHORITY on whether there is clear evidence that indicated that the massive enrolment of girl-child in school in the state has affected positively their health status, the Commissioner for Higher Education, Muhammad Kilgori, said that there is synergy between the state ministries of education and health to ensure that the health of the children is improved.
According to him: “There are programmes under the ministry of health like immunization, nutrition, maternal and child care and many others which we are working together and they are also supporting the families with all these programs so that the children can be much healthier and will be in better nutrition so that they can be able to attain school.”
Speaking specifically on the evidence, Kilgori said: “Yes, there is significant improvement in the health status of our children. As you known, most of these health programmes do target schools and now because these children are in school they can be captured easily and that has tremendously assisted the health workers in having access to the children to get them vaccinated and to also support them with nutrition packages and to ensure that they are in good health.”
Most residents of the area interviewed by The AUTHORITY expressed concern over the lack of furniture for the children to sit on. This, they noted, is threatening the retention of the girls in school, because, most of them will not want to sit on the ground, especially the grown up.
“We are appealing to the government to bring chairs so that these our girls will have where to sit and receive their lessons,” one of them appealed.