10.5m out-of-school: UNICEF urges states to sustain cash transfer initiative
THE United Nations Children’s Fund has appealed to states in Nigeria with endemic, ‘out-of-school’ children to adopt and sustain cash transfer programme already in place in four states of Sokoto, Niger, Zamfara and Kebbi.
UNICEF supports the implementation of the cash transfer initiative in the four states, where each caregiver is paid N5000 per child for a term, as measure to encourage enrolment, retention and completion of children, especially girls, in schools.
Education Specialist with UNICEF, Azuka Menkiti, speaking in Sokoto at a two-day media dialogue on ‘Educate-A-Child (EAC) Cash Transfer Programme in Northern Nigeria, said the programme had the potential to drastically reduce the number of out-of-school children in the country.
She said the programme funded by the United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID) was first implemented in Sokoto and Niger states targeting girls’ enrolment in schools, saying the success recorded in high percentage increase in enrolment of girls led to extension of the programme to Zamfara and Kebbi.
In one of the schools visited in Sokoto during the workshop, New Rimawa Model Primary School, Goronyo Local Government Area, (LGA), there were more girls in most classes than boys because parents were now willing to allow their female children to go to school as a result of the financial support to augment the family income.
Sokoto State Commissioner for Higher Education, Dr Muhammed Kilgori, disclosed at the event that the state government had released the sum of N500 million for the sustenance of the cash transfer programme.
He said the state governor, Aminu Tambuwal, approved the release of the funds for the sustainability of the cash transfer programme following the successes recorded by UNICEF during the two years of its implementation in the state.
UNICEF under the programme implemented first in two states of Sokoto and Niger, and now in Kebbi and Zamfara, pays N8,000 each to caregivers per each school-age girl a term, to encourage their enrolment, retention and completion in schools.
The commissioner said Tambuwal on assumption of office declared a state of emergency on education in order to address myriad challenges bedeviling the education sector in the state, especially the problem of out-of-school children.
“We keyed into the cash transfer programme of UNICEF and other partners because of the impact it has made in the sampled local governments and we have introduced the programme in all the 23 local governments in the state,” he said.
Kilgori further revealed that each Desk Officer in these local governments had been given motorcycle for monitoring.
Meanwhile, Sokoto State coordinator of the Cash Transfer Programme, Mr Mahmuda Galadima, disclosed that the programme had increased school enrolment by about nine per cent.
He said the implementation of the Cash Transfer Programme by UNICEF was from 2014 to 2016, adding that the state government had taken over the programme for the subsequent years.