BY AISHA GAMBO, NEWS AGENCY OF NIGERIA, JANUARY 10, 2023 | 05:49 AM
The number four goal of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) is quality education. It aims to provide equal access to affordable vocational training, eliminate gender and wealth disparities, and achieve universal access to quality higher education by 2030.
Education helps to reduce inequalities and to reach gender equality. It also empowers people everywhere to live more healthy and sustainable lives. Education is also crucial to fostering tolerance between people and contributes to more peaceful societies.
Education is an essential right of every child no matter the location or circumstances, but many children have been deprived of this right in Nigeria and other parts of the world.
According to a recent report by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), about 20 million Nigerian children are out of school in 2022.
The figure is a far-reaching increase from the 10.5 million recorded by the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) in 2020.
UNESCO had in the report stated that the number of out of school children increased due to the challenge of insecurity and kidnapping of school children in the country.
According to the UNICEF, 40 per cent of Nigerian children in the North aged between six and 11 years, especially girls, do not attend any primary school.
In Rigasa ward of Igabi Local Government Area, Kaduna state, about 100 orphans who have been out of school due to the death of their parents had the opportunity to study for free.
The orphans are not required to pay school fees, text books or writing materials except school uniform.
Also, children whose parents were low income earners or persons living with disability had access to subsidized education paying N500 only monthly.
Mrs Rahma Umar, a 25-year-old woman and the founder of Rahma Adam Community School, says the school was established to assist orphans and the less privileged with free and affordable education.
“I was raised in Rigasa and I know how the locals view education; most of them don’t know the value of education and those who know the value cry of high school fees.
“Of course, there are public schools that provide free education but the population is enormous and you will find more than hundred pupils in a class.
“These schools are not enough to cater for all Rigasa children, many parents cannot afford private schools and orphans who lost their breadwinners find it hard to go to school.
“When I finished secondary school , I couldn’t further my education because my parents couldn’t afford it. I was not happy but my grandmother spoke to someone whom knows a state assembly member who paid for my JAMB examination.
“And I when I got admission to study Science Laboratory Technology at Kaduna Polytechnic, that same man paid for the registration fee; I was happy because I got help when I never expected it.
“This is what motivated me to help children who want to go to school but have no means and when I completed my National Diploma, I decided to establish this school for orphans and the less privilege”, she said.
Mrs Umar says it was a difficult task finding a suitable location for the school as many landlords refused to give out their place for rent due to the charitable nature of the school.
“When I told my mother about my plan to establish a school for orphans and the less privilege she told me that it will be hard and advised I forget the plan.
“The school was launched on October 9, 2022 and I was lucky to have teachers who volunteered to teach for free for a month and I paid them subsequently with the gains I made from my food business.
“Apart from teaching, we make sure we monitor the attendance of learners; in cases where a pupil is absent, we call parents or guardian to enquire of the child’s whereabouts”, she said.
What criteria does the school engage to enroll students?
The school is open for orphans and less privileged children whose parents are earning low. The school has about 160 pupils and 30 students consisting of nursery one to three, primary one to six and J.S.S one to three classes.
Each child has to pay N100 for school form where his or her data will be documented and submitted to the school.
“Only children whose parents are not alive and those whose parents are either disabled or low income earners are accepted.
“We make sure we carry out test before sending them to a class because some children who attended public school may say they are in primary four but when you test them, you will have to send them to primary one.
“Since it’s a community school, we accept children from the community to enroll so that we can know their residents and their care givers”, she said.
Students share their experiences about Rahma Adam Community School
Maryam Abubakar a J.S.S 1 student said she had to drop out of school after finishing primary six because her father died.
“I couldn’t further my education because I have to help my mother with her tofu business; I have to hawk everyday so that we can eat.
“I had to spend a year without school until my mother heard about Rahma Adam community school and registered me there to continue my education for free.
“I thank God for this opportunity and I am happy to be back in school; when I finish school, I will want to become a customs officer”, she said.
Jafar Ibrahim, a primary four pupil, said he had lost his father when he was a baby which made his mother to send him to a public school.
He said he find it hard to learn and comprehend effectively due to the population in his former school, saying he understands maths and English better in his present school.
Another pupil, Zulaihat Ismail, said she was attending a private school before her father lost his job, adding that she was staying at home before the community school was launched.
“My father paid N500 school fees and I was given exercise books and pencils to write; they teach us English , Maths, Social Studies, Basic Science and the rest”, she said.
Has the school reduced the burden of education on low-income families?
Caregivers said that with the free education for orphans they can concentrate on hustling for what to eat and feed their wards.
Other parents who pay N500 monthly fee said the amount was affordable and had given them opportunity to enroll more of their children in school.
Amina Usman, a grandmother to one of the pupil of Rahma Adam Community School said her son was killed and left her with his two children.
“I was able to enroll the elder one in a public school and the junior one has been enrolled into the community school and I am happy it is free and she’s learning fast.
“These are the kind of schools NGOs and wealthy individuals are supposed to support, so as to bridge the gap in education between the poor and the rich”, she said.
Halima Muhammad, a house wife said she had enrolled six of her children in the community school because their father couldn’t afford to pay high school fees for all the children.
“We want quality education for our children but we can’t afford it; with schools like this, I am sure many poor children would have access to education.
“The school’s founder has really tried in this era where everyone is looking for how to make profit but she established a school to help the poor; we pray the school grow bigger and the quality sustained”, she said.
Meanwhile, the community head of Police Station Road, Rigasa, Mai Unguwa Usman Bagobiri said the school will help children in the community get access to quality education at a low cost.
“Parents have no excuse of not sending their wards to school; lack of education is the main cause of the social ills of theft, drug abuse, unwanted pregnancy among others.
“This school is a welcome development to the community, if we can have more schools like this then Rigasa will be better”, he said
How Rahma Adam Community School teachers cope with volunteering.
Abbas Yahuza said he and other people willingly volunteered to teach orphans and less privileged children with the small token some parents pay.
“The school is young , so we are giving our best to ensure our junior ones are educated hoping that in the nearest future, aids will come and the school will be bigger than this.
“Some of us go to public schools and teach as volunteers, so when this school was established for orphans and the less privileged, we thought it wise to contribute our quota.
“Even though the founder had paid some of the teachers, some of us refused to collect anything because we know that the school is not profit oriented.
Faiza Salis, another teacher, said the passion to help the poor made her to serve as a volunteer in the school, saying she go back to her business after school.
“We hope that NGOs, CSOs, corporate bodies and philanthropists will support the school with a permanent place, reading and writing materials,” she said.
How does the school hope to sustain this venture?
Running a non-profit organisation like a community school is not an easy task for a young woman like me, Mrs Umar said.
“Our main challenge is to have a permanent site where we don’t have to deal with the fear of being evicted or paying rent.
“We want to continue giving free and quality education to orphans and we need more funds to do this because those paying N500 monthly are not consistent.
“We have contacted some NGOs and politicians to assist the school with reading and writing materials.
“Some have given us books while others have made pledges; we are hoping that by next term, we will have tables and chairs for our students to learn effectively.
“Though I have teaching experience as I have taught in private schools, I will pursue my degree in the field of education to have better understanding on running a school,” she said. (NAN)
News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)
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