From homelessness to an assured future
Hope is rising for Yagana, a formerly unaccompanied child who has found a new family and has been enrolled in school in north-east Nigeria
Last year, when Yagana Modu enrolled in a school in Kopa, a small community on the outskirts of Maiduguri, north-east Nigeria, it was not simply an end to a six years’ out-of-school experience. For the 12-year-old whose mother is late and father’s whereabouts unknown, it was a needed pathway to new friendships, learning and healing from the trauma of armed conflict.
“I first noticed Yagana at the Stadium IDP camp in Maiduguri in 2019. She was very small and homeless.’’ said Yusuf Alhaji Said, the community leader at Kopa. In 2018, villagers in Kopa had fled to the Stadium IDP camp in Maiduguri when members of a Non-state Armed Group (NSAG)occupied their settlement.
While the IDP camp was inhabited by displaced people fleeing conflict from far communities, many residents were from nearby Kopa. When the camp closed on the instructions of the Borno State Government in 2021, Said and his people from Kopa relocated to Konduga, another community on the outskirts of Maiduguri, the capital city. But that was the beginning of another displacement cycle for the community.
‘In no time, we were back in Kopa. Insecurity was rife in Konduga and we had to move back to our original settlement. Again, I noticed Yagana in Konduga and later here in Kopa. She was still unaccompanied. There were many children in that condition. But a good Samaritan took her in with his family, ‘’ said Said.
With the support of the School-based Management Committee (SBMC) of the Kopa Learning Centre, the only school in the community, Said was able to convince Yagana’s guardian to enroll her in school. Supported by UNICEF through the Partnership for Learning for All in Nigerian Education (PLANE)project of the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), the school provides quality education services for formerly displaced children.
Teachers in the school have been trained on the delivery of psychosocial and the prevention of sexual exploitation support to children.
With 1.3m children, Borno State has the highest number of out-of-school children in Nigeria’s conflict-ravaged north-east region. More than half of displaced children across the region do not attend school while majority of those in school are not accessing quality education.
To improve the quality of education available to children enrolled in school, UNICEF is supporting Yagana’s school and others with the Teaching at the Right Level (TaRL) and the Kanuri Arithmetic and Reading Instructions (KARI) methodologies.
The methodologies ensure that children learn first in their mother tongue through fun activities aimed at improving their literacy and numeracy skills.
“Yagana will go places,’’ said Yamira Kaka Mallum, Yagana’s class teacher.
“From the moment, she joined my class seven months ago, she has displayed an uncommon eagerness to learn. Her numeracy skills have improved, although I know her literacy skills will also improve with time,’’ she added.
Indeed, hope is rising for Yagana who is bonding with her new family and dreams of becoming a teacher.
“I just want to share knowledge, that is why I want to be a teacher,’’ said a shy Yagana.