In Nigeria’s Muslim-dominated north, the issue of religion and tradition are often top of the agenda. By far the most popular state is Kano, the famed ancient city which has strong traditional and industrial history.
Yet bedeviling the north in general and Kano in particular is poverty and general infrastructural deficit. The United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund, UNICEF; captures the educational crisis in its overview of education for the country.
“States in the north-east and north-west have female primary net attendance rates of 47.7 percent and 47.3 percent, respectively, meaning that more than half of the girls are not in school.
“The education deprivation in northern Nigeria is driven by various factors, including economic barriers and socio-cultural norms and practices that discourage attendance in formal education, especially for girls.”
For successive federal and state governments the defense has often been that the crisis is known and that efforts are being continually undertaken to remedy it with infrastructure investment and more budgetary allocation.
But the sub-50% enrollment for girls means that there are those that get to go through the educational system. Many others lucky to make the primary level fall out before secondary with the numbers dwindling further post-secondary.
Such girls are the focus of an Information and Communication Technology, ICT; training center. The Paradigm Initiative LIFE program.
About PIN’s LIFE program
The LIFE program falls in PIN’s digital inclusion mission and is focused generally on young Nigerians with the view to equipping them with relevant ICT, entrepreneurial and life skills to make them competitive in the job place or self-sufficient.
Paradigm Initiative runs three LIFE centers across Nigeria, the pioneering Ajengunle center in Lagos State, the Aba LIFE center and Dakata LIFE located in Kano State.
Dakata, the youngest of the LIFE centers was opened in 2016 and in the past few years continues to churn out graduates – most of whom have gone on to start businesses. L. I. F. E. is an acronym for: L – Life skills, I – Information and Communication Technology, F – Financial literacy, E – Entrepreneurship.
The planned focus on female beneficiaries
When the LIFE centers compared enrolment in 2017, they found out that the Dakata LIFE centre was getting less girls. One could safely point to the educational challenges in the north as the reason.
But for leader of the team, Amina Idris, there was the need to act and to act fast. There needed to be a plan to get more girls in and not just that; but to ensure they run the full course.
“It was a bit difficult at the beginning because considering the nature of the northerners, the girl child’s education is not considered as important as that of the male child,” Amina admitted in an interview.
The figures since 2018 have improved drastically, Amina adds crediting the improvement to sustained advocacy and assurances to parents and guardians of these girls.
“Some of the challenges where guarantors and parents showing concern for their female children asking what we are going to be teaching them etc. and some of our success has been that the female students we have been getting so far have graduated from the program to start a business of their own so the parents are mostly proud of them afterwards,” Amina said.
Asked whether the focus on girls did not disadvantage boys, she answered in the negative. “The long term vision of this empowerment drive is for these youths to go out there and be financially independent,” she added.
Extra focus on girl empowerment
Even after enrolment and throughout the training which typically takes 10 weeks, there are other activities that are specially designed for female beneficiaries.
Amina shares more on those: “We run a digital readiness workshop for only girls which is a 2-day workshop where they are introduced to Microsoft office package and digital security because we believe girls are more vulnerable online.
“And there is also the girls code camp which we were supposed to start this year but due to the pandemic we couldn’t do that.”
One of the beneficiaries is currently serving as a front desk executive at the Dakata Center. For Bilkisu; the training she received in 2018 has been crucial in shaping her academic trajectory and professional aspirations.
Amina speaks highly of the community for its support for the center and its activities. “The community has really been of great help to us they have always shown support in helping to mobilize students and they have also been very vigilant when it comes to protecting the facility.”
Dakata community and successes of Dakata LIFE
Dakata Community in Nassarawa Local Government Area, Kano State, was chosen as the host community for our L.I.F.E. Program in the Northwest.
The training centre is situated at 547 Warshu Hospital Road, Dakata, Kawaji, Kano State. Even though the program is located in Dakata community, the centre has been able to provide training to youth from neighbouring communities.
From inception, the training centre has graduated eight classes, providing the L.I.F.E. training to 250 youth.
Of the students trained in 2017: 10 got jobs, 15 started businesses, 8 are in apprenticeships to learn a trade and 5 got admission into tertiary institutions to further their studies.
About Paradigm Initiative
Paradigm Initiative (PIN) is a social enterprise that builds ICT-enabled support systems and advocates for digital rights in order to improve the livelihoods of under-served young Africans.
The digital rights advocacy program is focused on the development of public policy for internet freedom in Africa, with offices in Abuja, Nigeria (covering the Anglophone West
Africa region); Yaoundé, Cameroon (Central Africa); Nairobi, Kenya (East Africa) and Lusaka, Zambia (Southern Africa).
Paradigm Initiative is also the convener of the Digital Rights and Inclusion Forum (DRIF), a pan-African bilingual Forum that has held annually since 2013.
Shaban Abdur Rahman Alfa Shaban
Digital journalist, Africanews