Displaced girls’ education gets boost

A school renovation by UNICEF, with support from philanthropist Nazanin Alakija, is turning around learning in north-east Nigeria

Folashade Adebayo, Communications Officer, UNICEF Nigeria
A girl at a learning centre
UNICEF Nigeria
01 December 2020

Bintu Abba Kura, school principal at the Yerwa Government Girls Secondary School in Maiduguri, north-east Nigeria, was all smiles on Monday. As she made her daily rounds through the school premises, the blocks of newly painted classrooms, accommodation and toilets reflected her happy mood. She moved from one classroom to another, admiring the gleaming renovation work.

“We have never had it this good in this school,’’ said Principal Kura. “This is one of the oldest schools in Borno State, but we were living in fear. Students were not happy because our classrooms were dilapidated. Windows broken. We were always praying that nothing would happen at night, because we never had electricity in our accommodation. But now we have electricity and a conducive learning environment. We are grateful to UNICEF and everyone who made this possible,’’ she said.

Principal Kura’s joy is understandable. She has served as principal for two years, and vice principal for 15 years. According to her, the classrooms were replete with caving roofs, gaping floors and broken windows for years. For a boarding school of 3,265 students, she said it was challenging for the students to study at night.

Bintu Abba Kura, school principal at the Yerwa Government Girls Secondary School, Maiduguri
UNICEF Nigeria
Bintu Abba Kura, school principal at the Yerwa Government Girls Secondary School, Maiduguri, Borno State.

But a school renovation by UNICEF, supported by philanthropist Nazanin Alakija, ended the perennial cycle of darkness at the school. Just before schools resumed after the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown across the state, massive renovation work, including painting, welding and repairs of broken doors and windows of toilets, classrooms and sleeping quarters were carried out. Ceiling fans were fixed to classrooms and sleeping quarters, while connections to electricity were installed.

According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), a conducive learning environment can result in improved student motivation, attendance and academic achievement.

“Now our girls cannot believe it. Our outgoing girls are sad they won’t be able to enjoy it for long. These are displaced children, whose only source of psychosocial support comes from the school environment. There are girls from Bama, Auno, Maffa, Damasak, Baga, Monguno and Bakassi here. This is a project that will speak for generations. We are extremely happy,” said Principal Kura.

A teacher at the school, Abdullahi Sheriff, said the renovation would lead to improvements in teaching and learning outcomes.

“The girls can now work on their assignments in their accommodation, after class. Before now they were living in dark rooms. There were connections to electricity, but none was functioning. There have been false alarms because they would start screaming if they heard a little noise, fearful of intruders. But now, we can manage the situation. Everyone can see at night. Teaching and learning can continue without delay. The girls are happy - but the teachers are perhaps even happier, ‘’ he said.