Sokoto, Dutse, Minna, Abuja, Katsina, Gombe — The nomadic education policy was mooted in 1987 and billions of naira had been pumped into it over the years. But is it money well spent or just another drainpipe on the nation's resources?
Quite a buzz was made out of the launch of the Almajiri schools by the federal government last year, with billions of naira earmarked for its implementation in several states across the country.
Commendable as this latest attempt to educate millions of school-age children roaming the streets is a similar intervention launched nearly 26 years ago - the nomadic education system - appears to have failed to deliver on promise.
Launched in November 1986 with a view to educating nomads in order to harness their potentials for nation-building purposes, many stakeholders have expressed the view that lethargy appeared to have set in on the policy. Some even argue that the nomadic education system has calcified into a labyrinth of drainpipes latching firmly to the nation's resources pot.
While the federal, state and local governments ostensibly vote billions of naira to fund the nomadic education scheme every year, investigations by LEADERSHIP WEEKEND show that very little is on ground at these schools nationwide, commensurate to the fiscal votes.
There are 258 nomadic schools with 28,274 pupils and 889 teachers running morning and afternoon shifts in Kaduna state. Although billions of naira had been spent on nomadic education since inception in 1987, indices show that the scheme is in a pathetic state here.
But Coordinator of the programme in the state, Parah Ibrahim Abdullahi, insisted that "Kaduna has recorded some modest achievements in nomadic, particularly in the areas of pupils' enrolment and attendance, increase in the number of nomadic schools and teachers, improve and provision of infrastructural facilities and supply of instructional materials."
However, a visit to Local Education Authority Nomadic School, Rafin Guza in Kaduna North local government revealed that the scheme is in need of serious reforms. Although this school has four blocks of nine classrooms in total, it is shorn of the much needed materials for conducive learning.
LEA Nomadic School Rafin Guza has 1,278 and 44 teachers running two shifts. Pupils sit on the bare floor to take their lessons in the obviously overcrowded the classrooms. A ceiling in one of the classrooms could give away anytime and fall on the young heads sitting on the dusty floor. Only the teachers have a barely there wooden table and bench to sit in the classrooms.
The staff room in this school has only two wooden tables and benches for the use of the 44 teachers.
Admitting that the scheme could do with some help, Abdullahi said: "Some of our problems in the state include inadequate instructional materials, absence of mobility for supervisors to effectively monitor the schools, indiscriminate transfer of teachers by LGEAs. More worrisome though is the fact that most of the nomadic schools still operate under trees due to inadequate infrastructure, which is a direct fallout of poor funding of the Nomadic Education Programme, among other challenges".
He charged the state "to create a Department of Nomadic Education that will effectively oversee the programme as done in other states. We also need more classrooms to alleviate the problems faced by the pupils, especially during the rainy season."
Head Teacher, Nomadic School Rafin Guza Alhaji Usman Inuwa, disclosed that pupils and teachers alike were often drenched to the bone "whenever it rains heavily in the school because of the leaky roofs. This is a cause for great concern to us all here."
There are about 40 nomadic schools in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
The situation on ground at the LEA Primary School Nomadic, City Gate, Abuja and LEA Primary School Nomadic, Lugbe was not different from that of Rafin Guza in Kaduna state
The city gate nomadic school has a four-classroom block. One of the classrooms is partitioned to make room for the headmaster's office, staff room, administration office and classes five and six in a jointly taught arrangement. Classes I, II, III use the three other classrooms, with Class I using the same space as the nursery class.
In each of the classes, there are over 140 pupils taught by one teacher. Classes three and four that has 142 pupil taught by one teacher, who combines the curricular of both for class three and four. The school has a total enrolment of about 476 pupils.
Head teacher of the nomadic school, Mrs Makris-Besan Gwana told LEADERSHIP WEEKEND: "You can see it yourself. We don't even have classrooms for our students. The head teacher does not have an office. Also, some of these pupils do not have school uniforms while quite a few come to school on empty stomach."
Also at LEA Primary School Nomadic, Lugbe teachers complained of inadequate learning materials, including books, for the pupils, "our main constraint here is inadequate textbooks for the pupils. Even some of them cannot also buy the exercise books and writing materials." One of the teachers told LEADERSHIP WEEKEND.
The school has 174 pupils - 86 males and 88 females.
However, Head, Nomadic Education Unit, FCT Universal Basic Education Board (UBEB), Isah Abubakar, stated that the Board "provides free textbooks, exercise books and even writing materials for the nomadic schools. Any time such intervention comes, my office usually channels them to the schools."
But a parent in the Lugbe nomadic school who simply gave his name as Suleiman told LEADERSHIP WEEKEND: "We have been paying for virtually every book and writing material that the school gives to our children before the coming of this new headmaster and many of us are not happy about that".
LEADERSHIP WEEKEND observed that some of the teachers cannot speak Fulfulde, a language of communication among the Fulani nomads, and depended on teaching aid, demonstrations and in some cases interpreters to teach the pupils.
But Abubakar said: "It is not unusual to use such teaching aid to break communication gaps between the pupils and their teachers. If a teacher does his or her work by using necessary teaching aid and demonstrations, it won't affect learning. What matters is the level of commitment by all stakeholders, especially the pupils, teachers and their parents."
But Director, FCT Universal Basic Education Board (UBEB), Adamu Noma, maintained that nomadic education has been fully integrated into the basic education in the FCT.
He also disclosed that the board has some special nomadic schools for Fulani living permanently in a particular area.
His words: "We have several of such schools scattered in the six area councils of the FCT. The nomadic schools are treated as any other school in the FCT. They run the same curriculum as other schools, and when we make provisions for other schools, we also make same provisions for nomadic schools in our budgets. In addition, the National Commission for Nomadic Education (NCNE) also supports them with teaching materials. In recent times, they even provided motorcycles for our teachers."
Lack of water and deplorable condition of toilets are threatening hygiene at the Kwarintama nomadic primary school in Kwarintama village of Katsina local government area.
Established in 2001, the Kwarintama nomadic primary school has nine teachers with over 180 pupils.
The two blocks of three toilets in the school is in deplorable condition, forcing the pupils to defecate in the open.
A member of staff who pleaded anonymity said "these children find it difficult to get water even for drinking during school hours."
"We spend on an average N100 daily to buy water from the water vendor and this is not enough" the member of staff noted, "We intend to appeal to the office of rural water supply and sanitation agency (RUWASSA) to assist by providing us with a borehole," the source added.
But Education Secretary, Katsina local government, Falalu Umar, disclosed that arrangements had been concluded to renovate the school's deplorable toilets even as he assured that measures would be taken to provide water for the pupils.
Umar, who insisted that appreciable progress has been made in the area of nomadic education said: "We have noticed growth in terms of enrolment as the nomads have been cooperating with our staff."
Meanwhile, the Katsina state coordinator of nomadic education, Bature Mohammed, told LEADERSHIP WEEKEND that one of the major challenges facing nomadic education was lack of separate funding arrangements for the programme in the state.
There is also the need to have a directorate of nomadic education as obtain in states like Zamfara and Sokoto," Katsina state has 81 nomadic schools with 432 teachers and no fewer than 26,420 pupils. Mohammed noted, adding that "in terms of funding, the schools are treated just like the conventional schools in the state."
There are many nomadic schools across the 11 local councils in the state. However, a chronic lack of facilities at these schools and the nomads' unpreparedness to let go of their ancient way of life has become the bane of the scheme in Gombe.
Secretary, Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association, Gombe State, Mallam Aliyu Abare, said "nomadic education would succeed only if the government gives adequate attention to the needs of the pastoralists.
Since most of the pupils of nomadic education are pastoralists Fulani, if government really wants them to be educated, they should provide the good facilities that could encourage them. These should include water, grazing reserves and other amenities.
Against the backdrop of low enrolment in the nomadic schools, Abare said: "The major challenge for a pastoralist is his stock. If you want his attention to be drawn to education, you have to pay attention to his stock and you cannot achieve this unless you provide adequate grazing reserve for him. If you provide that, he will settle and focus his attention on education because all his animals are there to graze; he will not have much problems sending his child to school."
Only 110 out of the 250 nomadic schools in this state have blocks of classroom; the rest operate under trees, in zinc sheds and locally made shadings.
Also, some of the 110 schools were damaged by rainstorm in the state.
But Executive Secretary, Jigawa Nomadic Education Board, Ali Mamu, who disclosed these, assured that "the uncompleted schools will be completed this year."
Mamu stated: "Teaching materials, schools uniforms and others schools worth over N27million have been distributed to various nomadic schools across the state last year. Seven nomadic schools were also built in the state under the same period, with additional of 81 literacy classes for both men and women established across the state."
He said the board has also established enlightenment committee, "which will educate members of Miyetti Allah cattle breeders on the importance of nomadic education."
Mamu also disclosed that enrolment in the state's nomadic schools was in excess of 40,000 pupils who are being taught by 280 teachers.
Apart from continuous training of the teachers, Mamu also stated that 35 motorcycles were recently purchased and distributed to schools inspector across the state for the purposed of monitoring the nomadic schools.
He also stated that the board, in collaboration with the state water board, was able to drill 50 boreholes to meet the water needs of the schools.
Mamu also disclosed that plans were underway to provide soft loan to nomadic women in the state, "with a view to allowing their children to attend schools."
The nomadic education scheme has been successfully embedded into the universal basic education programme in the state and over 206 nomadic schools have been built in Niger.
LEADERSHIP WEEKEND learnt that the government plans to see each local government in the state hosts at least 10 nomadic schools.
Also, three of the twenty five local governments have 15 nomadic schools each because of the high number of grazing routes. These are Agwara, Shiroro, and Bosso.
"Because of this, enrolment in nomadic schools has gone up in the state", said Director-General Nomadic Affairs, Niger state, Muhammad Abubakar Sadiq.
Much as government claims to be working assiduously towards education for all, not much has been achieved in the nomadic education sub-sector in this state.
The state, according to its Director for Nomadic Education, Aliyu Abubakar, has the highest number of Fulani in Nigeria.
But Abubakar stressed that the "Sokoto State government is doing its best to ensure that all nomadic Fulani are educated."
According to him, Sokoto State has 71 nomadic schools with 11,711 pupils - 8,661 male, 3,150 female - and 101 teachers.
Abubakar stated: "Only Sokoto South, out of the 23 local governments, does not have a nomadic school yet.
"The present government gives us 100 per cent support by not only renovating and building learning centres but by also giving us a Hilux van for supervision and monitoring. Motorcycles were also given on loans to 67 teachers."
He noted that "both the state government and NCNE train the teachers on regular bases and provide teaching and instructional materials to ensure the sustainability of the nomadic education programme."
However, Abubakar observed that the scheme suffered from a dearth of teachers and lamented that many nomadic parents "don't allow their children, especially the girls, to go further after primary education."
David Aduge-Ani, Muazu Elazeh, Yau Waziri, Surajo Muhammad, Abu Nmodu, Ankeli Emmanuel and Isaiah Benjamin