The introduction of Cash Transfer Programme by the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) to boost enrolment in some northern states has significantly shored up the number of school children, but this fascinating fortune of the scheme has, however, exposed the massive decay of facilities in beneficiary schools, FELIX KHANOBA reports.
Early on every school day in the remote village of Rimawa, Goronyo Local Government Area of Sokoto State, hundreds of pupils, mostly with the feet bare, trek several kilometres to the only public primary school in the community.
New Rimawa Model Primary School, tucked in a sandy area on the edge of the sleepy little village, despite its visible decay infrastructures has of recent become a toast of many parents from far and near.
This is not unconnected to the introduction in 2014 of UNICEF’s Cash Transfer Programme (CTP) that provides N5, 000 incentive per term to caregiver of any girl-child registered in the school.
The scheme, under UNICEF’s Girls’ Education Project Phase 3, aims at contributing to improved social and economic opportunity for girls in selected states in northern Nigeria through increased enrolment, completion and learning in basic education.
It has significantly boosted enrolment in Rimawa Primary School from a little above 500 to 1,170 pupils (575 boys and 525 girls) within two years. However, the scheme has also exposed the serious infrastructural challenges in the state’s basic education sector.
In Rimawa primary school, its three-block classrooms structures, that stare directly at the junior secondary school located in same vicinity, are in limbo with obsolete blackboards hanging angrily on cracked walls.
But this has not deterred pupils from trooping to the school even as many see it as normal to seat on bare floor during classes.
“I have made request for furniture but there is no response. We also need government to construct more classrooms,” Yusuf Abubakar, head teacher of the school, who expressed concern over the poor facilities in the school said.
“The furniture is very important to the school but we don’t have enough, that one can affect the availability of students in the school because the interest is not there,” he added.
Many other schools both in Sokoto and Niger states are also suffering from the same fate even as selected schools in Kebbi and Zamfara states that also enjoy UNICEF unconditional cash transfer are not also spared of this school facilities challenge.
While New Rimawa Primary School , which can only boast of 11 teachers, continues to grapple with its challenges, the inability or refusal of state governments to provide the necessary school infrastructures has remained a major concern to stakeholders as many children attracted to school through the UNICEF scheme are sometimes confronted with poor learning environment.
“The states really need to wake up and do more to ensure that the needed facilities and enabling learning environment are always provided.
“No child will get the best education from school environment where the school buildings are in bad shape; no roofs, no desks,” an educationist, Haruna Yunus said.
But the Sokoto State Commissioner for Higher Education, Mr. Muhammed Kilgori, said the Governor Aminu Tambuwal led administration in the state was not resting on its oars to address the problem of decay facilities in some schools across the state.
“The governor has already declared a state of emergency in the education sector,” he said, adding that the government was doing all that is possible to sustain the UNICEF CTP programme for a period of time.
UNICEF Education Specialist, Azuka Menkiti, who also bared her mind on the CTP, said the programme has been a major success in reducing the number of out-of-school children in the most affected states.
“The UNICEF cash transfer programme has been successful because it was targeted at addressing the economic barrier in education and we recently conducted assessment which has shown improvement in enrolment of girls children.
“For us in making education accessible to everyone, we need to start empowering every family because poverty has become key problem hindering children from attending schools,” she said.
According to the Impact Evaluation Report, no fewer than 23,655 girls have benefitted from the programme in Niger and Sokoto states, with each caregiver of beneficiary girls enriched with N5, 000 in each academic term for two years.
This, according to the report carried out by CAPRA International, led to 29.4 per cent increase in enrolment in beneficiary schools in Niger and 32.4 per cent in Sokoto State from 2014 to 2016.