By Abubakar Sadiq Mu’azu
More than ever before, grassroots communities in the Northern part of Nigeria have been deprived of basic human needs — healthcare, potable water, quality education; further degrading them of standard living condition.
In recent years, International Non-governmental organizations and the Nigerian Government have focused their interventions on Nigeria’s North with the sole intention of pulling more people out of poverty and achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) by the year 2030. The achievement of the 17 set goals by the United Nations, is the responsibility of every organisation, every institution and every person, especially as many of the goals are the fundamental rights of humans. Working to protect those rights and sustainability is no doubt a huge task and responsibility that government and stakeholders should give adequate priority.
My desire and passion for driving change was borne from witnessing insurgency and suppression of the people of Borno, a State in the NorthEast of Nigeria. I joined Follow The Money (FTM), the largest grassroots social accountability movement in Africa, with the aim of tracking government and international funding meant for the benefits of citizens and amplifying the voices of marginalized communities.
In the past 3 years of my journey within the transparency and accountability space, I have been equipped with the knowledge of using transparency tools in advocating the SDGs, especially in promoting quality education for all (SDG 4), a cause I am quite passionate about.
The provision of quality education to vulnerable regions in Nigeria continues to be a challenge that requires the unswerving commitment of the government. One way the education milestones in rural communities can be achieved is in building more classrooms to millions of learners in these regions, who continue to receive education in overcrowded classrooms.
In February 2018, we began an Education campaign in Mairi Kuwait community of Borno State, to enhance service delivery and ensure funds earmarked to the village was judiciously utilized.
Maimusari Primary School is the only education centre in Mairi Kuwait Maimusari, a remote community in Borno State, about 64 kilometres from Bama and Gwoza, terrorist-affected areas, in Northern Nigeria. The school has over 4000 children, including children from the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps nearby. There are 141 academic and non-academic staff who have offices stationed under trees since there are no erected structures. The Headmaster and Principal are able to manage a small common room space near the trees.
Not only was the building in a deplorable state, children were packed in hundreds of numbers in a classroom. Overcrowding makes it impossible for the environment to be conducive for learning and oftentimes, most children were discouraged from going to school.
Once we got information that fund had been disbursed for the construction of two blocks of three classrooms in Mairi Kuwait school, Follow The Money team, which I am an active member, began an advocacy campaign calling for work to begin. Our campaign, #ErectKuwait, was activated through community engagements; town hall meetings with stakeholders including community residents, school key principals, the chairman of State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), media representatives and the project contractors (Ravicam Investment Limited).
FTM further amplified the campaign to the Federal Government so the implementation of the project can be expedited. Indigenes of Mairi Kuwait joined the process of tracking funds disbursed for the school projects, after we had sensitized them and trained them on how to hold government accountable.
Our intervention at the community has been a dedication of time and strength with a focus on holding Government officials accountable. Today Mairi Kuwait is a beneficiary of four newly built classrooms and also with our effort and advocacy additional classrooms are ongoing in Galtimari primary and junior secondary school. Running through community outreaches, stakeholders and town hall meetings has been a huge task and a challenging one too, but today we are happy to make an impact in the process of achieving the sustainable development goal 4.
My outreach to Mairi Kuwait community and school facility gave me a clear picture of the dilapidated structures and condition our young children have been subjected to, not only in the northeast but all over Nigeria. Tracking this project, on the Follow The Money platform, has exposed me to how citizens can make a collective impact in advocating for change. Our collective intervention will help get millions of children into school. Together we can achieve a sustainable world.