“I have supported and enrolled 321 pupils in total from 13 schools”

The story is virtually the same in Zamfara State and other northern states – issues of early marriage, child trafficking and street hawking (almajiri) among children are common in this part of Nigeria.

Large numbers of these children, especially girls, are not going to school. This make them vulnerable to joining debauched groups, engaging in immoral and unscrupulous behaviours that leads them to commit crimes.

In the course of doing that, the boys become victims of child labour, rituals or become an easy recruit for terrorist group like Boko Haram. The girls, on the other hand, are lured into premature sex, rape and other forms of sexual abuse.

Denying children the privilege of accessing universal primary education will, in the long run, hinder them from becoming literate and unable to add their quota to national growth and development of the country.

However, a diagnosis of the issues shows that the level of illiteracy in the state is attributed to some natural, religious, and cultural factors, which if addressed will go a long way to solving the sufferings of the people.

From the days of colonial masters to date, Western education is still viewed with suspicion by some parents because of missionaries’ connections – it is seen as an indirect way of converting Muslims to Christianity.

Hence, the level of enrolment into primary school is still low, conspicuously for girls. According to a report by the Zamfara State Universal Basic Education Board published in 2008 (ZSUBEB), out of 807,079 school-aged children only 481,649 attend school. That is 325,430 who are out of school.

The problem is more worrisome on the girl-child education. Out of 48,454 children who enrolled into primary school in the state capital Gusau in 2009, 29,459 were male and 18,995 female.

To change the status quo, I have initiated Enrolling the Less Privileged Project (ELPP), an initiative to help enrol orphans and less privileged in his state.

With assistance from no one, I took it upon myself to help enrol some of the unschooled children in Zamfara State.

Under ELPP, I have two initiatives called “One Child Per Bag” and “Books Not Bullets”. These are joint projects initiated under Sustainable Green Schools at the Centre for Renewable Energy and Action on Climate Change (CREACC) to help enrol unschooled children from broken homes, children living in destitution, orphans and those children whose parents cannot afford to send them to schools at primary level.

What the project does is to search for these unschooled children and match them with target schools, mostly government owned. The project targets government schools that are interested to co-opt these children.

I provide these children with school bags, uniforms, books, a pencil and eraser. The schools waive registration fees, report card fee, PTA fees and exam fees as their contribution. A Certificate of Recognition is given to these schools for their efforts.

So far, my team has distributed uniforms, school bags, pencils and erasers to unschooled children in 13 schools. The aim is to help children from poor families or those that have lost either of their parents to continue to go to school.

I select from 50 to 100 students in each school – taking only orphans or those in dire need. So far I have supported and enrolled 321 pupils in total from 13 schools with a combined student population of around 15,000 pupils.

It means a lot for a child who does not have a single book to have five books at a time. It means a lot for pupils who do not have uniforms to get new one, it means a lot for a child to have a bag where she/he can put her/his books. It encourages the children and makes them happy.

It makes their peers at home want to join them and also encourages their parents and guardians to want to do more. It also helps to increase their participation in class activities, according to their teachers.

My target before December 2016 is to help enrol 2000 unschooled children in Zamfara State by engaging other key stakeholders like State Universal Basic Education Board, UNICEF and Community and Social Development Project CSDP (World Bank Assisted Project).

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