Difficult times for Nomadic children

 Executive Secretary, National Commission for Nomadic Education, Prof. Rashid Aderinoye (right), with the Kaduna State Governor, Alhaji Muhktar Yero at a workshop on Nomadic Education, held in Kaduna.

Executive Secretary, National Commission for Nomadic Education, Prof. Rashid Aderinoye (right), with the Kaduna State Governor, Alhaji Muhktar Yero at a workshop on Nomadic Education, held in Kaduna.

Executive Secretary, National Commission for Nomadic Education, Prof. Rashid Aderinoye (right), with the Kaduna State Governor, Alhaji Muhktar Yero at a workshop on Nomadic Education, held in Kaduna.

The National Commission for Nomadic Education (NCNE) will need
more resources to replace facilities destroyed by Boko Haram
By Rotimi Lawrence Oyekanmi

Some concerned Nigerians are predicting that it would take the country’s North East zone several decades to reverse the calamity being inflicted on its education sector by the Boko Haram insurgents, with no end yet in sight.

Originally founded in 2002, the sect turned violent in 2009 and has since then killed more than 5,000 Nigerians. It has also recently stepped up its use of female suicide bombers.

The bombing of a mosque close to the Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido’s palace on November 30 last year, apparently targeted at him, killed over 100 worshippers. Sanusi had only weeks earlier implored his people to defend themselves against the insurgents. He was away when the blast occurred, but promptly returned the next day and defiantly worshipped with the faithful in the same mosque.

Led by Abubakar Shekau, Boko Haram wants to establish an Islamic Caliphate where only the sharia law will hold supreme. The Nigerian Armed Forces would have none of it.

Islamic scholars and clerics have, in recent time, denounced the sect’s activities, describing them as “alien to the teachings of Islam.”

According to experts, the nomads, by virtue of their high population within the crisis zone, “would have suffered untold hardship” in the hands of the insurgents. Several of their cattle are believed to have been stolen; boys are forced to either join the insurgents or be killed; young girls, abducted against their will, are married off or used as domestic servants. Lack of accurate data makes estimates difficult.

The National Commission for Nomadic Education (NCNE) has been responding to the nomads’ thirst for knowledge amid several challenges. Whereas, the commission had initially found it difficult at the outset in 1989 to convince them to allow their wards go to school, but things have since changed. The nomads are now not only releasing their wards, they are also contributing towards the education of their children.

At inception, there were only 329 schools with about 18,000 enrolled pupils. But as at 2008, fewer than half a million pupils had been registered. This wasn’t an ideal situation, but not too bad as well. Part of the problem is that the nomads’ enthusiasm has not been matched by the provision of adequate funds by the federal and state governments, which is hampering the commission from living up to its responsibilities the way it should. This has left the nomads disillusioned.

An advocacy meeting on the negative effects of underfunding, among others, was organized last May in Kaduna at which a particular report that emanated from a mapping exercise, jointly carried out by both the commission and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in selected nomadic schools in Bauchi, Sokoto, Niger, Zamfara and Katsina states, was also unveiled.

The objective of the exercise was to, among others, produce evidence-based data on nomadic girl child enrolment, retention, progression and transition in basic education. It was also intended to engender enrollment, progression and transition in nomadic schools; identify factors impeding effective participation of the girl-child in basic education and create awareness among parents and stakeholders on the importance of education.

Besides, the report sought to devise a communication strategy that would enhance girl-child education in nomadic schools, generate data on nomadic women’s income generating activities/literacy level and infrastructural facilities in nomadic schools.

The summary of findings was hardly surprising. The enrolment, attendance, completion and transition rates of girls in nomadic schools were found to be “abysmally low.” Wide disparity in favour of males was noticed, while participation of the girls “dropped significantly at the upper primary levels 4, 5 and 6.” Majority of the girls did not complete primary six, which meant they could not proceed to Junior Secondary School.

The factors responsible have not changed from what is already known. They include the lack of financial support, hawking of diary products, early marriage, heavy domestic chores, herding activities and ignorance on the importance of girl child education among parents in the nomadic communities. Absence of female teachers in the schools, teacher truancy and attrition, unfriendly school environment and fear of molestation were also cited.

Executive Secretary of the commission, Prof Rashid Aderinoye, who noted that girls’ education had become “a major issue,” also supplied statistics to prove women’s marginalization in some states’ public service.

His words: “At the state level, there are 579 male officers (71.9 per cent) in decision making positions in Bauchi state and 226 female officers (28.1 per cent). Similarly, in Katsina state, there are 393 (87.1 per cent) male and 58 (12.9 per cent) female, while in Niger state, there are 340 (71.9 per cent) male and 133 (28.1 per cent) female.

“In Sokoto state, there are 649 (94.5 per cent) male and 38 (5.5 per cent) female, while in Zamfara state, there are 433 (90.6 per cent) male and 45 (9.4 per cent) female. This shows that men have outnumbered women at all levels of decision making positions in education management and governance in all the states.”

Niger Nomads Herdsmen, Tuareg and Peul

A nomadic child with a herd of cattle

He added: “The situation is worse for the nomadic girl child in northern Nigeria, who is often marginalized and at a disadvantaged position in the family, due to cultural factors and religious misinterpretations. The nomadic girl-child in northern Nigeria is doubly disadvantaged, given her gender, age and ethnicity. Circumstances around her deny her right to education.

“The girl-child from nomadic background is surrounded by a cultural and social setting that neither recognizes nor appreciates the value of girls’ education. The socio-cultural context of her existence not only encourages social exclusion and gender discrimination, but in addition, brings to bear, the effects of institutionalized
patriarchal practices, hidden under religion and culture, to perpetuate injustice and unfair distribution of opportunities, thus hindering the development of educational policies capable of guaranteeing the girls’ right to education.”

He noted that it was the country’s duty to provide equitable access to education of good quality for all children, irrespective of gender and ethnic orientation, especially in the light of Nigeria being a signatory to the United Nation’s adopted Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 26 of which proclaimed education as a fundamental human right.

The future looks good nevertheless. Governor of Kaduna state, Dr Mukhtar Yero told Aderinoye: “As a mark of further commitment towards the implementation of the (nomadic) programme, the present administration is poised to uplifting the status of the nomadic education programme in the state to a level of directorate, to ensure that the programme is effectively and efficiently managed with special provision in the annual budget, to ensure proper funding.”

Strategic support is also being given by the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), whose Executive Secretary, Dr Dikko Suleiman, has already released some funds to the commission.

A communiqué issued at the end of that meeting, suggested, among others, that since teacher truancy was clogging the effective implementation of the programme, states and local councils should undertake regular supervision and monitoring of schools to check the menace.

The three tiers of government were urged to embark on the gazzetting and development of grazing reserves, to allow for the gradual settlement of nomads and reduce the incidence of conflicts.

Moreover, the communique urged relevant agencies with the statutory responsibility for the recruitment and deployment of teachers to ensure that only qualified and especially female teachers are deployed to nomadic schools.

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