By Boco Edet Abdul
Sokoto, Nigeria- In Walai village, members of the community are now aware of the value of education prompting them to invest their personal resources to create more access to education for children who are out of school.
Walai is located in Itas Gadau local government area of Bauchi state in Northern Nigeria. It is far removed from the city center and children have to trek several kilometers to access schools.
Local residents were very welcoming of the USAID funded Northern Education Initiative Plus when the project decided to open a non-formal learning center to serve young girls and boys who were mostly exposed to only Islamic education.
The Initiative supported Bauchi and Sokoto states to open 800 learning centers in disadvantaged communities where children have been disenfranchised from education.
Learning facilitators were trained to teach about 36,000 learners who enrolled in these centers, literacy, numeracy, life and vocational skills for a minimum of six hours every week.
Two centers were opened for the Walai community. Learning took place under trees. The community was thankful especially when they saw children start to spell their names and string words together.
“We were very happy when the learning centers were opened here because we visit the hospital with our wives and they are attended to by male doctors. We really began to desire a change. We wanted our girls too to be educated,” says Salihu Adamu, proprietor of the center.
A few months into the program, news began to spread round the community about how fast children were learning. A philanthropist within the local government learnt of the initiative and decided to support the project.
Preferring to remain anonymous, he donated money through a family member to the proprietor of the center to build a block of four classrooms.
“The philanthropist said he had heard that children were learning to read and write and wanted them to do so in a safe and conducive environment. We are very grateful to the Initiative for starting something good in this community,” Adamu says.
The four-block of classrooms is nearing completion and will accommodate 180 learners in the next round of enrollment to be conducted by the project into Non-Formal Learning Centers beginning in July, 2017.
Earlier in January, the Northern Education Initiative Plus trained learning facilitators and Center Based Management Committees on promoting safety in the centers. They learnt how to advocate to communities to provide basic facilities in the centers that encourage learners to remain to complete lessons.
After the training, the Center Based Management Committee Chairman of Islamiya Garufe Dinawa Non-Formal Learning Center, Ahmad Abubakar Dinawa returned to his center in Wurno local government of Sokoto state to mobilize other members of the committee to make the center more conducive for learners.
After enlightening other members on the importance of safe learning environments, they jointly decided to embark on small projects within the center.
“The committee fenced the center, constructed two classrooms and two toilets. We also bought a container to store drinking water and bought bags for the children to keep their books. The children were happy coming because they were learning but now they are happier learning in a more conducive environment,” Dinawa says.
The committee also built additional classrooms and hired learning facilitators to teach other children who were not enrolled under the Initiative but were equally interested in learning.
“Initially we were donating voluntarily to pay the facilitators but the local government authority heard and decided to take that responsibility,” Dinawa says.
He stresses that the community wants to be more politically relevant and education is the answer. “There was a time when someone from another community was elected as councilor because there was no one who could run for that office here. We can only stop that from happening if we educate our children,” he adds.
In addition to learning literacy and numeracy skills, the Initiative also offers vocational skills at the learning centers. This is so boys and girls who may decide not to further their education after the program ends, have a skill to remain self-reliant.
Young girls in Mashema Arewa Non-Formal Learning Center located in Itas Gadau local government of Bauchi state have been taken off the streets by their parents and are now acquiring new skills making beads, knitting and sewing.
“Our children were roaming the streets but now they are learning to read and write and also have a skill that could possibly become a business. They could use it to support their families,” says Magaji Abubakar, Chairman of the Center Based Management Committee
Azimi Abba is the proprietor of the center. She volunteered her house to be used as a learning center because she was worried by the number of girls in the community who had dropped out of school. When the Federation of Muslim Women’s Associations in Nigeria, a local organization managing the center as a partner of the project asked to use her home, she accepted.
“So we mobilized traditional leaders and community members to talk to parents to release 45 girls to come and learn at the center. With the bead making they have learnt to make earrings, necklaces and bracelets and they have learnt to sew gowns, wrapper and blouse. They also knit sweaters for children to wear during the cold,” says Abba.
The Center Based Management Committee managing the center provided the materials used to learn these skills and proceeds made from selling their products are invested back into the center to buy more items.
Magaji Abubakar is the Chairman of the committee. He says learning these skills has improved the attitude of the girls in the community.
“Our children were roaming the streets but now they are learning to read and write and also have a skill that could possibly become a business. They could use it to support their families,” he says.
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