As the accelerated funding grant of $21.4 million project ends on March 31, 2023, CLEMENT IDOKO writes on the contribution of the Global Partnership on Education (GPE) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) interventions in the concerted efforts to restore peace and education after over a decade of armed conflict in North-East Nigeria.
The Governor of Borno State, Babagana Zulum, painted a grim picture of the devastation of education in North-East Nigeria recently in New York, United States of America, when he revealed that nearly half of the primary schools in his state had been destroyed by insurgents who have been terrorising the state and other parts of Northeast for over a decade.
Zulum also disclosed that insurgency had resulted in the deaths of over 100,000 persons and the displacement of about two million people in the state, adding that insurgents had destroyed over 5,000 school buildings, comprising primary and secondary schools, and tertiary institutions.
The governor, who was part of the delegation of President Muhammadu Buhari to the 77th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA77) which held at the UN headquarters in New York City, gave the grim statistics while addressing multinational groups on September 25, 2022 in New York, towards increasing focus on the education of girls in Nigeria and around the world.
A report by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) affirming the devastation of educational facilities in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe said no fewer than 2,295 teachers have lost their lives while 1,500 schools have been destroyed in northeast Nigeria since 2009 as a result of insurgency.
This catastrophic destruction of schools, killings as well as abduction of students and teachers and displacement of people, including children in the North-East, attracted the timely intervention of the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), which approved an accelerated funding grant to the tune of $21.4 million for building and rehabilitation of classrooms, provision of instructional materials and training of teachers in the insurgency-impacted states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe.
Nigerian Tribune gathered that the grant was approved on September 15, 2020 with the implementation of the programme coming to an end on March 31, 2023. The project which has already been implemented about 98 percent, is applauded by stakeholders as one of the earliest and critical response that has tremendously helped communities and education system in the affected states withstand the impact of the armed conflict in the North-East.
Just as the project will be winding up by the end of this month, UNICEF which has been providing support for the implementation of the project had in collaboration with the Child Rights Information Bureau (CRIB) of the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture organised a media dialogue session to amplify the achievements of the GPE accelerated funding project.
The media dialogue was held in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital. Journalists were also taken on a field trip to ascertain, first-hand, some of the projects executed under the GPE accelerated funding, as well as the impact the programme has had in the efforts to revive the education sector that has been ruined by the horrendous activities of insurgents.
A visit to Ngarnam Primary School and Yelwa Peace Estate Primary School situated in the Borno metropolis was revealing. In spite of the GPE and UNICEF interventions, the schools were not only overcrowded but lacked adequate qualified teachers and infrastructure to support delivery of quality education and learning.
For instance in Primary 5 at Yelwa Peace Estate Primary School, the classroom was overcrowded with four pupils crammed at a school desk meant for three persons, making it difficult for them to sit and write comfortably.
Nigerian Tribune gathered that the school was established in 2017 at the height of insurgency in the North-East. The location called ‘Peace Estate’ in which the school was built was established to accommodate some displaced members of communities that were attacked and destroyed during the armed conflict.
The head teacher of the school, Kolomi Mustapha Goni, admitted that over 1,217 students were being taught by nine permanent teachers and two volunteers in just eight classroom blocks. The school has high ratio of students per class, approximately 80 pupils per class.
Goni told journalists that the majority of the pupils were from parents who fled from the troubled communities in Borno to settle in the city centre, particularly the Peace Estate.
The situation was the same at Ngarnam Primary School, with pupils enrollment population of 3,840. The school which also benefitted from the GPE accelerated funding project now has 13 permanent teachers and 14 volunteers.
Nigerian Tribune further gathered that following a verification exercise in 2020, about 19 teachers were dropped. In order to close the gap of inadequate teachers, some youths from the community enrolled as volunteers to support the permanent staff.
UNICEF Chief of Maiduguri Field Office, Phuong Nguyen, in her welcome remark during the media dialogue drew the attention of the participants to the staggering statistics, saying across north-east Nigeria, only 29 percent of schools have teachers with the minimum qualification.
She added that the average pupil-teacher ratio is 124 to 1 and that almost half of all schools need rehabilitation. She revealed that only 47 percent of schools in Borno have furniture with lower proportions in Yobe (32 percent) and Adamawa (26 percent).
“In Adamawa, only 30 percent of schools have adequate learning materials for pupils with lower proportions (26 percent) in Borno and (25 percent) in Yobe. It is therefore little wonder that, according to the Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS 2021) less than half of children (48.6 percent) complete their primary school education in Northeast Nigeria,” she said.
According to Nguyen, about 1.9 million boys, girls and youths affected by conflict are without access to basic quality education in the region, and that this was inclusive of 56 percent of all displaced children who are out of school.
She added that the challenges of out-of-school children and the learning crises in the education sector remain issues that UNICEF and stakeholders are working to address to ensure that every child has the opportunity that education offers and be equipped with skills to survive and contribute positively to the society.
“We are not only here to talk about the challenges, we are also here at this media dialogue to share the achievements made in the education sector,” she said disclosing that one major accomplishment is the teachers’ training programme of the GPE Accelerated Funding (AF) project.
Nguyen who noted that this was an initiative of the Federal Government of Nigeria, through the Federal Ministry of Education, the National Teachers’ Institute (NTI) and the Teachers’ Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN), revealed that the training programme has supported over 18,000 unqualified teachers working in north-east Nigeria to study and pass the TRCN’s qualifying examination. She explained that the teachers have been inducted and licensed across Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states.
She said the 12-month course was funded by the GPE AF and supported by UNICEF, Teaching at the Right Level (TARL) Africa and the Nigeria Union of Teachers, adding that this was the first training of its kind targeting a large cohort of teachers in Nigeria!
“At least one million girls and boys will benefit as these newly certified teachers return to their classrooms equipped with modern and effective teaching methods, including the skills to provide gender-sensitive and psychosocial support to learners.
“UNICEF is excited that we might finally be turning the tide against high dropout rate as well as facilitating access and retention of children in school. Millions more children will surely have better learning outcomes with a large cohort of motivated, trained, prepared, and equipped teachers in classrooms across the North-East,” she said.
While noting that the GPE accelerated funding project was also targeted at improving access to education, she added that classrooms in at least 50 schools have been renovated and 50 temporary learning spaces constructed.
She further revealed that over 500,000 children have been provided with learning materials while the capacity of 438 education officials have been strengthened on education-in-emergency leadership, and result-based planning and budgeting.
Executive Secretary of Borno State Universal Basic Education Board, Professor Bulama Kagu, lamented that more than 400 teachers were killed in the last 10 years in the catastrophe caused by the over a decade of insurgency in North-East.
He, however, noted that the state is gradually recovering from the devastation, especially with the quick intervention of Global Partnership on Education, UNICEF, and other international organisations working in synergy with the Nigerian to see that peace is restored to the region.
The Desk Officer, Emergency Teachers Operating programme NTI, Jarfar Huseni Aliyu, told journalists that the situation concerning the quality of teachers in the three North-East states was fast improving as the GPE-funded training programme has restored confidence in education and built the capacity of teachers in the delivery of quality education.
“We have witnessed great achievement because when some of these unqualified candidates came to us before training, some of them could not speak proper English. Some of them could not write very well and some of them didn’t have digital literacy.
“However, after undergoing the one year programme at NTI, more than 76.92 percent are now able to manipulate the learning management system effectively and can impart knowledge in the classroom,” he said.
Reliving her experience, Amina Yusuf, who is one of the 18,000 teachers that benefitted from the GPE-funded teacher training project, said the training has tremendously improved her delivery in the class.
She also noted that she has seen improvement in the performance of the pupils, saying many of them could read and write as well as participate actively in the class.