John Shiklam writes that with the rising number of school children in northern Nigeria orphaned due to attacks by insurgent, a tuition-free school based in Kaduna is rising to the challenge of caring for the orphans
Tears poured down her face. Hajaratu Mohammed could not control it. She was overwhelmed with emotion as her son marched to the podium to be part of the new intake as pioneer pupils of Ama International School for orphans and the less privilege in Kaduna. Her 8-year-old son has been out of school since the death of her husband last year.
Since her husband died, her four children have been withdrawn from school because she could no longer afford their school fees as a widow. Indeed life has taken its toll on Mohammed who has remained a full-time house wife before her husband died.
She described the establishment of the school as a timely intervention pointing out that she had almost lost hope in funding her children’s education.
Another widow, Usena Hassan was also facing the same predicament when help came for her from the school. Her 7- year-old daughter was chosen to attend the school. She lamented that with five children left behind by her late husband, it has not been easy taking up the responsibility for educating them.
According to her, she was very happy when she was told that her daughter was chosen to be given free education from primary to secondary school as well as the provision of free uniforms, shoes and books and feeding.
“I am highly appreciative of this kind gesture and I believe that if other well-to-do people could be helping the less privileged like the proprietor of this school, it will go a long way in giving hope to the poor in the society.
“I pray that other wealthy people will emulate him and assist the poor in other areas of need. I pray that God will continue to bless him and protect him so that he will continue to touch the lives of the poor,” Hassan said.
Also speaking, another beneficiary, Maryam Umra, said she has two of her children who were lucky to be admitted in the school.
“I have two children who admitted in the school. I am so happy and may God continue to bless the owner of the school. My husband died four years ago. We were at home one day when they came to tell us that my daughter would be given free education including the provision of free uniforms, books and feeding.
“Initially we didn’t believe it until we realised that they were serious about what they were saying. It was strange, because we never knew that somebody can decide to do this. We are forever grateful for his kindness,” she said.
Also commenting, Shakratu Abdulrazak whose 7- year- old son was a beneficiary said she was surprised that some rich men in Nigeria have a heart for the less privilege.
According to Abdulrazak, her husband died four years ago and one of the problems she has been facing has been in the area of providing funding for the education of her children.
“When they (the committee on the selection of children) came to inform us, we didn’t want to take them seriously because we couldn’t believe that one man could take this responsibility.
“They came and asked us to bring him to this school free-of-charge. I will always remain very grateful to this man for his kindness and may God continue to bless him and keep him,” she said.
It was gathered that two years ago, the proprietor of the school and founder of AMA Foundation (AMAF), Alhaji Abdullahi Musa Bello, a business man and philanthropist was moved by the increasing rate at which orphans and the children of the less privileged were dropping out of school because of the economic conditions of the their parents and guardians and decided that there was need for him to assist by sponsoring their education. Bello was particularly moved by the increasing rate of widows due to insurgent activities without any support for them and their children.
According to the Director of the school, Hajiya A’isha Mamman, the construction of the 12 classroom school which will accommodate both primary and secondary schools started in 2010.
She disclosed that the school will offer free education to orphans from primary up to secondary education, while books and uniforms would be provided free to the children as well as free breakfast and launch throughout their days in the school.
She added further that western and Islamic education would be very central to teaching and learning in the school.
Many people, who witnessed the ceremony which was devoid of the usual jamboree associated with such events, said the time had come for wealthy people in the society to start assisting the poor in their localities, citing the proprietor of the school as a good example.
Speaking in an interview shortly after the ceremony, the District Head Tudun Wada, Alhaji Falalu Dalhat applauded the humanitarian gesture of the proprietor and called on wealthy Nigerians to use their wealth in developing their communities.
He maintained that the rich must begin to think of how they can give a helping hand to the less privileged in their communities so as to contribute to the development of the society.
He however urged members of the community to ensure that the school is protected against any attack or vandalization.
“The school must be properly taken care of. This (school) building costs money and these children are going to be fed freely during school hours, they will be given free education, and they are being given free uniforms.
“So we have to think of how this can be sustained.
“I therefore advise him to constitute a committee of credible and committed people who will monitor the running of this school. I will advise that he involves the community in the management of this school.
“It is not good to initiate this laudable project and at the end of the day, it is not taken care of. But from all indications, he is prepared to take care of this school,” the district head said.
But when approached to speak on the idea behind the establishment of the school, the proprietor Alhaji Abdullahi Musa Bello declined comments to the media, saying the project was not meant to publicised him.
However, after pressure was mounted on him by journalists, he said, “I established the school because God has been so kind to me, and I urged people who has been blessed by God to care for the less privileged. We did this for God and for humanity since we are not politicians and we are not contesting any election. That is why I didn’t want to talk to journalists about the project.”
He added: “We did it to help our community because nobody can help us unless we help ourselves. I grew up in this community and I know all the indigent people in who lives here, therefore it was not difficult identifying those in need.
“It took me two years to finish building the school. We have 12 classes and we have admitted 20 children as pioneer pupils. Next year we will admit another 20 again. The school is mainly for orphans and the less privileged, because education is the greatest asset you can give to anyone in his lifetime.”
Observers are of the view that the establishment of the school and the decision of the proprietor of the school to make it free for orphans and children from poor homes,may go a long way in tackling the problems of illiteracy facing the north if other wealthy individuals from the region would follow suit by establishing more of such schools.
The School was unveiled to the admiration of the community leaders in the area and the families whose breadwinners have been taken away by communal clashes and Boko Haram attacks.