Last year, the story of Memunatu Musa, a 14-year-old pupil of Enikaro Primary School, in Benin City, Edo State, given out in marriage as a child-bride to a 50-year-old man in Katsina State caused an uproar similar to the furore over Ese Oruru, who was abducted in Bayelsa State to be married off in Kano, where she was converted to Islam.
With the intervention of Edo State governor, Godwin Obaseki, Memunatu was brought back to the state to complete her education, but the governor went further by piloting a scheme that would not only ensure child marriage is stamped out from the state, but children can be kept in school and have the opportunity to attain their full potential.
Through the Edo Basic Education Sector Transformation (EdoBEST) programme, Memunatu was rescued and reintegrated into the school system to continue to chase her dreams.
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According to girlsnotbrides, a social advocacy group against child marriage, 26 per cent of girls in Benin are married before their 18th birthdays and seven per cent are married before the age of 15. Most of these young girls terminate their schooling to become wives, thus increasing the number of out-of-school children.
This is one of the reasons Nigeria has one of the highest numbers of out-of-school children globally. The figure has been estimated to be over 13 million Nigerian kids that are not in school.
To change the narrative, EdoBEST, which began its intervention outreach from primary schools, has extended its tentacles to the junior secondary school level as part of the state’s efforts at achieving the Sustainable Development Goal 4, which seeks inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for all.
In the EdoBEST programme, over 8,700 teachers have been trained and equipped with Information and Communications Technology (ICT) devices for improved learning outcomes, which have positively impacted over 150,000 school children in the state. Over 234 schools are being reconstructed with 7,094 computer tablets distributed to teachers and head-teachers.
Applauding the governor’s initiative at the grassroots level, a primary six pupil of Eveva Primary School, Okugbe Okpella in Etsako East Local Government Area, Promise Oshoke, said the government has made learning more interesting and exciting for them. He said some of the facilities provided to aid learning include modern desks, textbooks, computers, and new school buildings.
Also, teachers in Omigie Primary School, Okpella were full of encomiums for the state for giving the school a facelift through the construction of a block of classrooms and a headmaster office, as well as toilets for pupils and teachers. Ayo Omokhagbon and Raymond Madugu, both teachers in the school, said the EdoBEST initiative has brought professionalism into the education sector as pupils now learn at the same level of competence.
To boost the impact of the campaign against child bride and keep children in school, the state government recently got a World Bank $75 million facility to address issues of education development.
According to the Special Adviser to the governor on Media and Communication Strategy, Mr Crusoe Osagie, the facility was the handiwork of the steady developmental strides of the governor in the strategic implementation of programmes in the education sector.