By Wale Akinola
The Special Adviser to the Governor of Katsina State on Girl-Child Education and Child Development, Hajia Bilquis, says the Shema administration believes every girl- child needs to be educated. She speaks on what the state government is doing to make this possible.
The education of the girl-child is apparently a priority to Gov. Shema. What is on ground?
Governor Shehu Shema established the Department of Girl-Child Education and Child Development in 2008 as the first of its kind in Nigeria to improve the lot and the quality of life of girls especially those from poor background in the rural communities. The establishment of the department underscores the governor’s passion for the education of the girl-child preparatory to her holistic development.
The state government also established schools exclusively for girls in each of the 34 local government areas. The department mapped out strategies and domesticated international practices such as Teacher-Trainee Scholarship Scheme (FTTSS) to produce female NCE teachers and Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT), among others, to improve the lot of girls from poor families in rural communities.
How do the two programs aid the education of the girl-child?
FTTSS is one of the components of UNICEF/DFID’s Girls’ Education Project (GEP). The scheme is a special intervention providing financial support to the tune of N50,000 for each female NCE student annually for registration, education materials and general upkeep. Beneficiaries are drawn from poor families in rural communities so that at the end of their training, they are bonded to return to their communities to teach.
This increases the number of qualified female teachers in rural schools, provides mentoring services to girls, makes rural schools girl-child friendly, increases enrollment, improves attendance as well as raises completion and transition rates. FTTSS implementation in Katsina State started after 150 girls in 2008 secured admission into the State College of Education for their NCE program .
It was agreed that the state government was to support 100 students and the remaining 50 by UNICEF/DFID. The number of beneficiaries increased to 240 in 2009 and, in 2010, it went up to 340 after it was decided that each local government in the state should contribute 10 beneficiaries to the scheme while the state government supports 80 per cent and UNICEF/DFID supports 20 per cent.
Under the CCT scheme, the girl-child gets paid. An innovation to keep the girl-child in school in a society, where parents oftentimes are not disposed to educating the female children; 9,059 girls drawn from 125 primary schools in nine LGAs are benefiting under the program. Each beneficiary is entitled to N5,000 every three months. The state government is the main financier of the CCT with technical and moral support from UNICEF, MDGs, World Bank and other stakeholders. It is designed to increase the level of enrolment of girls in school and their retention until graduation.
Funding must have been a big challenge. How has the state government been able to overcome this, especially the CCT?
The state government has committed more than N300million from the inception of the program in 2009 to date on the CCT. The amount represents the expenditure incurred in establishing the implementation unit, purchase of monitoring vehicles, training, cash disbursements to beneficiaries and other logistics. The CCT Program Implementation Unit has disbursed five cash transfers and 12 rounds of mandatory monitoring to be followed by three rounds of monitoring preparatory to the sixth cash transfer in August, 2013.
And in appreciation of Katsina State government’s commitment to the success and continuity of the program, the Millenium Development Goals (MDG) headquarters in Abuja contributed N200 million to facilitate successful implementation. UNICEF also engaged a Resident Consultant from Ayala Consulting Equador, who helped in laying solid foundation for effective and successful implementation of the CCT program. UNICEF contributes in the areas of training and other consultative services.
The CCT runs presently only in nine LGAs. What happens in the remaining 25 LGAs?
His Excellency Governor Shema’s plan is to scale up the program to cover all the 34 local government areas of the state, as well as extend the program to Junior Secondary Schools (to complete basic education circle) in the state. This will hopefully be in active collaboration with World Bank, MDGs, UNICEF, and other development partners and stakeholders.