Fitila: Lighting the future of preteen girls

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As much as it is believed that education is the remedy to poverty among girls, empowerment education and skills are equally believed to be critical in helping girls break the cycle of poverty and deprivation as well as have access to resources and opportunities

By Adam Alqali

Conscious of the idea of catching them young, the Fitila project is empowering hundreds of girls of primary school age with entrepreneurial skills for the girls to be able to support their education as well as acquire skills that might lead them to carriers in entrepreneurship. Thus far, many students of primary schools from across Kano state, northwestern Nigeria, have acquired vocational skills that are aiding their educational pursuit and making them self-reliant.

Such girls do not only have to anymore wait for their parents and government to support their basic educational needs but do also support the basic educational needs of their siblings. No doubt, if the campaign for empowering girls of school age is sustained, it will be one of the best practices of how to end poverty and unemployment among Nigerian youth and particularly women and girls, who at the moment are the most financially and economically disadvantaged gender.

“There was a day my siblings wanted to buy pencils and our father didn’t have the money so I gave them N50 to buy pencils. Moreover, if we are asked to bring exam fee in school, which is N100, I don’t have to ask my parents anymore; I pay for it myself. We also use the profits we make to fix certain things in our school including furniture and writing boards, without having to wait for the government to do so,” said Amina Ismail, a primary school pupil from Dr Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso Science Model Primary School, Tarauni, Kano.

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Thirteen year old Amina is a member of Fitila Girls Association, an association of primary schools girls that support each other in the area of access to education, entrepreneurial skills acquisition that will help them while still in school and even after they have left school. The formation of the girls associations was encouraged, supported and facilitated by Discovery Learning Alliance (Fitila) project, in partnership with the Kano State Universal Basic Education Board, SUBEB, and the UK’s Department for International Development, DFID.

Amina, like many other girls members of the Fitila Girls Association in about 400 primary schools across Kano have acquired various entrepreneurial skills which, among others, include how to make bar soap, air freshener, toilet wash, key holders etc under the mentorship of their teachers. She was speaking during a public presentation and exhibition competition of items produced by the members of various girls associations in primary schools across Kano, organized by Kano SUBEB and the Fitila project.

Speaking at the event, the deputy governor of Kano state, Prof Hafiz Abubakar, who was represented by the executive secretary of the Kano State Agency for Mass Education, Hajiya Yardada Maikano Bichi said the Kano state government would always accord priority to educational development in the state adding that a free and compulsory education policy would soon be introduced in the state.

“There was a day my siblings wanted to buy pencils and our father didn’t have the money so I gave them N50 to buy pencils. Moreover, if we are asked to bring exam fee in school, which is N100, I don’t have to ask my parents anymore; I pay for it myself. We also use the profits we make to fix certain things in our school including furniture and writing boards, without having to wait for the government to do so”

“A free and compulsory education policy will soon be out; parents should ensure they comply as parents who deviate will be disciplined; they will get fined or even imprisoned. Those parents that are non-Kano indigenes will be expelled out of Kano state. Kano is tirelessly working to develop the education sector which won’t be achieved without building a collective solid foundation for basic education,” said Hajiya Yardada Bichi

“The Discovery Learning Action is increasing effectiveness of teaching and learning in the state including promoting skills acquisition for self-reliance and providing learning centers with modern learning materials towards good learning outcome,” said Zakari Ibrahim Bagwai, chairman, Kano State Universal Basic Education Board, SUBEB.

“I am calling on all to help empower and educate girls, the Kano state government has recently come up with programs to promote education including the establishment of Education Promotion Committees in the 44 local councils, to give all stakeholders including NGOs the opportunity to contribute to the development of education in the state.”

Also speaking, the project director of DLA, Haladu Mohammed said Filtila’s learning centers provided pupils with the opportunity to access up-to-date educational facilities, thereby bringing about a new approach to teaching for the primary schools pupils adding that the project which targets 500 schools had already reached 400 schools. He described their partnership with SUBEB as very effective.

“DFID is aligning with the Kano state government to support its priorities including in the area of education as well as promote women and girls issues through programs like Education Sector Support Programmes in Nigeria, ESSPIN, which supports 27,000 teachers to acquire the minimum requirement to teach,” said Dr Siaka Alhassan, the regional coordinator of DFID in northern Nigeria.

Dr Alhassan added that majority of the challenges in the education sector had to do with budgets and financial management strategies hence DFID’s interventions through projects like State Partnership for Accountability, Responsiveness and Capability, SPARC, and State Accountability and Voice Initiative, SAVI, to support the education sector adding that DFID would continue to support the education sector in Kano state.

The exhibition and competition afforded the general public the opportunity to see the ingenuity, creativity, originality of the primary school pupils whose schools participated as well as a market for the pupils’ products, at the end of which the 3 outstanding schools from Dawakin Kudu, Bagwai, and Kibiya LGAs emerged first, second and third, respectively.

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