By Charles Agwam
For several decades, basic education in Nigeria suffered setback despite seemingly good policies, programmes and interventions by governments and other stakeholders to stabilize and restore the lost glory of the system that once nurtured global giants like Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka.
According to recent statistics released by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), amongst states listed as the highest with out-of-school children in Nigeria, Kano is leading with 1,496,736, while Bauchi is trailing closely with 1,080,150.
It is against this backdrop that the UNICEF in collaboration with the United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID), under the Girl Education Project – phase 3 (GEP 3) is providing training and funding for the School Based Management Committee (SBMC) programme in 6 selected Northern states (including Kano and Bauchi) for communities to become important stakeholders in complementing government’s efforts in infrastructure development in basic schools and encourage school enrolment of children, especially the girl child.
In Kano, the adoption and implementation of SBMC programme by the state government and communities is changing the dynamics of basic education across primary and junior secondary schools in the state.
Warure Special Primary School, one of the SBMC managed schools in Kano, dotted with evidential projects is a testimony of what can be achieved when communities get involved in the management of basic schools.
Apart from complementing government’s effort at providing infrastructure in basic schools, the programme has also recorded tremendous success in the area increased school enrolments especially with regards to the girl child.
The Mothers Committee, a key organ of the SBMC, which is primarily made up of mothers who have pupils in the school, has helped in no small measure to drive increase in girl child enrolment in their community through house to house advocacy visits.
A female member of the team, Mallama Habiba told Vanguard that through the advocacy of mothers committee, the school recorded 52 enrolments of girls in the first week of the programme.
“The mothers committee has done more for the team than any other group. In the first week of the programme, girls enrolment which was usually zero or one per week, rose to 52 in just one week, through the work of the mothers committee.
“These mothers go from door to door advocating to their counterparts that girls should be allowed to go to school. Since we started our work, the school has seen progressive increase in girl child enrolment,” she said.
A tour round the school revealed projects executed by SBMC, including fully equipped computer lab, toilets and boreholes among others.
Meanwhile, Bauchi seems not to have fully embraced the SBMC programme in the same way Kano is using the SBMC to complement government efforts in infrastructure and helping to drive increase in girl child enrolment and retention in basic schools.
The SBMC Chairman of Bauchi local government, AbdulHameed Mohammad who said his committee oversees 300 primary schools and 100 junior schools in Bauchi, noted that progress have been made in the area of provision of infrastructure in basic schools.
One of the schools visited by Vanguard in Bauchi, Gwallameji Primary School, however showed very little presence of SBMC project. The collapsing ceiling of some classes and broken seats were indications that the school lacked the kind of community involvement that Warure Special Primary School in Kano enjoys.
A teacher at the school who pleaded for anonymity, told Vanguard that the scantiness or lack of SBMC projects in some Bauchi schools was due to unawareness of the benefits of the SBMC programme.
According to him, “I know about the SBMC programme because I have travelled to other schools. Here in Bauchi, especially in this school, people barely know that a programme like that exists. I think it’s because there has not been enough enlightenment campaign to highlight the benefits of the SBMC programme.
“The Bauchi SUBEB (State Universal Basic Education Board) needs to increase their enlightenment campaign to educate community leaders on what they stand to benefit when they get involved in the management of education of their children.”
Moreover, at Galambi Government Day Primary School, Bauchi, school enrolment for the girl child recorded little success as SBMC committee chairman, Murtala Ibrahim accused parents of being reluctant of sending their girls to school over socioeconomic reasons.
“We are in society where parents don’t believe in girl child education. Sometimes, during our mobilisation campaign for girls enrolment, parents ask us what achievement have the girls with Western education made. Some prefer using them for hawking groundnut and other items and then push them out for early marriage,” he lamented.
Recently, the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) approved N2.7 billion for construction of 5,010 classrooms across the country, under the School Based Management Committee and School Improvement Programme (SBMC-SIP).
According to UBEC, any community interested in the grant, must through the SBMC of the school, provide 10 percent contribution in cash or kind as a precondition to access funds (in any of its intervention schemes) for school development.
Bauchi, must, therefore, reposition the SBMC programme to encourage better community involvement in the management of basic schools in a way that will increase girl child enrolment and retention and enable basic education in the state to regain its lost glory.