In north-west Nigeria, cash grants take out-of-school children back to school
In Katsina State, north-west Nigeria, cash grants are helping get more girls back to school through the Educate A Child (EAC) education partnership programme of the Education Above All Foundation (EAA) and UNICEF.
KATSINA, 22 August 2022 – Despite the pain of losing her father, 12-year-old Aisha Audi thought she would continue with her education after the mourning period for her father was over. Aisha’s hopes were soon dashed when she couldn’t join her classmates at Hamcheta Model Primary School, Mani, where she’s a pupil.
"My mother said it was better I sold petty goods and earned money because she had no money for my uniform and school fees,” explained Aisha.
“I knew I was going to miss my friends. More painfully, I realized I would never be the teacher I wanted to be in future if I continued to stay away from school. I felt sad anytime I thought about it,” she said.
Aisha’s mother also shared in the pains of seeing her daughter at home while other parents sent theirs to school.
“I knew that deep inside her, my mother hurt to see me hawk instead of going to school, but we had no money, so she couldn’t help the situation. She continued to search for help to send me back to school. I’m happy we got help and I’m now back to school,” said Aisha.
Through the Educate A Child (EAC) education partnership programme of the Education Above All Foundation (EAA) and UNICEF, Aisha was given uniforms by the Mothers’ Association in Mani after they heard of her story.
The Mothers’ Association in Mani tracks children who are out of school, mobilizes caregivers to enroll school age children in school, especially girls, and monitors to ensure children enrolled in school completed their education.
In addition to uniforms for Aisha, her mother received a cash grant 16,000 Naira so Aisha continued to go to school.
Schools received N250,000 grants through the EAC programme, while school-based management committee members and centre-based management committees of Integrated Qur’anic Schools were trained and are now tracking out of school children and convincing or helping caregivers send them back to school.
“Some schools used the grant to install hand-pump boreholes and provided learning materials,” said Zainab Abdulsalam, Chairperson of the Mothers’ Association in Mani local government area, upbeat that more school children were off the streets and heading to the classroom.
“Not only Aisha, but there are also hundreds of them who have returned to schools in Mani local government alone," added Abdulsalam.
Zinatu Sham'unu, 15, a pupil of Hamza Safana Integrated Quranic School whose mother received the cash grant, says it has been helpful. “The N16,000 my mother received is the reason I’m in school today,” she noted.
Zinatu’s school spent its N250,000 grant to roof three classrooms and built two toilets – one each for female and male students, said Malam Hamza Sulaiman, its proprietor. “The grant was also used to procure instructional materials for learners and teachers."
"I'll not end my studies at this school,” volunteered Zinatu. “I want to join a formal government girls’ junior secondary school and continue schooling," she said.
Aisha and Zinatu represent the 300,000 pupils – both boys and girls – who have returned to school, thanks to the financial support through the EAC cash grants.
Despite these efforts, in Katsina State, 536,132 children are currently out of school – largely due to poverty, social norms, and in recent times, nagging insecurity, amongst other barriers.
“We are grateful to the Education Above All Foundation and UNICEF for the EAC education Programme. We’ll monitor to ensure judicious use of the cash grants,” said Governor Aminu Masari of Katsina State at a cash disbursement ceremony in Mani.
Rahama Farah, Chief of UNICEF Field Office Kano, said: “Katsina’s success in increasing primary enrolment and completion is truly commendable. Yet most disadvantaged children in Katsina, as across northern Nigeria, remain excluded from education. I urge the government to take action to address this challenge.”
Ensuring no child of school age is out of school is the challenge Katsina State government and partners like UNICEF in partnership with the EAA have collaborated to tackle. And if the stories of Aisha and Zinatu are pointers to what result can be expected, then all hope may not be misplaced in the quest to get school age children in Katsina State off the streets and into schools.