The unrelenting sound of a milling machine is the first thing any visitor to the Zulum IDP Camp, Ngala northeast Nigeria will hear.
Home to over 4,000 displaced individuals, Zulum Camp is one of the four camps and a reception centre dotting the town. Women with trays sit on the floor of the milling shop, sieving millet and guinea corn in preparation for grinding.
Electricity is nonexistent in this town, which has one of the highest populations of displaced persons in northeast Nigeria. Milling centres and few functional shops run on diesel, driving up the cost of living for the conflict-affected population.
Not far from the milling centre, about 20 parents and caregivers sit in a child-friendly space for a training session. The once-weekly sessions, supported by UNICEF and facilitated by a partner, Centre for Advocacy, Transparency, and Accountability Initiative (CATAI), engages caregivers on the importance of school enrolment, girl child education and dangers of child labour.
Funded by Education Cannot Wait (ECW), the sessions are a platform for caregivers to own education initiatives at the camp and provide candid feedback. They also serve as an entry point for personal and environmental hygiene promotion as well as advocacy against child labour and child marriage.
Mother of nine, Lantana Garuba, has been attended the sessions since last year. The 38-year-old says the meetings have increased her understanding of education and wellbeing.
I even told the organizers that if there is an adult education class, I would be the first to sign up. Education has changed my children and it has changed me. As my children are learning new things, they also come home to teach me. They sing many educative songs at home and are now hygiene conscious,’’ she said.
Persuaded by the transformation in her children, Lantana often visits shelters to talk to other women to enroll their children in school.
“If you have small power, use it. Education is power. We are displaced and we don’t have much power. But education is power that has been given to us, we must use it,’’ she said.
Sulaimon Yusuf, a 48-year-old father of 12 children is another beneficiary of the programme. Sulaimon who is a person living with disability survived a horrific Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) attack by armed groups on his way to the farm in 2022. Upon his recovery, Sulaimon exhibited his resilience by joining the positive parenting session and enrolling his children in school.