A survey conducted by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) has revealed a significant increase in the rate of enrolment in public primary schools across the North of Nigeria, owing to renewed efforts by the federal and state governments. Stakeholders have attributed this development to the Federal Government’s Home-Grown School Feeding (HGSF) Programme, which became operative in January 2017, free tuition schemes and the provision of infrastructure to aid learning.
According to a report of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), available on its website, Nigeria has 10.5 million out-of-school children, the world’s highest number, with sixty per cent of those children in Northern Nigeria and another sixty per cent being female. This latest development is therefore remarkable. It has also not left out the girl child as a steady rise in the number of girls entering the schools was also observed.
Amina Umar, Director of Social Mobilisation at the Kano State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), said, “Kano state presently has about 3.2 million pupils in its 6,333 primary schools across 44 Local Government Areas.” She added that 1.7 million of the pupils are boys and 1.5 million are girls, and further attributed the increase in enrolment to the introduction of a free feeding programme and the disbursement of scholarship grants worth ₦1.8 billion to the pupils through their parents.
The Director of Publicity of the Kano State Community Re-orientation Committee, Sani Tanko, also said the federal government’s free feeding programme, introduced in the state, further boosted the attendance of pupils in schools.
“Since the commencement of the free feeding, parents have enrolled their children more in the schools. The free feeding of primary school pupils was introduced by the previous administration of former Governor Rabi’u Kwankwaso and was sustained by the present administration of Governor Abdullahi Gaduje,” Mr Tanko said.
In Katsina state, the implementation of the Home-Grown Feeding Programme has yet to commence. Nevertheless, attention paid to academic infrastructure by the state government has paid off in terms of school attendance by children.
Ishaq Bello, the Secretary of the SUBEB in the state, revealed that 1,714,757 pupils have been enrolled into primary schools across the state in 2017, including 930,410 males and 784,347 females. According to him, the increase in enrolment is because “the state government has provided enough teaching and learning materials in all primary schools … such as class attendance register, admission register, textbooks, exercise books and chalks.”
Similarly, in Nasarawa State, where the feeding programme was also yet to kick off, the rate of enrolment into primary schools has witnessed significant improvement, and the State Universal Basic Education Board has traced this development to massive infrastructural development in the schools.
According to Musa Danazumi, Chairman of the Board, a lot of parents withdrew their wards from private primary schools to the public schools when the infrastructure in the latter improved. “We have changed the faces of all the schools and it I little wonder that every parent wants to benefit from what we have done,” he said.
Similar developments were also observed in Plateau, Taraba, Niger, Kaduna, Sokoto and Zamfara state, owing to various factors as noted by NAN.
It will be recalled that a Special Report published by Premium Times in May 2017 noted that Kaduna State, which started the programme a year before the Federal Government’s kick-off, witnessed an addition of 400,000 pupils with just one session of operating a school feeding scheme.
The Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, has also said, on Friday, 19 January 2018, that the population of the country’s out-of-school children has dropped from 10.5 million, as claimed by UNICEF in 2015, to 8.6 million in the last three years. He made this known at the flag-off of the 2017/2018 National Enrolment Drive, which took place at the Tudun Salmanu Primary School, Bauchi State.