How UNICEF’s G4G is transforming girls’ education in Katsina
So far, 292 schools have witnessed astounding surge in girls’ enrolment and over 10,000 girls and 3700 members of Mothers Association received series of training on leadership and life skills in 9 local governments under UNICEF’s G4G programme. As the project winds down in December 2020, Godfrey AKON reports on the success story.
Halimatu Yusuf, 10, and Amina Ibrahim, 12, showcased what remained of their sales- knitted works, bottles of liquid soap, izal, and air fresheners, all proofs of their newly-acquired skills.
Clad in their uniforms and hijabs, both pupils of Sada Primary School, Kankia re-counted how mentors trained them in vocational skills, personal hygiene and social skills after enrolling in UNICEF’s G4G initiative.
Growing up among peers gripped by a culture of hawking during school hours, Halimatu and Amina, both in primary four and six, rather chose learning, and now produce and sell their own items while also attending school.
“I was in school before UNICEF introduced G4G in 2018 and I appreciate the transformation the programme has brought to me. The skills I acquired have helped me to produce items that I sell to help my parents and younger ones,” Halimatu said.
Amina and Halimatu are among over 10,000 girls from 292 schools in nine local governments, who have received series of training on leadership and life skills under UNICEF’s G4G programme.
The duo aspire to become teachers and are, undoubtedly, the insignia of an emerging educational revolution in Sada Primary School, Kankia and other parts of Katsina State.
Sada Primary School, located 68.1 kilometres from Katsina City, has evolved into a symbol of the unparalleled success of a determined response against low girls enrolment and out-of-school children.
Established in 1953, the school currently has a population of 1,420 pupils- 789 girls and 678 boys, most of whom are products of the state and its development partners’ enrolment campaigns.
Despite being one of the oldest schools in Kankia Local Government, its enrolment only grew in the past two years after the implementation of the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF’s, G4G programme, an initiative under phase 3 of the Girls Education Project, GEP3, funded by the UK Department for International Development, DFID.
According to the Headmaster of the school, Malam Yusuf Hassan, the surge in girls’ enrolment is attributed to the vital role played by UNICEF through its G4G programme, and some girls who rejected school before now were challenged by the skills acquired by their peers to hurriedly enrol.
Hassan said UNICEF’s local partners such as the School Based Management Committee, SBMC, Mothers Association, G4G mentors and Town Criers, as well as religious leaders were also deeply involved in sensitising members of the community on the need to send their children to school.
He noted that sometimes the school also adopted the approach of dramatizing the effect of not sending girls to school in order to encourage parents to enrol their children.
UNICEF’s Gender Desk Officer in Katsina State Universal Basic Education Board, SUBEB, Mrs. Hauwa Kaikai, said the G4G initiative which is aimed at improving girls’ retention in schools and empowering them with leadership and life skills to become a voice for girls’ education in northern Nigeria, will be sustained by the state when it winds down in December.
Kaikai disclosed that UNICEF recently trained education managers, including local government education secretaries, commissioner of education, DPRS SUBEB, and social mobilisation officers at the local government to include the G4G leadership and life skills in school curriculum so that when G4G finally goes away, the schools would adopt the process and proceed with it.
“In Katsina, we have G4G in 9 GEP3 local governments where we have 292 schools with more than 10,000 girls, who have received series of training on leadership and life skills both at the cluster, state and national level. They have been participated in the international day of the girl child. Reading hubs have also been introduced for the G4G girls.
“The mothers associations go together with the G4G because in each catchment area of these 292 G4G schools that we have we selected 25 mothers association members and trained them on the roles and responsibilities as mothers to increase enrolment and sensitise the parents and the community to bring back out of school children.
“As at today, we have trained 3700 members of mothers association in 292 schools in 9 LGAs. They were trained on skills acquisition. UNICEF usually bring them at the state or national level to come together with other states mothers association to share the experience of what they are doing.
“The G4G programme has increased the enrolment of girls in school and their level of education, peer-to-peer interaction and the girls acquired knowledge on child abuse, confidence, self-esteem, hygiene and many more. There has been difference in their learning outcome,” she said.
Across the state, worrying indices of low girl-child enrolment are disappearing with long-held traditions, cultural, religious and social practices that limited the girls from attaining their full potentials academically.
At Pilot Science Primary School, Kankara Town, in Kankara L.G.A, the Head Teacher, Umar Mani, disclosed that the school with 818 student population, has 393 girls and 425 boys.
Mani attributed the robust increase in enrolment of girls in the school to the combined efforts of the G4G initiative and other stakeholders, adding that before the programme began in 2018, the school’s enrolment for both boys and girls stood at 400.
He said the programme also helped retention and transition of girls from lower to higher classes; and provided empowerment such as vocational skills, knitting, and sewing, among others, to its members.
Vice Chairman of the School Based Management Committee, SBMC, Surajo Lawal Jobe, who appreciated UNICEF for its interventions in the school, said the SBMC, in partnership with G4G mentors and teachers, has been actively engaged in a door-to-door enlightenment of parents to enrol their children in school.
Surajo said a lot of parents have enrolled their children as a result of the enrolment campaign of the SBMC and others.
He added that SBMC was also assisting the school financially, adding that much of the contribution of the committee to the school was shouldered by one of its members, Mr. Musa Ibrahim, who has often contributed about half of whatever the committee does.
One of the G4G mentors and a member of the Mothers Association, Mrs. Balaraba Ibrahim, said as mentors, they provided training for the pupils and they can now knit sets of sweaters by themselves and sell to members of the public.
Ibrahim said the girls have become helpful in providing assistance to their parents through the sale of knitted materials, a situation that has taken the girls off the street and away from hawking as the girls can sell their wares at home or in the school.
For 14-year-old Hauwa'u Tukur of Dambo Tukur Model Primary School, Ingawa, her dream of completing primary school, is now being realised, two years after dropping out school.
Hauwa'u was in primary five when her father died from an undisclosed illness. Soon after the death of her father, her ambition of completing primary school early enough was shattered as she was unable to buy uniforms and writing materials for herself, leading to her dropping out.
As the first daughter of a family of 10 children, her ordeal mirrored the plight of her nine siblings. But Hauwa'u’s hope was restored when the Mothers Association under G4G took steps to re-enrol her in school.
According to her, the school’s mothers association bought uniforms for her and brought her back to school, and she is now determined to transit to secondary school, and proceed to university to read medicine.
Hauwa'u also learned vocational skills such as earrings-making, and beads which have helped her to sustain herself.
Across all schools in the five local governments visited by our team, life-changing testimonies were shared by beneficiaries of UNICEF interventions.
The Head Teacher of Nuhu Model Primary School, Kankara, Bashir Shitu Idris, said the school, which was established in 1948 has a total of 3,175 students, 1666 boys and 1509 girls, stating that the high number of girls’ enrolment was the result of G4G.
Shitu said the programme has reduced hawking during school hours in the local government, noting that before the introduction of the programme, the school's population was less than 2000.
UNICEF Desk Officer in Kankara LGA, Mrs. Jamila Ahmed, said there are about 33 schools where the G4G programme is being implemented in the local government.
Ahmed said each of the schools has as many as 25 or 20 students per group and each school has 3 groups and are taken care of a mentor each.
She noted that several trainings have been conducted by UNICEF through its G4G programme for the girls on leadership and life skills, as well as the training of some boys on how to support the girls on enrolment, attendance, retention, completion and transportation to the next level of education.
“Also the mothers association were trained. Each school has 25 members of the mothers association. They were all trained on their roles and responsibilities, how to mobilize the wider communities on the importance of girls education and they are encouraging parents to be allowing their children to attend school.
“With this G4G street hawking is drastically reducing. The mothers association used to have contribution which they use to support less privileged children such as providing them with uniforms, learning materials and even breakfast money that will help them to stay in school,” she said.
Ahmed said although there were still some girls who are not enrolled in the school, their number was drastically reducing because of effective implementation of the G4G programme.
Home Based Virtual Learning
On the state-wide home based virtual learning programme supported by UNICEF in response to Covid-19 and school closure, some pupils at Dandagoro Model Primary School in Batagarawa L.G.A, expressed delight at the learning opportunity the programme afforded them.
Fifteen-year-old Salim Bello said he tuned in using his parents' phones and learned simple sentences and spellings. Others who also said they learned a lot from the programme include 15-year-old Abubakar Sahalu, 13-year-old Farida Abbas, 13-year-old Zulfau Abubakar, and Hauwa Isah, all in primary six.
Zainab Kaita, Director Planning, Research and Statistics at SUBEB and UNICEF focal person, who spoke on the impact of the home based virtual learning during the Covid-19 pandemic, said state-wide virtual learning commenced in June and was sustained for several month.
Kaita said the programme, which was supported by UNICEF in collaboration with SUBEB and five media houses targeted primary 1-3, to improve reading culture amongst pupils and bridged the academic gap brought by the closure of schools.
She estimated over 3449 pupils who participated in the virtual training programme which was transmitted through the radio.
According to her, the programme has brought reforms in education planning, adding that henceforth, e-learning and deployment of ICT would be considered as part of education planning process.
She said SUBEB later expanded the virtual learning programme to include primary 3,4 and 6 due to requests from parents.
Kaita however said a few challenges were recorded in the virtual learning programme such as power failure, lack of radio sets in remote communities to enable pupils listen to their lessons, as well as inadequate materials on literacy and numeracy.
Kaita further noted the impact of enrolment drive in Katsina State, stressing that the out-of-school children population was rapidly dropping as there is a rise in admissions among girls and boys due to the state's campaign.
She identified three areas the state government has factored into the state's annual budget to improve enrolment and quality to include: scaling up enrolment drive, female teachers trainee scholarship, and the annual school census.
She said the state Governor, Aminu Bello Masari, has the political will to develop education in Katsina as he has made it his first priority, adding that the three programmes for sustainability were supported by SUBEB and Basic Education Service Delivery for All, BESDA.
Further affirming her position, the Chairman of Katsina SUBEB, Alhaji Lawal Buhari, assured of the state government's commitment to sustain relevant interventions in education as education is the government’s area of priority attention.
Buhari disclosed that the government is currently carrying out a state-wide renovation and furnishing of classrooms as well as construction of new ones.
“When we came in, a lot of chairs were damaged and some classrooms were dilapidated but six years into this administration, salaries have been promptly paid while promotion of teachers has been regular,” he said.
While noting that due to shortage of teachers, the governor introduced S-power, a replica of the federal government N-Power programme, for both primary and secondary schools, he disclosed tha under the programme, Diploma and NCE holders are paid N20,000 while Degree holders are paid N25,000 monthly.
He expressed gratitude to UNICEF and other donor agencies for the support, noting that given the governor's commitment to education, the issue of sustainability of the programmes would be tackled.
High Level Women Advocacy (HILWA)
While speaking on advocacy for girls’ education, the Chairperson of High Level Women Advocacy, HILWA, Hon. Mariya Abdullahi, together with the Secretary of the advocacy group, Mrs Wasilat Saulawa, said over 600 female head teachers have been trained by the organization, stating that before the year ends, 200 more would be trained.
They disclosed that Katsina State was now having an appreciable number of girls who have transited from primary to secondary school and from junior secondary to senior secondary school.
According to the officials, HILWA has submitted two draft bills to the Katsina State House of Assembly in its effort to mainstream gender issues in the state laws.
One of the bills which seeks 35 per cent of education decision making positions to be given to women has passed second reading and currently at the level of public hearing before passage.
They also noted that a second bill which provides for compulsory and direct access to education for every school-age child, has also passed second reading.
Saulawa said if the two bills are assented to, Katsina State would receive the biggest boost in its education system.
Reading and Numeracy Activities (RANA) and HASKE
On the Reading and Numeracy Activities, RANA, UNICEF's focal person at Isa Kaita College of Education, Dutsima, Hajia Hauwa Mohammed, said the programme was implemented in six local governments.
Mohammed said the idea was to use an activity based plan to teach the pupils how to read and write in Hausa in line with the national policy on education which provides that lower basic education should be in the language of the immediate environment.
She disclosed that FHI360 were first to bring RANA to Katsina State but completed their project before UNICEF took over, adding that teachers from Primary 1-3 are selected from the Global Partnership for Education, GEP3, intervention local governments to train them on the implementation of the teaching methodology in the schools where UNICEF is intervening.
According to her, the programme has expanded to 9 local governments of the state and Educate a Child, EAC, was also intervening in 3 local governments so UNICEF has adopted 12 local governments and GPE has done about 18 local governments while UBEC is doing the rest, so practically the entire state is being covered by RANA.
"But in our 6 intervention local governments, I have trained over 1000 primary 1-3 teachers on RANA methodologies; the six LGAs are Faskari, Kankara, Basari, Baure, Rimi and Kankia.
"In fact, the impact is better seen than imagined; now an average primary one pupil that his teacher has gone through RANA training would be able to read better than a primary 6 pupil in another school that RANA has not intervened. And they are being able to read in Hausa, which is the indigenous language in Katsina State," she said.
According to her, she was proposing to train additional 436 teachers of Primary 1-3 from Educate a Child, EAC, local governments, Mani, Kafure and Safana that UNICEF has just adopted.
She expressed confidence that the state has a plan to sustain the programme because it has Better Education Services Delivery for All, BESDA where sustainability will come in as UBEC is intervening and the state is intervening.
“The plan for GEP3 was to bring back one million girls in school and just recently, we returned from Jigawa on Saturday, about about 960,000 to 970,000 girls are back in school now. So we have met the target as far as GEP3 is concerned,” she said.
She said there are Quranic schools that have also been targeted in all the 12 local governments that UNICEF is intervening where the same RANA methodologies are being implemented.
“What happens is that we go and advocate to the mallams. He accepts and we give him a choice of giving us two days in a week where a young adult within the community would be picked up trained on this methodology on the payroll of UNICEF, with a little stipends. This is called HASKE. It is the same as RANA but only the Hausa version of it.
“We hope that this will help us curb the menace of what we call the Almajiris because in every intervention, UNICEF gives grant where the mallam does not use the grant for his own personal use, but either for toilet, water or additional hostels where the children will be more comfortable.
“We have intervened in over 1000 Quranic schools, at least 200 local Quranic schools in each of the 12 local governments. UNICEF's intervention has also brought stability to the Mallams as the do not need to be moving from one place to another,” Mohammed said.
At Hassan Usman Primary School Kankia, Ladidi Ahmadu, one of the teachers who benefited from the training on RANA methodologies, said the programme enabled her to develop capacity to deliver instruction better.
Ahmadu said the RANA programme also improved the performance of both teachers and pupils, adding that a lot of changes in writing and reading have been observed since the implementation of the RANA.
Another teacher, Hadiza Hussaini, said with the RANA methodology, “even primary one pupils can read the alphabet and two letter words. As a teacher the RANA programme has assisted me in many ways; I now teach better and wish the programme should continue.”
Sustainability of GEP3 interventions
While commenting on sustainability of GEP3 interventions, UNICEF’s Gender Desk Officer in Katsina State Ministry of Education, Hajia Binta Mohammed, lauded UNICEF for the technical support provided to the state in conducting its ASC since 2018, stressing that the state has a sustainability plan to sustain the annual school census when GEP3 ends.
Mohammed noted that the state had trained local government personnel and its Management Information System staff to generate data and send to the data bank of the Ministry of Education.
She stressed the importance of data in the development of the state’s sector plan, adding that the previous ASC furnished the state with the information that there are some communities or local governments that need more schools.
She said the state government also used the annual school census to plan for the school feeding programme, stating that data was vital to the states’ intervention in education, and by November, the government would kick off the 2020/2021 school census.
“In terms of quality of teaching and learning, UNICEF, under GEP3 did a lot in our state. As at now, all the head teachers and assistant head teachers, principals and vice principals were trained on school record keeping and how to fill the annual school census question. And even now, UNICEF is trying to support us to train another 3203 additional teachers on school record keeping so that we will have reliable and credible data in the state,” she said.
According to her, the state was at the stage of concluding entry of its 2019/2020 annual school census, ASC, data and proceed to validation before releasing the statistics later in the year.
She maintained that when released, some gaps observed in the previous data would be bridged as both enrolment and quality of education as well as the transition rate of girls in the states have improved significantly.
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