Located in a suburb along Sani Abacha road, Kabuga/Aisami in Gwale Local Government Area of Kano State, Wurare Special Primary School is gradually becoming a prime destination for parents wishing to enrol their children.
The school offers opportunities for young boys and girls, the majority of who would normally be found hawking, to attend classes in the morning and hawk later.
This has not only increased enrolment in Wurare school but given these children the benefit of education.
This initiative is part of UNICEF and the government’s plan of action on “Education For All” before the end of 2020.
The Wurare school is one of the few selected by the state government to be part of a federal government effort of getting more children in school.
However, despite the efforts aimed at getting more children in school, challenges abound, a recent visit by PREMIUM TIMES reveals.
According to a survey conducted by UNICEF, about 10.5 million Nigerian children are out of school although primary education is officially free and compulsory. About eight million of this figure are in Kano and 11 other states.
The UN agency said this estimation includes children attending non-formal education.
In its sectoral situation report in Nigeria, the UNICEF said only 61 per cent of 6-11 years old regularly attend primary school, while only 35.6 per cent of children aged 36-59 months receive early childhood education.
The Wawure, Kano Solution
The Kano government, through the support of developmental donors like UNICEF and DFID in 2011, established a School-Based Management Committee (SBMC) in Wurare special school to ensure completion of basic education for all school-age children.
The SBMC, which has gained momentum in Bauchi, Katsina, Sokoto, Kano, and Niger states, is attracting large enrolment from families in the communities, officials say.
Fifteen schools in each state are selected for the pilot phase.
However, at Wurare, it is also posing challenges to the school’s infrastructure.
Investigation by this reporter revealed that the influx of pupils in the school has put up immense infrastructural challenges on the administrators.
There are other schools in Gwale local government, but the Wurare school appears to be a top choice for parents sending their wards to school.
PREMIUM TIMES recently visited the community, which is about 25 minutes drive from the state capital.
Interacting with PREMIUM TIMES, 13-year-old Habeebah Usman, who is in Primary 1B, expressed her delight at being in school, courtesy of the government, UNICEF and SBMC.
Miss Usman, who is the first of five children in her family, said the SBMC initiative had changed her entire life and brought her to school.
“This is my first time in school and I am excited. I used to help my mother sell before now, but I still assist her,” she said in Hausa.
Similarly, 15-year-old Umar Muktar said he has always loved being school. He said he will like to join the Nigerian Army “to help the country”.
He also lamented about the inadequate number of chairs and tables due to the high number of students.
Wurare Special Primary School is a government primary school which was established in 1959 with two classrooms, 30 pupils and five teaching staff including the headteacher.
The school currently has a population of 2,728 pupils: 1,459 males, and 1,269 females. It also now has more classrooms and teachers.
How SBMC works, challenges
SBMC began in Nigeria in 2005 following the recommendation of the 52nd meeting of the National Council on Education.
The scheme gives opportunities to host communities to be involved in school governance, with elected but voluntary membership
Despite the success recorded by SBMCs in the Wurare school, there are still numerous challenges militating against the effective learning of the pupils.
Surayya Inwa, 14, a primary six pupil, said the school lacks toilets and chairs.
“We are 70 in the class and not everyone has a chair to sit during classes,” he said. “And the toilets in the school are not enough as some collapse, we don’t use them again.”
Checks also show that out of the 33 toilets stated earlier by the school head, only three were functioning as at the time of the visit.
A member of SBMC, Wurare school, who simply introduced herself as Aisha, said the SBMC could not meet all the needs of the school due to its financial constraints.
”We still need chairs, we need to renovate the classes and build more toilets as well as provide writing material for the pupils,” she said.
She mentioned the nonchalant attitude of some parents toward their children’s education as another challenge faced by the SBMCs to ensure the target of getting at least one million children into school by 2020.
“Some parents don’t allow their children to go to school, we are still creating awareness on the importance of education, now some are willing to even allow them to study up to university level.”
The spokesperson of SBMC at the Wurare school, Tijani Sheshe, said the SBMC has helped increase the school’s student population.
“Currently, there are 86 orphans and 91 less privileged students we sponsor in the school,” he said.
Mr Sheshe also lauded the federal government’s school feeding programme which has helped in bringing pupils to the school.
However, the co-ordinator, ‘Mother’s Association’, Umma Abubakar, explained how tedious it was “to beg kids to go to school in the community.”
“We go to different areas to enlighten parents on the importance of education. Sometimes, most parents attribute it to poverty so we asked them to release them to us and we take responsibility. We’ve brought 44 boys and 57 girls to school this year,” she said.
Also, the chairman, ‘Children Association’, Habeeb Usman, said the association visits homes to know why their wards are not in school.
“The children association, which consists of seven members, watches out for children who go to play instead of being in the classroom. We usually, take note of children who are not in school, look for them and bring them to the teachers,” he said.
According to him, “such pupils are made to wash toilet for a stipulated time”.
Ja’en Special Primary School
PREMIUM TIMES also visited Ja’en Special Primary School, which was established in 1974 with 42 pupils, one block of two classes and three teachers.
In 2009, the Kano government implemented the SBMC policy in the school. Ja’en now has 4190 pupils: 2057 males, 2133 females.
The school also now has 24 classes and 64 teachers.
Ja’en runs two sessions but has a deficit in infrastructure and the challenge of tutors to meet rising demand.
To address some of the funding challenges, the Chairman of Ja’en Special School, Kabir Ja’en, said the SBMC set up a school farm and flower garden; car wash, located outside the fence of the school and a commercialised overhead water tanker.
He said the SBMC identified planting of lettuce in the farm, sale of flower in the garden and establishment of the car wash as major sources of income to sustain the school.
“So far, Ja’en SP has generated the sum of N1.2 million. Out of this income, three blocks of five classes have been renovated and uniforms are being provided for pupils free of charge, SBMC also provides instructional materials for the school to aid teaching,” Mr Ja’en said.
He said every group in the community is represented in the school-based management committee and are signatories to the SBMC account “as a form of checks and balances”.
The headteacher of Ja’en school, Abba Shuaibu, said the major challenge facing the school is the provision of adequate infrastructure.
“SBMC gives support in the provision of instructional materials. Already we have more pupils coming to school now, we run morning and afternoon school for classes 4& 5 while other classes attend school in the morning,” the headteacher said.
According to the Kano State SBMC Chairman, Tijjani Baraya, “before, nobody cared about public schools within their communities, those days people felt any school within their area, they simply say they were government property but today, our people now realise the schools located in their communities belong to them and not the government.”
He said the concept of SBMC is to give communities the chance to support school programmes within their community.
“The SBMC committee for an instance in Kano State comprises of 17 members drawn from traditional, religious institutions, artisans, school pupils, teachers, community-based organisations, and women organisations.
”The role of SBMC and that of the Parent Teachers Association PTA are different. The PTA charges levies while the SBMC is an intervention, SBMC does not charge any member of the community or requests money from the pupils. This plan is what the school uses within a period, it consists of the school needs and costs,” Mr Baraya said.
The Director of Social Mobilisation of the Universal Basic Education Commission, Bello Kagara, said stakeholders’ participation “remains the global and modern approach to addressing the out of school, (OSC), menace in Nigeria.”
He said SBMC is the closest structure to engage in addressing the problem of OSC, the community and if properly supported will deliver.
“Already the Nigerian government (said it) will inject the sum of N2.8 billion in the SBMC Intervention scheme in 2,505 basic schools across the country,” Mr Kagara said.
He said each of the benefiting schools would receive the first disbursement of 75 per cent payment of the total amount allocated to it, while the remaining 25 per cent would be after the commission confirms its satisfaction with the utilisation of monies released earlier.
”For the pilot phase, under the micro project, we are supporting 15 schools per state, including the FCT. For the macro project, we are supporting 50 schools per state. In special projects, we are supporting 120 of such,” he said.
Mr Kagara said the SBMC committee must pay 10 per cent of the total amount for project execution before they can access the 75 per cent.
He, however, lamented that poor funding and participation of key actors are some of the major challenges bedevilling quality and increased access to education in the country.