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How 14yr female Quranic learner rejects early marriage,drives enrolment for girls education

By Ngozi Nwankwo

Among the 10 Integrated Quranic School, IQS, learners mainstreamed into formal education to pursue their future dreams, Ms Asma’u Dauda was the only female learner integrated into Girls Government Secondary School by Mkarantar Malam Sa’idu Taka-Tuku.

Founded in 1960 by late Malam Sa’Idu Taka-Tuku, the Makarantar is one of the IQS centres in Bondiga Local Government Area of Sokoto Sate benefitting from Girls Education Programme, GEP3.

The programme being implemented in six states of the north, including Sokoto state is aimed at improving girls’ enrolment in the target northern states, to complete basic education and acquire skills for life and livelihoods.

While the decision to include over 99 IQS Centres in Foreign,Commonwealth and Development Office, FCDO’s supported project, GEP3, and integrating in the Educational Management Information System, EMIS, has not only reduced the rate of the Out- of- School children in Sokoto and other beneficiary states, but also served as a major breakthrough to Makarantar Sa’idu Taka-Tuku and a dream came true for the young Asma’u Dauda who did not allow her learning to end in IQS, nor succumb to early marriage, and street hawking, instead, she transited to formal education.

Aspiring to become a medical doctor, Ms Dauda was directly mainstreamed into Girls Secondary School after using the IQS assessment- Early Grade Reading Assessment, EGRA, and Early Grade Mathematics Assessment, EGMA, to check capability of learners and where they fit in, and her excellent performance distinguished her from other learners.

Speaking to journalists who were on a field trip to the Makarantar Malam Sa’Idu Taka-Tuku to ascertain the level of progress and impact of integrating basic education in IQS through GEP3 Programme has made in the community of Takatuku, one of the facilitators of the Centre, Lauwali Sa’Idu said, ” So many things have changed in our centre since the implementation of GEP3 here. Through the small and macro school support grant we received from FCDO and support from UNICEF we have expanded our classrooms from one to three classrooms because of increase in enrolment. We have also achieved a major breakthrough by ensuring that learners, especially our girls are not ending here in the centre but transiting to formal education, Primary and Secondary Schools. Since two years now, we have mainstreamed about 10 learners into primary schools and nine of them were boys but the only girl amongst them was mainstreamed directly to Secondary school due to her outstanding performance.

Explaining further, the facilitator said, “Though mainstreaming Asma’u Dauda was a difficult task as it was done by a constant negotiation with her parents who like other parents in the community do not see education for girl child as a priority but a waste of resources and time. We had to convince her parents to allow her further her education beyond learning Quran. After much negotiations, her parents accepted with the condition of withdrawing their support with the reason that their family is financially constrained. This condition was accepted by the School- Based Management Committee,SBMC and facilitators of the centre because we know that one day this girl will make the community proud. So, what we did, we moved into action by providing all the basic things she needed for the school.”

Tolling the path of restoring the lost glory of Nigeria and bringing a lasting hope to her community, Ms Asma’u Dauda said her dream is to become a medical doctor, to provide medical services to her people and ensure a healthy community.

Indeed, to actualise this dream, it is no doubt a huge task for the poor young girl who found herself in an IQS Centre where literacy and numeracy were far fetched from school’s scheme of work, and where they existed, they could only be taught in a half baked due to lack of qualified teachers or facilitators/ of the IQS.

However, with the view to addressing this malaise, and improving education outcomes for girls, the GEP3 is driving positive change around the 14- year old girl and the entire Takatuku community.

While celebrating the success story of Ms Asma’ud Dauda, the Coordinator of the IQS, Aminu Bello Danchadi hinted that the young girl excelled academically because she dedicated her time to studying and teaching other young girls.
” FCDO, in collaboration with the Sokoto State has assisted many IQS centres in the north through intervention funds. Through the grants Makarantar Malam Sa’Idu Taka-Tuku received from the Foreign donor, the centre has witnessed many changes especially in the area of enrolment.

” The quality of learning has also changed as many learners here can read and write basic literacy and numeracy. Ms Asma’ud Dauda is one of our best learners before we mainstreamed her to GSS. Our daughter here was the only girl to transit from IQS to secondary school because she refused to marry like other girls here did. In fact, the whole community is pleased with her behavior, and how far she has been transformed within the period of this programme. The most amazing thing is, how she is recruiting other girls, saving them from the imminent danger of early marriage. Ms Dauda is a part of the success story of this project, as she is now an advocate for girls education and through her, we have almost 200 learners in each classroom, she drives enrolment as a result of that the centre needs to be expanded,” he said.

It is worthy of note that, the United Nations for Children’s Fund, UNICEF,which provides technical support has a target of enrolling one million girls to school in order to complete their basic education and acquire skills for life and livelihoods( enrolment, completion and learning), as well as improve capacity building for teachers to deliver learning for girls.

The eight years GEP3, extended with extra two years, has been since its inception, 2012, piloting a series of interventions in primary schools and Integrated Qur’anic schools, while those most effective in improving education outcomes for girls were scaled up.

During a three- day media dialogue on Girls Education Programme 3, held in Sokoto, the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, Chief of Field Office, Dr. Maryam Darwesh Said disclosed that, since the introduction of the GEP3 in 2012, FCDO has at least, donated about $109,196, 039.80 to support Nigerian government reduce out of school children.

The six states that are benefiting from the GEP3 supported schools, according to Said include Bauchi, Katsina, Niger, Sokoto, Zamfara and Kano.

While many stakeholders in their own submission, said that, addressing the issue of 10. 5 million Out of School Children in Nigeria remains a mirage due to some militating factors such as insecurity, attack on schools, culture, early marriage, religion,poverty that orchestrated it to this high rate, the GEP3 is seriously savaging the challenges.

Sokoto State was in the past, considered one of the States in Nigeria with the highest rate of out of school children.

While the out- of- school children has posed serious concerns to the country’s educational system over the years, the consequences of not sending children of school-age to school are hugely felt on the economy. It increases the rate of insecurity, child marriage which has its attendant health implementations; high rate of child labour, rape and other social vices, said experts.

Delivering her presentation on ‘ Why educating girls is important’, the Education Manager, UNICEF Field Office, Sokoto, Miriam Mareso said limited educational opportunities for girls,and barriers to completing one + 12years of education cost countries between US$15 trillion and $30 trillion in lost lifetime productivity and earnings, saying that addressing all these factors could help
lift households, communities, and countries out of poverty.

On the impact of GEP3 in reducing the rate of out of school children in Nigeria, Mareso expressed joy that over 1.3 million girls have been enrolled in primary and Integrated Quranic Schools,IQS, which according to her, exceeded the targeted 1million girls in the six states since 2012.

It is no doubt that, with the financial assistance from FCDO and technical support from UNICEF, Sokoto state is now on the list of high enrolment states, and the Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu testified this increase in his recent ministerial briefing with the State House Correspondents in Abuja, on Thursday 18th August.

Also, the report on impacts of GEP3 in Sokoto and Zamfara as delivered by an Education Officer, Sokoto state, Malam Tukur Labbo,showed that FCDO’s school small and macro grants have birthed a new hope to many benefiting communities and IQS centres.

Labbo highlighted the key interventions of the project on increase access to and demand for girls education to include: State to Community enrolment drives by SBMCs, Mothers Association, MAs with support from State and LGA; Action to build girl-friendly learning environments, creating better retention and demand for new access – SBMCs, MAs & G4G groups, using gender-sensitive whole school development plans; Action to improve attitudes towards girls’ enrolment and completion, through community campaigns, peer support to girls and family negotiation – by SBMCs,
MAs & G4G groups; and HiLWA advocacy to promote Girls Education.

The ripple effects of the interventions, according to him have also been felt in primary schools where about 1,302,004 enrolled out of which, 418,614 girls from Sokoto and 883,390 girls Zamfara. This is an increase of 709,352 (Sokoto: 414,889; Zamfara 294,463) since
2012.
In partnership with the state, enrolment drive and back to school institutionalised in all Primary Schools including 1,634 (Sokoto:761; Zamfara: 873) GEP3 focus schools.

It has also recorded SBMC/MA and G4G functionality at 78% where
(SK:77.5%; ZM:78%). Series of advocacies on Girls Education and increased leadership spaces for female.3,168 (SK:3,093; ZM:75) Female teachers employed and deployed to teach.

Capacity of teachers to deliver effective learning for girls has also received a boost as a result of FCDO’s intervention funds . According to Malam Tukur Labo, the key interventions of the GEP3 on teachers’ capacity building in Sokoto and Zamfara are Better school management and pedagogical leadership through head teacher training; Better teacher / IQS facilitator teaching through frequent, local in-service training and mentoring; Models of teacher training meet different levels of need according to
context.
Other interventions include: Female teachers are prioritised in selection for training; Foundational learning is boosted through the early learning ( literacy/numeracy) approach, with focus on teaching and community
support (ESSPIN, RANA, Mukaranta).

The interventions, however, have yielded results as about 913 head teachers, 12 of them were female acquired knowledge and skills on school management, and hold professional development meetings with staff and provide pedagogical leadership. 758 of the head teachers are from Sokoto while 155 head teachers from Zamfara.

It has also improved pedagogical knowledge and skills by 1,280 (86 female), while Sokoto-880; and Zamfara-400 teachers/IQS facilitators teaching – through frequent, local in-service training and mentoring.

According to Labo, the foundational learning is boosted through the early learning (literacy/numeracy) approach, with focus on teaching and community support (Mukaranta, RANA, ESSPIN, HASKE) reaching 554,620 learners, Sokoto 55,519 while Zamfara 499101.
Meanwhile, many concerned citizens have raised an eyebrow on the sustainability of this programme in schools even after the end of GEP3, while satisfying their curiosity, the Consultant of Makarantar Malam Sa’Idu Taka-Tuku, Mrs Hadiza Abrahim expressed optimism that states will sustain the project as communities have keyed into the project, mobilising funds and driving recruitment themselves.

“Through capacity building training I received from UNICEF through support from FCDO I was able to convince the community of Takatuku to support the Proprietors of Makarantar Malam Sa’Idu Taka-Tuku who are coaching their children. The first thing I did was to include the centre in SBMC’s data and they were able to access FCDO’s small and macro grants to improve learning environment. Before now, learners here and some Almajiris who come around here to learn were sitting under the trees and when it is raining children of the community will start running home because there was no shelter while the Almajiris who came from other places would stay in the only one classroom they had. The story has changed because of the grants the managers of this centre collected. They have expanded their classroom to two more. Honestly, learning here is becoming stronger every day, enrolment is also increasing everyday. We see things happen here everyday, the community do things themselves, they have even started mobilising funds and materials to build a temporary shelter to accommodate learners, and planning on erecting fence to ensure security of their learners. We usually have facilitators’ meeting where all facilitators will come together, tell us their action plan on how to sustain the project. I am Happy we are really achieving the aim and I am sure the facilitators will sustain the project,” said Ibrahim.

Also, the facilitators in gratitude to FCDO for its assistance, assured that the project will be sustained in their centre. They said the project has brought a lot of developments to the community and has also supported families that are financially poor via Cash Transfer intervention.

The facilitators, however, identified distance as one of the major challenges affecting girls enrolment in Secondary Schools, calling for more assistance to acquire school buses that would convey children to school and bring them back.

” One of the challenges here is that secondary schools are far from us as a result of that, parents are not allowing their girls to trek long distance because of insecurity.

This is unlike some other communities like Wurno that have school buses that pick their girls. drop them to school and bring them back home. These are the things we are struggling for, we are mobilising funds and still need assistance to acquire school bus,” they said.

In the same vein, Ms Asma’ud Dauda, assured she will continue to recruit her friends and follow them up to ensure they finish from IQS centres and transit to formal education.

“Today I have become an agent of girls’ enrolment because I have been talking to my friends that are hawking in the streets the importance of education, I teach them all the things our facilitators taught me especially in the areas of hygiene, moral behavior, literacy and numeracy. I’m also telling my girl friends the danger child marriage poses on health and the need for them to go to school. My lifestyle is attracting many young people to me, when my friends see me they like coming to me, wanting to be like me and for that many girls are now leaving the streets to join our centre and they are learning faster so they could be mainstreamed to Secondary schools like me,” she said.
Apart from Ms Dauda, a field trip to Government Girls’ Day Secondary School, Bodinga,where Girl for Girls (G4G) project is ongoing, revealed that, many girls have embraced formal education and were happy together.

Ms Amina Aliyu, 10, during an interview in GGDSS told our correspondent that she will not stop going to school even though the project ends.
” I like coming to school because of G4G. My mother was worried that I will no longer assist her in domestic chores but she is happy now because of the support she got from the project, she bought a refrigerator and she is selling drinks at home instead of hawking. I can also discuss freely with my friends, I am no longer shy. I am happy for G4G and even if the programme ends I will still be coming to school,” she said.

While the Principal of the Government Girls’ Day Secondary School, Bodinga, Hajia Amina Abubakar appreciated FCDO for the various intervention funds, she appealed to SBMC Chairmen to ensure that corporal punishments are abolished in schools, this according to her,will increase enrolment of girls in schools and ensure sustainability.

She called on the beneficiary states to invest hugely on education especially on girls education.

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