Nigeria is ranked as the third highest African country with Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) of which 56 per cent of them are less than 18 years. In a recent report by the Displacement Matrix Index of International Organisation of Migrations , there are 73,891 IDPs in Plateau alone resulting mostly from communal crisis and herders/farmers clashes in some of its local government areas.
One of these local government is Bassa in northern Plateau which has being hit with more than 73 episodes from 2015 till date. The worse hit in the local government is Miango District of the Irigwe chiefdom, which according to records of the State Emergency Management Agency, more than 3,000 children have been reported displaced in three communities within few months of eruption of crises.
This has caused setbacks in access to education forcing the affected children to lag behind among their peers in academics. According to the Digest of Basic Education Statistics report, out of the 659,930 children of ages six to 11 enrolled in both public and private schools in Plateau, 335,865 have been estimated to be out of school.
The consequence of these is that towns like Miango and Mistali have continued to experience influx of many IDPs, seeking safety resulting from the aftermath of the conflicts.
For some members of these host communities, the situation has inspired them to think outside the box to seek ways of addressing the education gap of the children. This is through establishing schools to help them especially as there are few public schools to accommodate their population.
One of such schools is Calvary Arrow Nursery and Primary Academy in Miango town which was established in 2020 to help displaced and less privileged children. The school located at a temporary site at the premises of St John’s Catholic Church in Miango currently has pupils for nursery to primary four classes.
The school was founded with 23 children comprising of 10 displaced children and three indigents, and two years later it has a population of about 90 pupils of which 46 are displaced children and 10 indigents.The founder, Mr Amos Emmanuel a graduate of Guidance and Counselling from Federal College of Education Pankshin said in addition to the security challenges, he was also inspired to establish the school by his final year research project on “ The impact of counselling services on traumatic experience of Fulani herdsmen Attack in Irigwe Chiefdom.“
“ The crisis started in 2016 when I resumed my programme but even before I finished school, I saw the challenge and need to help my community most especially displaced children, orphans and the less privileged. The school started in late 2020 when I finished my degree programme. We currently have displaced children from Jiri, Jebbu Miango, Zogu, Kwashe, Rewienku, Nche-shwerishi, Ri-Bakwa from Kwall district, La`ake -Ansa.
“This is to contribute our quota to the community to become a better place and also to give hope especially to these IDPs who lost their parents. We believe that through this school, we are contributing our quota to the community, “ he said.CRITERIA FOR SELECTING PUPILS
The school targets displaced children and indigents. One of its major objectives is to give hope to the despondent mostly IDPs from communities in Miango district and other parts of Bassa LGA affected by insecurity. In line with that for each term, the founder said five scholarship forms are given to each village affected by conflicts in the district.
The school does not organise entrance examinations but children’s Intelligent Quotient (IQ) are assessed, through oral examination to enable their enrolment into appropriate classes.
The school has only three classrooms and does not have enough space to admit the numerous applications it receives, especially because it awards scholarships to displaced children and indigents.
“We mostly focus on the orphans first who are displaced children preferably resident within Miango, to ease the issue of long destination to the school. This is to ensure that they are not only enrolled, but there is also consistency in their attendance. This is because some of them coming from neighbouring villages usually have challenges of transportation to school“ he said.HOW THE SCHOOL GETS FUNDING
The school is one of the cheapest in the area with a fee of N3700 and an automatic discount of N500 to those who are able to pay. This is in consideration of the low socio-economic status of the remote area, and IDPs who have resettled there. The school has seven staff, five of whom are on its payroll while the other two are volunteers.
“ The school is funded by few parents who pay school fees, the little they pay is what we use to pay those on our payroll and other few things that we need for the school,“ Emmanuel said.
However, in spite of its lean resources it currently has 52 beneficiaries on its scholarship scheme out of its 90 beneficiaries. In addition to this, the school management often provide uniforms and writing materials to all displaced children following difficulty of some beneficiaries to resume.
The founder said: “We have given 35 additional scholarships to other IDPs who did not resume to school due to challenges and have requested to resume next session which is September.
In 2021, the financial challenges of Emmanuel to help these children was given a leap by Cedar Tree Worship Centre Jos supported by AVC Nehemiah Germany, a religious charity organisation which offer humanitarian services to communities affected by conflict and natural disaster.
The church visited Miango after one of its crises and awarded scholarship to 10 displaced children who are also orphans from among the school’s 52 beneficiaries, for continuous education till high institution.
HOW THE SCHOOL HOPES TO SUSTAIN ITS VISION
The founder of the school says operating the school has its challenges especially in resources, which has limited their capacity to award scholarship to many displaced children. He said sustaining the scholarship scheme depend on the resources available to it through the fees it generates.
The founder says“ Among those paying school fees, the percentage of the consistent parents out of 100 is 90 per cent and out of the 90, 10 per cent may not finish paying for the term till the next term.
“ If we can get the financial support, we intend to sustain the scheme till the IDPs reach the high institution, knowing that they are able to be useful to themselves and the society they belong, but if our strength cannot take us, we can only reach the secondary school level and even pay their senior examinations, then perhaps get a skill for them.“
Emmanuel says the school needs space for expansion as it gets numerous applications for enrolment for their scholarship scheme and, it is struggling with finding solution to pupils of different grade sharing classroom as a result.“We mix them together because we do not have enough space, like the play class and Nur. 1 are together, Nur. 2 and 3 are together and Pry 3 and 4 are together.
He says finances were required to register the school with the state government.
However, Emmanuel said he remained focused in spite of such challenges and is optimistic that with time and perseverance, the school will grow to become a secondary school.
Even though the school has inadequate amenities such as play materials and furniture, parents and guardians of the displaced children have described the school as a ray of hope to achieve the educational aspirations of their children, as it has enabled them to enroll their children to have a secured future especially as most of them have lost their source of livelihood, homes and spouses.
In all, stakeholders are of the strong belief that support from government, NGOs and individuals can go a long way to assist and encourage the likes of Emmanuel, to realise their dreams of addressing the education needs of displaced children as government alone cannot handle the situation.