RANA BAYOK in Kaduna writes on how married women and young girls who either dropped out of school or did not have the opportunity to go to school are rushing to make up for the lost opportunity at the Care NGO School for Functional Literacy run by a university teacher.
For many girls and women in Kaduna, who for one reason or the other dropped out of school, the Care-NGO School of Functional Literacy founded by a university don, Prof. Bala Dogo of the Kaduna State University (KASU) provides yet another opportunity to go back to school.
To them, this is an opportunity that can not be missed again and they are determined to acquire the highest level of education, having realised the importance of education in all facets of human endeavour.
You could see the enthusiasm they exude as they sang excitedly in procession during their matriculation at the school premises at Matari West area of Sabon –Tasha, a suburb of Kaduna metropolis.
Most of them were married women whose age ranges from 28 to 60 years, but their unquenchable taste for education has made them to abandon other things for the classroom having missed the chance to acquire education.
All of them have one story or the other to tell as to why they dropped out of school during their younger days. While some of them explained that their parents did not send them to school, others said they dropped out either because of lack of sponsorship or some unfortunate events in their lives.
Tina Emmanuel, a 28 year old house wife is one of the new pupils at the school told me during the matriculation ceremony that she now regrets failing to listen to her parents’ counsel on the need to go to school.
“When my parents were forcing me to go to school, I refused. I was so stubborn and rude. I took everything for granted” she said adding that she eventually got pregnant and had to marry.
According to her, the reality dawned on her when her husband insulted and called her an illiterate.
“When I got married, my husband started insulting me, calling an illiterate any time we quarrel. He forgot that he was the one that impregnated me which also contributed to my inability to go to school. Whenever he calls me an illiterate, I will just cry. For that reason I vowed that I must go back to school.
He even asked me which school I would like to go, I told him I will want to go to secondary school. He now asked me to leave Port-Harcourt and come to Kaduna and enrol in school. So I came to Kaduna to stay with his mother. It was my neighbour who is also a student here that told me about Care NGO and she brought me here to enrol. I am so happy that I am back to school. There are many women like me who missed the opportunity to go to school. I will like to further my education after I finished from here. I am determined” Tina declared.
But Martha Dominic, 26, also a house wife had no opportunity to go to even primary school because she lost her father. Her mother was barely able to put some food on the table..
“My Dad died when I was young and my Mum was not in a position to send me to school. I couldn’t go to primary school. I am so happy now because, before, I was not able to read, but now I can read. I have just written my junior WAEC and now I am in SS1 and by the grace of God I hope to go to the university or Polytechnic after I finish from here” she said.
Explaining the philosophy behind the establishment of the school, Prof. Bala, a former Dean of the School of Sciences at KASU said it was set up to provide those who missed out l another opportunity to make up in their education.
“We realised that many people couldn’t complete school for one reason or the other, so we decided we should do something like this so that we can give them the second opportunity to acquire education. We also provide some vocational training for them to make them self employed” he said.
He added further that, apart from the academics, the students are also trained in some vocational skills to empower them become self reliant. The vocational training programmes in the school include soap making, computer training, tailoring and modern agriculture.
He said the school started in a rented shop in Ungwan – Dosa before it was relocated to his residence in Sabon –Tasha in the Southern part of the metropolis.
“Initially when we moved here, I was using my house for the programme. We were using the garage and the living room. When the space was too small, God provided a permanent site for us and we were able to move from my house to the site in 2003” he said.
He disclosed that about 600 people have graduated from the centre since its inception adding that many of them are now graduates of universities, polytechnics and colleges of education.
“Some of them are working in both private and public organisations. I know some of them who are working in banks, Civil Defence, government ministries and several others who are making it in business and that makes me happy.
“I am happy that we have been able to touch the lives of people, we have been able to provide a direction in their lives and I think that if all of us should develop the habit of contributing to the development of people and our communities, some of the social problems bedevilling us would be reduced”, he added.
The school is divided into three categories: Those who never attended primary school, those who completed their primary school but couldn’t go to secondary school and those who dropped out in secondary school.
Majority of the students are married women most of who didn’t have the opportunity for primary education.
According to Dogo, at the end of the programme, the students go to register in a primary school to sit for the school Leaving Certificate while those enrolled for secondary school are registered with the Government Secondary School (GSS), Sabo and other private school to enable them sit for the JSS exams and WAEC.
“We in the university are supposed to do three things. We are supposed to lecture, we are supposed to research and do community service. My own way of serving the community is to provide education to those who didn’t have the chance to go to school” he said.
However, the major challenge facing the Care NGO School of Functional Literacy is lack of funds and basic facilities for teaching and learning.
Dogo said the centre needs more furniture and classrooms as the population of the pupils keeps on increasing, pointing that the NGO has been using every available resources at its disposal judiciously to meet its needs.
He said the only source of revenue for running the programme is the token amount paid by the students and proceeds of rent from shops owned by the organisation.
Dogo who run the school along with his wife, Maria, disclosed further that initially when the programme started, it was free but as time went on, they had to ask the students to pay some token in view of limited resources and the economic situation which could no longer permit the programme to be free.
“When the number of the students increased we had to ask them to pay a token. The started by paying N200. Now they are paying N1000 every four months. Even at that some people could not afford it.
“We pay the teachers from the money we collect from the students. We augment it with the money we realise from payment of rents by people renting our shops. We also make some money when people use our hall for wedding receptions and other functions.
“Since we started, we have not received any funding from anybody for the school. It was this year that we received $250,000 from somebody in Canada when my wife went there” he disclosed.
He told the 40 matriculating students that education has no age limit and charged them to work hard to realise their dream in life.
Kaduna state commissioner for Women Affairs and Social Development, Mrs Maria Dogo who was represented at the matriculation ceremony by a senior official in the ministry, Mrs Paulina Kure commended the university teacher for initiating literacy for many women who she noted, missed the opportunity of going to school.
She said the state government will partner with organisations that are making positive contributions in developing and empowering the people.
She urged the women to acquire skills that will help them and their families and appealed to them to ensure that their children are properly brought up and educated in order to be good citizens.
Also in his remarks at the occasion, the community leader of Matari West, Deacon Bawa Arage commended Prof. Bala for his contribution to the community and urged other influential people in the area to emulate him.