Kano parents taking responsibility for safe schools reopening

In Kano, the Mothers Association, Schools Based Management Committee of Ja'en Special Primary School, is purchasing supplies to make sure the school is safe for students

Samuel Kaalu, Communication Specialist, UNICEF Nigeria; Alex Uangbaoje
A girl wearing a facemask in northern Nigeria
UNICEF Nigeria/2020/Owoicho
26 October 2020

For Hauwa Muhammad, the end of September has brought both hopeful news and a great sense of responsibility.

"We are happy that the children are about to return to school. That is why we have been engaging mothers in our communities on the need to start preparing their children for resumption,” says Hauwa, Coordinator, Mothers Association, Schools Based Management Committee (SBMC) of Ja'en Special Primary School, Gwale Local Government Area, Kano State.

For her, the good news is that after six months of school closures due to COVID-19, the Federal Government recently gave approval to state governments to reopen schools beginning as early as Sept. 21. But with the openings come the question of how safe the schools are for the children and what role are the parents playing to ensure their safety.

"We are responsible for the return of our children back to school, so we are not leaving any stone unturned in making sure we provide all that is required for them to be safe,” she says. “We have made up our minds as mothers to do all we can without necessarily waiting or relying on government outrightly in the education of our children.”

Mothers Associations are sub-committees of SBMCs, which are in turn established in Nigeria by state governments in order to bridge the gap between government schools and communities.

They are a form of community ownership and involvement in school governance, with members that are elected volunteers.

Mothers Association, Schools Based Management Committee (SBMC) of Ja'en Special Primary School
UNICEF Nigeria/2020/Uangbaoje
Some members of the Mothers Association, Schools Based Management Committee (SBMC) of Ja'en Special Primary School, Kano State.

For the Ja’en Mothers Association, some of that community ownership takes the form of purchasing supplies to make sure the school is safe for students.

“We have bought 200 buckets, as well as hand sanitizers, washing soaps, 2300 face masks, first aid drugs and writing materials, all waiting to be distributed among schools in Ja'en and its neighborhood,” said Hauwa. "During the lockdown, we also made sure the students participated in all the e-learning on both radio and television. So for us, we are ready and the safety of our children is guaranteed."

Kabiru Ado, Chairman of the Ja’en SBMC, said the committee has also taken steps to ensure the school compound is disinfected by fumigating the building, cutting overgrown grass and improving the grounds.

"The entire compound is waterlogged, so we need sand to fill it up before the children resume,” he said.

And with the need to ensure physical distancing among students and teachers, the committee is hoping to add additional space to the school.

“We are appealing to the government to fulfill the promise they made to us that they were going to build a block of two story classrooms to create more space for the children,” Kabiru said.

While Kano State has yet to announce its reopening date, the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) is also deep into preparations, says Hajiya Amina Umar, the board’s Director of Social Mobilization,

“The SUBEB training department has concluded all arrangement for training of over 4000 teachers and purchased sanitary facilities such as buckets and sanitizer for schools for a start,” she said. “The items have arrived to be distributed.”

With responsibility for more than 1300 schools in the state, the SUBEB has to deal with SBMCs to address issues as they come up.

“Kano is challenging due to its large number of population and enrolment. We have situation of over 100 pupils in one class and the committee is working to ensure compliance with the COVID-19 Presidential Task Force on protocols,” said Haiya.

UNICEF has supported state-level SBMCs by providing them with orientation and has also since 2012 been running the Girls Education Project 3 (GEP3), funded by the UK’s FCDO, which operates in several states in Northern Nigeria and aims to improve social and economic opportunity for girls through education.