Getting out-of-school children back to classrooms in north-west Nigeria

Educate A Child, a global programme of the Education Above All Foundation, brings hope for education

Samuel Kaalu, Communication Specialist, UNICEF Nigeria
A girl in the classroom
UNICEF/Nigeria/2021/Kaalu
22 April 2021

KATSINA, 22 APRIL 2021 - Inside one of the classrooms at the Kafur Model Primary School, 14-year-old Majidda Hussain and her classmates pay attention to a lesson with obvious enthusiasm.

Majidda is not only the first to raise her hand to respond to a question from the teacher, she goes to the board to show she understands the topic. With a stick, she points to each word on the board and reads it out while the class responds as a group.

Just two years earlier, when a lack of money forced Majidda to drop out of school, this wouldn’t have seemed possible. While Majidda had long dreamed of going to university and becoming a doctor, she instead became a statistic: just one of the millions of school-age children in Nigeria not in school – most of them from Nigeria’s north.

Happily, Majidda is now back in the classroom, and her dreams once again seem attainable.

A girl in the classroom
UNICEF/Nigeria/2021/Kaalu
Majidda participates in class activities at Kafur Model Primary School, Katsina State, north-west Nigeria. Two years ago, Majidda dropped out of school because she had no school uniform. Through the EAC project, the Kafur School-based Management Committee (SBMC) supported with skills on tracking out of school children, found Majidda and helped return her to school. Now back to school, Majidda’s dream of becoming a medical doctor is still attainable

“I’m happy to be back in school,” she said. “I want to become a doctor one day and help women and girls.”

Through Educate A Child (EAC), a global programme of the Education Above All Foundation, implemented by UNICEF in collaboration with the government in the north-west Nigerian States of Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto and Zamfara, UNICEF has trained school-based management committees (SBMCs) to track out-of-school children and encourage their caregivers to send them to school.

The implementation of the EAC and  UNICEF programme involves both community mapping of out-of-school children and a campaign to get children back in school. In addition to capacity building of SBMC members and teachers, schools in the four EAC project states have been supplied textbooks, learning charts, posters and other learning materials through UNICEF.

In Majidda’s case, the problem wasn’t school fees, but that she couldn’t afford the cost of a school uniform.

“We found her during one of our campaigns to track out-of-school children,” said Ahmed Garba, 45, chairman of the Kafur SBMC.

“When we learned that the lack of a school uniform was the reason Majidda had dropped out of school, we provided one for her. We are glad she’s now back to school,’’ he said.

SBMC members visit parents in their homes and also talk to worshippers in mosques and churches about the importance of enrolling and keeping their children in school. “Sometimes families tell us they don’t have money to provide breakfast for their children at school and we support them with that,” said Garba.

Students in class
UNICEF/Nigeria/2021/Kaalu
Majidda’s school mates at Kafur Model Primary School in a class. Thanks to the Educate A Child (EAC) project, enrolment figures at the school are now improving.

Maryam Idris, 11, and Ibrahim Garba, 13, had never before had a taste of a classroom. They are now pupils of Kafur Model Primary School, after the SBMC convinced their parents to enroll them.

“School enrolment figures at Kafur have increased from 1,439 to 1,627 since the last community mapping of out-of-school children in Kafur in 2019,” said Dauda Muhammed Lawal, the school’s head teacher.

Through the EAC project, UNICEF and Education Above All have set a target of getting 500,000 out-of-school children back into classrooms by June 2022.

If the enrolment figures at Kafur are anything to go by, there is ample reason for optimism they can achieve these goals.