To many communities affected by insurgency in Adamawa state, the commencement of rehabilitation of classrooms supported by United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is a big relief and a welcome development.
The education of children in communities affected by insurgency in Adamawa had been under threat; more so is the fact that schools in the affected areas have suffered various degrees of havoc wrecked by the insurgents whose disdain for western education is clearly defined, as underlined by the insurgents’ popular name “Boko Haram”, meaning western education is a sin.
Adamawa is one of the frontline states where normalcy has returned and things are gradually picking up; including the re-opening of schools for children in the returnee communities in the worst affected Local Government Areas of Madagali, Michika, Hong, Mubi North, Mubi South, Maiha and Gombi. The support by UNICEF to the School-Based Management Committees (SBMCs) for the rehabilitation of over 80 classrooms in 40 selected schools is for communities in the seven local government areas.
UNICEF has continued to remain a major participant actor in the Safe School Initiative (SSI) now called “Towards Safe School Initiative Project” (TSSIP) set up by a coalition of Nigerian business leaders in collaboration with United Nations, Global Coalition for Education and World at School in response to threat to education in North East states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe.
With funding support from the Government of Norway, UNICEF’s involvement in the Safe School Initiative TSSIP has been in various forms, including enrollment drive; provision of uniforms to girls, provision of teaching and learning materials; training of teachers on Psychosocial Support and basic child centered pedagogy; temporary learning spaces in IDPs camps; training of SBMCs on school planning; and renovation work in some selected schools using local contractors.
The rehabilitation of classrooms in the 40 TSSIP schools in the seven Boko Haram-affected local government areas commenced with the provision of funds by UNICEF to the communities through the benefitting schools’ SBMCs made up of head teachers, teachers, parents, students, pupils, religious and traditional leaders, artisans, amongst others.
The rehabilitation of the block of classrooms programme was flagged-off few days ago with a ceremony in Balwhona Primary School in Gombi local government, where the representative of Adamawa State Ministry of Education who is also the Deputy Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Mr Francis Pius expressed the excitement of the state government after praising UNICEF for actively involving the communities in the programme through the SBMCs.
Pius, like many others passionate about the rehabilitation of classrooms destroyed by Boko Haram, reminded benefitting communities that the funds provided through the SBMCs by UNICEF were strictly for materials needed for the work as the communities are to provide the labour in cash or kind.
“Based on how you utilize this opportunity, UNICEF has proposal for 47 more schools after this phase,” Pius informed the communities at the flag-off ceremony.
The Director, Social Mobilisation of Adamawa State Universal Basic Education Board (ADSUBEB), Mrs Fadimatu Alfa, said that the UNICEF package was over N25 million shared among the SBMCs in the 40 benefiting schools with different amounts depending on the rehabilitation work involved.
Alfa who tasked rich ones in the communities on the need to contribute their quota to the rehabilitation programme by adding to what was made available by UNICEF for the rehabilitation work to cover more classrooms, also made a case for judicious utilization of the fund to attract more support.
“You have carpenters, masons and the rest in your communities, let us all join hands for this project to succeed.
“We have Mothers Association in our schools who should also contribute to ensure free meals for the volunteer workers. This project is the beginning of a good journey, many goodies are coming,” Alfa said at the ceremony.
In Michika local government which has the largest number of 10 schools that are benefitting from the support, the Education Secretary of the Local Education Authority, Mr. Joseph Kwabe, said about 50 schools were in need of urgent attention in the area. He explained that the UNICEF intervention in rehabilitating some classrooms in 10 schools would go a long way in providing conducive learning environment for hundreds of pupils.
Mr. Abdulrahman Lagu, the SBMC chairman of Jigalambu Primary School in Michika that was used as a base by Boko Haram, said the school was the worst affected in the entire local government with all its structures damaged because of the fight that took place when the insurgents were being dislodged by the military.
Lagu said that with the exception of UNICEF support for the rehabilitation of a block of three classrooms, the school has not been attended to by any government agency or NGO.
“Except for the funds provided by UNICEF which we are going to use in renovating a block of three classrooms, nothing much has been done to address the problem by various organizations that keep visiting to assess the problem,” Lagu said.
Corroborating Lagu’s claim, the Assistant Head Teacher of the primary school, Mr. Peter Jerome, said whenever its rains, they have no option than to send the pupils home thereby losing valuable teaching and learning time due to lack of classrooms.
He lamented that various organizations had visited the school and taken pictures of destruction but up to now only UNICEF has so far taken concrete steps by providing fund for rehabilitation of one of the affected blocks of classrooms.
The story of neglect was the same by many school heads and SBMC officials in all the affected local government areas of Adamawa who are now excited with the UNICEF support which they hope will serve as a unique starting point in supporting communal involvement in rehabilitation, resettlement and reconstruction programme in the areas.
However, some few lucky schools had felt the touch of government organizations like the Presidential Committee on North East Initiative (PCNI) and Victim Support Fund (VSF) but much more need to be done particularly in rehabilitation and reconstruction of schools in Adamawa and other frontline states in the north east known for lagging behind in almost all indices of development – a sad development that experts said contributed to the menace, Boko Haram.
It’s good news that children in Adamawa affected areas are trooping to school. The good development was boosted by the enrollment drive supported by UNICEF since 2015 and the declaration of State of Emergency on Education by the state government. Communities have realized the potentials of education in reducing poverty among families, communities and households. They see it as one effective way to check insurgency recruits.
As we laud the UNICEF support and commitment to education, one better way of proving to UNICEF and other stakeholders involved in the resettlement, rehabilitation and reconstruction of North East is for the communities to join hands by actively participating in the Safe School Initiative programme.
Gun can kill a terrorist but education can kill terrorism, hence no support or contribution to provide education for children, our future leaders is too small or too big. Therefore, SBMCs of benefitting schools must not fail UNICEF, Adamawa people and more particularly our children. SBMCs need to ensure a perfect job of classrooms’ rehabilitation project that they are involved in directly.