A Cross-Border Educational Venture in Nigeria/Niger

Daily Trust:

Kano State governor Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso said at the weekend that the state government is building a mega secondary school in Niger Republic to boast industrialization.

[...]

“We have so far built 400 houses for teachers in junior secondary schools, especially the [ones] outside the city of Kano to encourage them. As we are sitting here today (Saturday) the deputy governor is in Niger laying the foundation of the mega secondary school which we intend to run together with the government of Niger Republic, and our children who will go there will be trained in French so that when they graduate, they will stay there and complete their degree courses or go to other French speaking countries to do other programmes,” he said.

As the article and others detail, this initiative is part of a broader agenda on the governor’s part to strengthen education in Kano State. But the cross-border aspect of the school is particularly interesting to me. I have four initial reactions that may prove more or less relevant when and if more information emerges about the school:

  1. Assuming the school will be located in southern Niger (in Zinder or Maradi, perhaps?), this initiative could reinforce the shared Hausa cultural and linguistic zone that transcends the border. As William F.S. Miles’ Hausaland Divided shows, the border and the colonial legacies it reflects have separated Hausa in Niger and Nigeria in profound ways. Yet Nigerien and Nigerian Hausa communities have also remained tied to each other through migration, trade, religion, marriage, and, in this context, education and politics. It is significant to me that this partnership is not between Niger and Nigeria per se, but between a particular Nigerian governor and the government of Niger.
  2. The school’s emphasis on French is noteworthy. As Kwankwaso suggests, graduates of the school could work not only in Niger and Nigeria, but also throughout West Africa. More schools like these could strengthen regional integration efforts from the bottom up, by producing skilled workers capable of moving throughout the whole region.
  3. Is the school partly meant to retrain itinerant Qur’anic students? Various states in northern Nigeria have experimented with different models for absorbing these students into government-run schools, partly due to a fear that such boys and young men might otherwise become targets for recruitment by radical groups. Some in northern Nigeria also complain that many Qur’anic students are not Nigerian at all, but rather come from Niger, Chad, and elsewhere. Does the school represent an effort to train some of Kano’s Qur’anic students while simultaneously repatriating some of the students who come to northern Nigeria from Niger?
  4. Does some of the funding come from Niger’s oil profits? I have heard the complaint that despite Nigeria’s oil wealth, northern Nigerian localities sometimes import fuel from Niger. Perhaps this school represents an attempt by a northern Nigerian governor to benefit from Niger’s (mini) oil boom.
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3 thoughts on “A Cross-Border Educational Venture in Nigeria/Niger

  1. This effort, though laudable isn’t getting to the serious problem (low literacy) in Northern Nigeria.

    I’m not sure what he hopes to realistically achieve – or even how sustainable this project is. Looks to me like a project on a whim that won’t survive the next administration. Such cross-border initiatives are best handled by the national government.

  2. If you go to Maradi or Zinder at 7 a.m. in the morning, you’ll see dozens of mini-vans, Peugeot salon cars and now larger buses full of young men who are going to spend the day in Kano. Some will be involved in commerce/trading, while others will hang out with family members and friends and some will be day laborers looking for whatever work they can pick up. Likewise, on weekends, many young Nigerians (and wealthy businessmen) come to Niger to engage in activities that Sharia’a law don’t permit in many northern Nigerian states.

    What’s more interesting, though is the amazing amount of goods that pass through Maradi en route to Kano, but which originated from the ports in Cotonou or Lome. Southern Nigerian ports scare a lot of Northern Nigerians, whereas conducting trade through Benin and Togo is much more straight-forward and relatively less risky. The border crossing between Niger and Nigeria are friendly to importers in comparison to those in southern Nigeria.

    So my guess is that the schools are related to promoting trade in Francophone Africa among the Hausa.

  3. Pingback: Great Reads from Around the Internet: March 29, 2013 | ZODML | Blog

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