By Carl Umegboro
“The positive thinker sees the invisible feels the intangible and achieves the impossible”.
THESE were the words of a British statesman, Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, who was a two-time Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1940 to 1945 and 1951 to 1955. Arguably, the capacity to combine the two ways of thinking: creative and critical thinking equips one to produce robust actions. Whilst creative thinking looks at problems or situations from a fresh perspective to conceive of something novel or unusual, the latter looks at ideas by discerning and deciding how realistic they actually are.
The pair, without any doubt, could be said to be yielding positive results in the education sector through the School-Based Management Committee, SBMC, template conceived and massively supported by UNICEF-Nigeria in collaborations with the Federal Government and the Department for International Development, DFID: the official development agency of United Kingdom’s government managing aids for the poor, developing nations.
Imperatively, SBMC is a unique template which brings communities, parents, non-parents, teachers, artisans, school children and governments under one umbrella for synergy towards addressing challenges in the basic education sector, particularly funding, infrastructure and service delivery rather than waiting solely on the government. By this, communities automatically become stakeholders and actively participate in the management of public schools in their environments in partnership with government for judicious and timely cogent actions.
Its exceptional feature is that the communities freely participate as stakeholders in managing, identifying projects of premium significance in schools in their neighbourhood and present budget to government for funding where their treasury is incapable of meeting the bills, unlike the preceding pattern where governments execute projects uniformly without carrying grassroots along let alone considering impacts and peculiarities. Thus, this ultimately gives powers back to the people; communities being part of the management of schools in their respective environments in partnership with government.
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The remarkable results compellingly necessitated this ‘expo’ for other states, perhaps still reluctant to take the SBMC seriously. Evidently, few states that accorded the robust attention it deserves, particularly Kano, is making significant impacts. For example, through the interventionist mechanism, a primary school presently owns a car-wash centre, flower-garden and other business ventures put in place by SBMC and prudently managed for revenue generation for projects in the school. Through it, school uniforms are periodically acquired for pupils from purse and various enrolment drives. It, therefore, implies that the era of collapsed classrooms or lack of necessities in schools is gone, unlike in the past when minor maintenances like roof leakages were ignored until they deteriorated to complete collapse.
Instructively, Kano State Universal Basic Education Board, SUBEB, compliantly domesticated National SBMC policy in 2009 and produced state specific SBMC policy 2010 with support from Education Sector Support Programme in Nigeria, ESSPIN, a DFID funded project.
From record, ESSPIN progressively supported SBMCs development in selected 320 pilot primary schools across Albasu, Fagge and Kumbotso LGAs in line with state SBMC policy in 2010 through Civil-Society and Government Partnership. In 2013, while the Universal Basic Education Commission, UBEC, facilitated the establishment of SBMC in 264 schools, Kano SUBEB rolled out SBMC development in 4505 primary schools across 44 LGAs. This is remarkable.
Apart from SBMC’s boost on infrastructural development in the schools, various groups in the communities that make up the SBMC, including artisans, mothers, make their respective valuable contributions accordingly. For instance, in Government Junior Secondary School, Ja’en in Gwale LGA, Kano State, mothers association spearheads skills acquisition programme for the girls which has contributed immensely in reducing girls hawking and begging in the streets.
Vocational skills like sewing, beads-making and others, resultantly, have been incorporated into the school curriculum which equips pupils for productivity. Essential projects, including boreholes, chairs, landscaping of school compound, were also impressively put in place by the SBMC scheme.
By this template which is an all-inclusive system, even parents who patronise private schools for their children also belong to SBMC, thereby making them contribute to improvements of public schools in their environment, unlike PTA(Parents/Teachers Association) that is merely for parents and teachers. SBMC is the positive innovation that can change the face of the society if enthusiastically adopted across the nation. Thus, UNICEF and DFID deserve commendations for championing the project.
Similarly, UNICEF since May 2012, has been implementing the eight-year GEP3/EAC (2012-2020) blueprint funded by the UK Department for International Development, DFID, which aims at contributing to improved social and economic opportunity for girls in northern Nigeria. The major focus of Girls Education Project Phase-3/Educate-A-Child is to get school-age girls to schools without neglecting boys’ enrolment. Before now, the GEP3 was being implemented in five Northern states, namely: Bauchi, Katsina, Niger, Sokoto, Zamfara states, and now Kano. Other policymakers should take it from there.
The impacts are phenomenal. The improved social and economic opportunity for girls which make more children, especially girls, in target states in Northern Nigeria complete basic education and acquire skills for livelihoods, cannot be overemphasized. In fact, with target one million additional girls in school, improved literacy and numeracy skills of children, with focus on teaching and community support, using evidence based strategies for literacy in multiple languages, it’s good to go.
In a nutshell, SBMCs are established by governments as an essential link between schools and communities as they serve in providing good governance and assist schools with basic needs and support for the improvement of teaching and learning environment, rather than abandoning all responsibilities to government.
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