When it was established 30 years ago, the National Commission for Nomadic Education (NCNE), was expected to cater for the educational needs of the socially excluded, educational disadvantaged and migrant groups in Nigeria.
Gen. Ibrahim Babangida (rtd), then military head of state, had observed, then, that the nomads had serious limitations to equitable access to basic education through the conventional education system as a result of certain occupational and socio-cultural peculiarities.
Among these groups were nomadic cattle breeders as well as migrant fisher communities and farmers whose activities were dependent on the movement of waters.
Because of their constant movement in search of pastures for cattle or in search of water for fishing and dry season farming, government observed that their children’s participation in existing formal and non-formal basic education was abysmally low, hence the need to make a special arrangement for them.
This initiative became even more necessary because the centrality of child labour in their production system made it extremely difficult to allow children to participate in formal schools, especially with the school curriculum tailored to only meet the needs of sedentary groups
Essentially, therefore, the nomadic education programme was aimed at providing functional and relevant education that will facilitate integrating the nomads into the national life and equipping them to make favourable contributions to the nation’s socio–economic development.
But, 30 years after the programme was inaugurated, analysts have continued to wonder if its goals were being met and whether the targeted groups were benefiting.
Though records from the NCNE headquarters in Kaduna indicated that the programme currently has 578,374 pupils, 14,776 teachers and 44,484 graduated pupils, a nationwide survey conducted by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) revealed that the success of the programme was being hampered by a myriad of problems including the dearth of funds and teachers.
Other bottlenecks include insufficient infrastructure as well as persistent herdsmen/farmers clashes and cattle rustling that had sent herdsmen consistently scurrying to safe zones.
Desertification has also consistently thrown migrant fishers and farmers back and front, making it difficult for teachers to package an organised syllabus for the pupils.
In the North-West geo-political zone of the country, for instance, NAN found that the survival of the 918 nomadic schools spread across its seven states was being threatened by a massive dearth of teachers and infrastructure.
Aside the very negligible number of teachers to teach the 171,611 pupils, NAN found that the schools were offering voluntary services with the pupils casually strolling into the classes whenever they wanted.
In Kaduna State, 80 per cent of teaching and learning in the existing 318 nomadic schools occur under trees due to massive shortage of infrastructure.
According to Malam Ibrahim Parah, coordinator of nomadic education in the state, there are no adequate classrooms and basic infrastructure for teaching and learning, forcing most of the schools to use tree shades as classes.
He said that teachers were grossly inadequate, blaming it on the interior location of the schools.
“Very few teachers are ready to work in the rural areas. Some simply appear and disappear from the bushes where the schools are located,’’ he said.
According to him, another challenge is convincing the nomads on the importance of educating their children, since most of them still view western education as a waste.
“There is also the problem of massive withdrawal, especially of the girl-child, who is constantly being withdrawn and given out for marriage, leading to low completion rate.
“Another problem is the protracted communal conflicts across the country which have forced nomads to always migrate to safer areas thereby abandoning areas where schools were built to educate their children,” he added.
The coordinator, however, disclosed that in spite of the challenges, the state enrolled 47,146 pupils as at 2017. Of the number, 18,960 are females, he added.
Parah said that the first six nomadic education schools established in 1989 were located in Lere, Birnin Gwari, Kagarko, Sanga, Kachia and Igabi local government areas, saying that some of the pupils had moved to tertiary institutions and obtained various certificates.
One of such old pupils, Malam Haruna Bunkau, who currently holds a National Certificate in Education, lauded the nomadic education programme, but called for massive campaign to generate funding for nomadic schools and convince nomads to fully embrace formal education.
“With education, the lives of the nomads, especially Fulani herdsmen, will witness a turnaround for the better,’’ he said.
In Kano State, Alhaji Rabi’u Harbau, Director, Nomadic Education, urged government to recruit Fulani teachers to teach in the existing nomadic schools.
Harbau noted that although the curriculum of the schools was written in Fulani language, there were no Fulfulde teachers to drive the teaching and learning process.
The official said that 60 per cent of the nomadic schools in the state were established by the Nomads, who provided free lands, built classes and sourced voluntary Fulani teachers.
“As at 2017, we had 338 Nomadic Primary Schools across 41 Local Government Areas out of the 44, with 72,578 pupils comprising 41,966 boys and 30,612 girls,’’ he said, adding that there were 1,417 teachers out of which only 22 are females.
Harbau called on the Federal Government to provide adequate funds for implementation of the programme, training and retraining of teachers, provision of infrastructure and other necessary facilities.
In Kebbi, where 11,383 nomads have been enrolled in the 118 Nomadic schools across the 21 local government areas, the major concerns there included enrollment, retention, substitution and completion.
According to Usman Aliyu, Coordinator, Nomadic Education, parents still have the habit of refusing to send their children o school, while some withdraw the children using flimsy excuses.
“We have about 118 Nomadic schools, 11,383 pupils, including 7,064 males and 4,329 females across the 21 local government areas of the state,’’ he told NAN.
The Kebbi State Chairman of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association, Alhaji Muhammad Dan-Ali, on his part, urged the state government to establish a nomadic education agency to handle nomadic education.
“What we have in the state education system is a unit for nomadic education. We need an agency saddled with responsibilities of taking care of nomadic schools to broaden the focus,’’ he said.
He urged the government to revive the mobile tents system for the use of nomadic schools, and called for the employment of adequate Fulani teachers.
“The teachers we have in the schools cannot speak Fulani language; most of our wards don’t know how to speak Hausa and English language. Clearly, it is difficult for teachers and pupils to communicate, making teaching and learning simply impossible.
“The books are in Fulani, but the teachers are not Fulani and do not know the language, how can they teach our wards?” he wondered.
In Katsina State, the government recently constructed 10 nomadic primary schools following the agreement reached with repentant cattle rustlers in Safana, Batsari, Danmusa, Jibiya local government areas.
The state Coordinator, Nomadic Education, Malam Suleiman Umar, told NAN that the state has 82 Nomadic Primary Schools with 21,550 pupils and 400 teachers across the 34 local government areas.
Umar called for regular training of teachers, provision of instructional materials to enhance teaching and learning in the schools, and provision of motorcycles to supervisors.
But for Alhaji Samaila Modu, Executive Director, Zamfara State Agency for Nomadic Education, the best way to promote nomadic education is to establish grazing reserves where nomads would be domiciled.
“When the nomads get settled in cattle reserves, their children will have the chance to acquire formal education,’’ he opined.
He said that the agency had 62 nomadic schools, but that 18 had been temporarily closed down due to insecurity, adding that there were 6,504 pupils comprising 4,065 males and 2,439 females.
Modi said that the greatest challenge was that of shortage of teachers and insecurity.
Malam Abdulsalami Idris, State Secretary, Miyetti Allah Cattle Brides Association, however, called on governments to provide amenities like clinics, water and roads, to Fulani settlements, to prevent them from migrating.
He also called for deployment of mobile schools to encourage nomads to attend them.
The programme has, however, gone far in Sokoto where a secondary school has been established for nomads at Dalijan in Kebbe Local Government.
According to Alhaji Aliyu Abubakar, Executive Director, Sokoto State Agency for Nomadic Education, the school was established in 2017.
He said that the agency currently runs 80 nomadic primary schools with a student population of 12, 500 and 185 teachers across the 23 local governments.
“We record an annual enrollment of nearly 3,500 pupils, with about 900 graduates each year,’’ Abubakar told NAN.
He pointed out that frequent movement of the herdsmen and relocation of their settlements had necessitated a scheme of transfer and acceptance of pupils.
The official explained that the scheme was designed to cushion the effect of the trans-human nature of the nomads which oftentimes disrupted the smooth flow of the system.
Abubakar held the view that integrating Qur’anic education into modern primary school system could further boost nomadic education because most parents’ preferred religious and moral instructions for their wards.
He also called on the government to recruit more teachers for the agency in the light of the increased population of pupils.
In some states in the north-central, NAN also found that the nomadic education programme was recording some appreciable progress, but with similar drawbacks like dearth of funding, teachers and infrastructure.
In Plateau, Prof. Mathew Sule, Executive Chairman, State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), told NAN that there were 136 nomadic schools across 15 Local Government Areas, with 720 teachers handling 29,791 pupils.
He said that state government’s funding efforts were being supported by the NCNE, adding that the schools adopt multi-grade teaching approach which combines pupils of different grades in a classroom.
“The schools emphasise peace education while encouraging nomads to engage in farming and herding,’’ he said. .
He identified major challenges to include overcrowded classrooms, the dearth of teachers and the complete absence of toilet facilities.
Sule said that the structures were community-owned and not properly maintained, adding that it had been difficult to source good drinking water.
The SUBEB boss also decried the withdrawal of girls for early marriage, saying that it had affected concentration and pupils’ desire to complete their schools.
The situation in Niger is not as rosy with the 255 nomadic schools facing a myriad of problems.
According to Alhaji Abdullahi Babayo, Director-General, Nomadic Schools Affairs in Niger, structures in 70 per cent of the schools are dilapidated and not conducive for learning and teaching, while truant teachers and learners are frustrating the system.
He explained that his office had begun a tour of the nomadic schools to address the challenges, saying that an enrollment drive was currently on-going to ensure that no child was left behind.
Babayo said that the agency had introduced a form that would compel parents to desist from withdrawing their wards or children from the system, saying that truant teachers had been warned to be diligent or face severe sanctions.
“By that agreement, parents have invariably entered into a bond with us and will pay dearly for it should they default.
“Once a child has been enrolled into the nomadic school, it is an offence to withdraw such a child,’’ he declared.
From the North-East, NAN gathered that insecurity, under-funding and apathy by parents were the major obstacles militating against the effective implementation of the nomadic education programme.
Correspondents, who went to Borno, Bauchi, Adamawa, Gombe and Jigawa States, found that the programme had either been completely abandoned, or was being implemented skeletaly.
While some government officials vested with the responsibility of running the programme insisted that progress was being made, other independent stakeholders disagreed with such stance.
Mr Muhammad Adam, Director, Borno State Agency for Nomadic Education, identified Boko Haram insurgency as the major challenge in the running of the programme in the state.
According to him, 94 schools were established in 1989 across the 27 local governments, adding that 75 of them were in a state of disrepair.
He said that 18,000 pupils had so far graduated from the schools, regretting, however, that the programme had been grounded since 2012 when the insurgents began the attacks on schools in the North-East.
“But, even before then, we had encountered a lot of difficulties trying to convince the nomads to enrol their children in schools.
“We used to visit wards, hamlets and pastoral dwellings to sensitise parents on the need to enroll into formal schools, but such sensitisation activities are no longer possible due to the activities of insurgents.
“We also recorded low retention in schools following indiscriminate withdrawal of pupils from schools by their guardians,” he said.
Adam listed other challenges to include inadequate funding, lack of qualified teachers, as well as logistics.
In Adamawa, apart from insecurity, another obstacle to effective nomadic education is the lack of access roads, especially during the rainy season, according to Mrs. Amina Baba-Kano, State Coordinator, Nomadic Education Commission.
Baba-Kano said that teachers hardly visit the schools during the raining season, but disclosed that the enrollment was “a bit encouraging’’, with 17,246 pupils taught by 670 teachers in 141 schools.
However, Alhaji Muhammadu Toungo, Chairman, Adamawa State Universal Basic Education Board (ADSUBEB), has assured stakeholder that the programme would receive adequate attention, and urged private organizations and host communities to complement government efforts by contributing to the programme.
But Mr Muhammad Bello, National Secretary, Pastoral Reserves, an NGO, has accused governments in some northern states of not showing enough interest in the programme, adding that constant farmers/herdsmen clashes were also frustrating the nomadic education scheme.
In Gombe, Hajiya Zulaihatu Madugu, Director, School Services, told NAN that there were 77 nomadic schools with 19,882 pupils and 383 teachers.
She said that schools located within the outskirts of Gombe metropolis had been upgraded to conventional schools, adding that more teachers were being deployed to ensure adequate teaching staff.
Madugu lauded the introduction of School Feeding programme by the Federal Government, saying that it had encouraged herdsmen to send their wards to the nomadic schools..
Also speaking, Malam Aminu Suleiman, Secretary, Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), Gombe State chapter, urged the state government to ensure regular inspection of the schools because many had been abandoned while teachers do not report to work
NAN found an equally bad situation in Bauchi State with Alhaji Musa Hardo, Secretary, Bauchi State Agency for Nomadic Education (BASANE), decrying the poor state of nomadic schools.
“Most of the schools operate under trees and make-shift structures provided by their host communities. There are 402 schools with 1,174 teachers and 68,000 pupils, but very few of the schools have one or two classrooms,’’ he said.
He said that 265 pupils recently fled into the state from Zamfara following the violence there, adding that their presence had overstretched the little facilities in the schools.
Hardo decried the dearth of teachers, furniture and water ponds for nomads and their cattle, and called on the Bauchi government to release the four pick-up vans it recently promised the agency, to enhance supervision.
But the situation appeared rather better in Jigawa where NAN learnt that government had voted N50 million to execute capital projects, train and retrain teachers, and provide uniforms for the nomadic school children.
Alhaji Ali Manu, Executive Secretary, Jigawa Agency for Nomadic Education, who disclosed this, said that the state government had established 323 nomadic schools in the past 19 years.
He said that 20 additional schools would soon be established to cater for the growing numbers of nomadic children, adding that the schools were fully equipped with furniture, instructional materials and teachers.
However, Alhaji Ya’u Malammadori, former chairman of Jigawa Chapter of MACBAN, said that he was not satisfied with the implementation of the nomadic education programme in the state.
“Most of the teachers don’t come to school because no one monitors them. Government must intensify supervision to check truancy,’’ he said.
In the South-South geo-political zone, NAN found that the nomadic education programme had not received much attention, with stakeholders urging the three tiers of government to establish more of such schools there.
Some of the stakeholders, who spoke with NAN, said that nomads in Riverine areas were yet to benefit from the scheme.
They regretted that migrant fishermen, a major segment of the disadvantaged population targeted by the programme, had been abandoned to their fate.
Mr Edwin Obayuwana, a management staff in the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education in Delta, told NAN that there was no nomadic unit in the ministry.
However, Mrs. Caroline Ebipadie, an educationist in Bayelsa, emphasised the need to develop schools for nomads to offer nomadic fishermen an opportunity to access formal education.
“I teach in a public primary school, but I have never heard of nomadic school in Bayelsa. I think there is no such system of education here,’’ she said.
She lamented that residents of fishing settlements were wallowing in illiteracy, and called for urgent steps to check that.
Mr Francis Obua, a fisherman in Imiringi Community, Ogbia Local Government Area, told NAN that there were no proper schools in fishing camps in Bayelsa.
“Our children do not go to real school because of our fish farming business. But we try to teach them, using the little education we have acquired while moving from place to place,’’ he said.
Obua described education as a necessity, and called on the Federal Government to establish schools for nomads in Bayelsa.
“Sometimes, our children are being taught by volunteers or their elderly siblings and then proceed to government schools to take external examinations.
“Some of our children are very intelligent, despite the environment they found themselves in,” he explained.
The situation was, however, different in Cross River State with 86 functional nomadic schools.
According to Mr Ugor Abubakar, the State Coordinator, NCNE, nomadic and migrant education programmes are “doing very well’’ in the state.
“Aside the 86 nomadic primary schools, Cross River has 32 Nomadic Secondary Schools with good structures and facilities put together by the communities.
“We have migrant fishermen and farmers who do seasonal farming. In one of the primary schools in Calabar, we have 1,250 pupils. In one of the migrant secondary schools, we have 476 students,’’ he said.
He, however, alleged that funding had been poor from the Federal Government.
“ In the past four years, we have not received or heard anything from the NCNE. Communities have been trying to fund some of these schools,’’ he said.
Abubakar identified other challenges to include lack of vehicles for supervision and the absence of working equipment like rain coats and rain boots since most of the communities were swampy areas
In the South-West, however, NAN found that there was no concrete policy on nomadic education, while schools exclusively devoted to nomads were uncommon.
Mr Clement Adesuyi, the Director of School Services at the SUBEB in Ondo, told NAN that enrollment into the only such institution, was “very low’’.
“The school is located in Ikaramu-Akoko, but only 20 pupils have registered,’’ he said.
He noted, however, that the state runs an all inclusive education system that gives opportunity for nomads to mingle with host communities.
In Ogun, Osun, Oyo and Ekiti States, there were neither physical presence of nomadic schools, nor any discernible policy on nomadic education.
But in Ilorin, data obtained from the Ministry of Education, showed that the first nomadic school was established in New Bussa in the defunct Kwara, on Feb. 12, 1988.
The data indicated that there were currently 225 students in seven schools in the four local governments of Ilorin, Edu, Ifelodun and Asa.
An official of the ministry, who pleaded for anonymity, however told NAN that nomadic education in the state was facing many challenges that included the paucity of funds, infrastructure, inadequate instructional materials and dearth of teachers.
The official also decried the indiscriminate transfer of teachers from nomadic schools to conventional schools and the alarming drop-out rates.