Internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Borno State, Northeast Nigeria, have blamed the non-availability of teachers in schools provided for their children in camps as one of the reasons their idle wards take to the streets.
Most IDP camps in Borno State have makeshift learning centres provided for them by the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) as part of the Fund’s commitment to ensuring that “all children, no matter where they live or what circumstances they are in, have the right to quality education.”
UNICEF does not only provide education to the children but also school bags, each filled with books and study materials.
However, in most cases, after the colourful ceremonies that usually herald the opening of the learning centres, things would begin to go wrong in terms of standard and attendance.
HumAngle gathered that the learning centres are run mainly by teachers posted on secondment from conventional public schools.
Some parents lamented that after about a week or two of establishing the school, the teachers hardly show up in classes.
“Our children would wake up as early as possible to be in classes only to end up using the entire class hours for playing and running around,” said Abba Mustapha, an IDP in Muna Alamdari camp.
“Unicef provided the learning centre for us, but no one is there to take care of the pupil, and that worries us a lot.
“Over time, some of the parents became discouraged seeing that their children are not getting any lessons but rather play all day only to return home hungry; so they decided to stop them from attending classes,” he said.
Though Mustapaha had agreed that hunger and lack of means to make a decent living may be some of the reasons IDPs send their children to beg on the streets, he insisted “a child that wakes up as early as possible to go to the classes can never think of going to beg after school hours.”
It is a standard that UNICEF builds and donates schools, while the state government would, through the office of the local government education secretary, provide the teachers and the curriculum.
HumAngle spoke with some of the secondment teachers on why they don’t usually show up in the camp schools. A teacher who pleaded anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter, said: “it’s because we don’t get allowances and the financial support to transport ourselves to the schools; I can’t be using meagre salary to do extra jobs.”
Yusuf Tom, a head teacher in one of the state’s public schools said that most of the UNICEF-established learning centres were run under a program sponsored by an NGO called Street Child.
“Most of the teachers who got deployed to the IDP schools were engaged under a teaching scheme funded by Street Child who pays them some token as allowances, and those projects are like schemes that normally have a life span of some few months,” he said.
“If the program comes to an end, there is no way the teachers would show up in the learning centres.”
Tom insisted that schools in the IDP camp should not be handled under any “ad hoc arrangement” simply because they are in camps. The plans for the future development of a child should not be treated with frivolity even if it is under a conflict situation; that’s why the recently adopted UN resolution 2601 that was passed about three weeks ago insisted, amongst other things, that “states should take necessary steps within their national jurisdiction to assist in the continuation of education for refugees and displaced children.”
Tom argued that leaving nongovernmental organizations to run education programs for displaced children under projects that have a lifespan without any sustainability plan on the side of the government is “nothing but a waste of time.”
The Boko Haram conflict has displaced 1.4 million children in Northeast Nigeria, 80 per cent of whom are in Borno State.
The Borno State Primary Education Board had recently said that out-of-school children are roaming the streets in Maiduguri, the state capital, more than ever before.
The former executive chairman of SUBEB, who is now Head of the state’s Basic Education Service Delivery for All (BESDA) project in Borno, Shettima Kullima, told HumAngle that though Borno has more schools, both within the public and private sector, it still has the highest number of out of school children in the country.
BESDA is a world bank funded project that addresses the issue of out-of-school children by ensuring that every child, regardless of their background or culture, gets basic literacy and numeracy.
Kullima said Borno may soon reverse the ugly trend with the recently awarded BESDA grant of $60 million by the World Bank to promote basic literacy.
He said even before the World Bank grant, Borno State had been making efforts to improve its children’s enrolment which led it to get the BESDA grant.
He said: “Borno was the last to join the league of 17 states that enrolled under the World Bank’s BESDA project which seeks to take children from the streets to classrooms where they could at least acquire basic numeric and literacy skills. And we came out the best of all the 17 states, and the world bank awarded us the $60 million grant to enable continuing the project of making school enrolment compulsory for all, including the Alamjiris in Quranic schools.
“When BESDA is fully rolled out using the grant given to us by the World Bank, all children including those in the IDP camps would be given quality access to education.”
According to records of Unicef, about 2.8 million children need education-in-emergencies support in three conflict-affected states of Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa. Until recently, the government began to fix some of them, at least 802 schools remain closed and 497 classrooms “are listed as destroyed” while another 1,392 were damaged but repairable as a result of the activities of Boko Haram terrorists.
According to Borno SUBEB, the state has 1,348 public primary schools, and 296 junior secondary schools, while the number of registered private schools are theoretically over 800; yet this impressive number of schools has not improved access to education as Borno remains the state with the highest number of out of school children in Nigeria.
This report is produced in partnership with the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD).
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