by Tolu Orekoya
18-year-old divorcee Hanisa Idris Magama doesn’t flinch at the idea of carrying her 4-year-old daughter, and then sitting with her as they both attend primary school together, seated in the same room. “I will not mind competing with my first daughter in search of knowledge in the same school. After all, I am ahead of her by four years. I can carry her to school every morning,” she told the Sunday Trust newspaper.
As a young girl she was withdrawn from primary school at the age of 12, after attending for only three years. Her parents decided to marry her off at the age of 13; she was divorced 5 years later. For her, this is a second chance that she intends to hold on to. “When I was forced out of the primary school for marriage I was not happy, but I couldn’t oppose my parent’s decision. Now, everything is moving smoothly for me for a brighter future…After the dissolution of our marriage my parents allowed me to return to school to complete my primary school education,” Hanisa narrated.
She is the beneficiary of Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT), a UNICEF-backed project running in Katsina state. It hopes to improve the lives of young girls, giving them access to basic education by paying their families in return for allowing the girls to attend school. After qualifying families have met the criteria for selection, the scheme pays N5,000 per quarter to families who ensure that their daughters are present at school at least 80% of the time. A pilot programme has been running in nine selected local government areas in the state.
Piloted in 2010, The Katsina government has spent N265 million on the scheme, and has already seen an uptick in the attendance of school girls. According to Hajiya Bilkisu Kaikai, the Special Advisor to Governor Shema on Girl-child Education and Development, over 900 girls have been to the rosters of various primary schools in their locales.
Hanisa dreams of becoming a medical doctor, and hopes that her children will never have to go through what she did saying, “I will never allow my kids to grow up uneducated. I will do my best to ensure that they acquire both Islamic and western education. I will never allow them fall into a similar condition that I am in now.”
However, sometimes success comes with its own problems. When the headmaster of a school participating in the pilot was contacted, he said that they were in need of more classroom space, due to the increase in student enrolment.