Nigeria currently has 13.2 million out-of-school children, the highest rate anywhere on earth, according to the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF).
The rate — about 47 per cent — means that one in every five children is out of school.
Most of these children are in Nigeria’s North East states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa, where Boko Haram activities have disrupted academic activities for a decade now. Other states and regions are also seriously affected, and one of them is Nasarawa in the North central region.
Nasarawa, next door to the federal capital, Abuja, has a significant percentage of out-of-school children. And one factor that has not helped reverse this problem, analysts say, is the poor state of school facilities in the state.
An examination by PREMIUM TIMES of public schools in Nasarawa State has shown many schools are unsuitable for learning despite the huge amount of money the state says it has spent in the sector in recent years. Fifteen schools examined by this newspaper were in a poor state, posing risks to pupils and teachers.
The first part of our reporting showed the poor state of educational facilities despite the huge funding.
An estimated N18 billion has been allocated to education in Nasarawa State in the last 14 years. Unfortunately, some schools in the state have little to show for this huge investment in the sector.
This second part of the investigation shows how more schools provide a contrasting picture of this irony.
Akwanga Pilot Primary School – TAAL model
This school, like many others we visited, has broken classrooms and walls, and most of its pupils sit on the ground to learn.
A senior teacher, who thanked the government for “revamping” the school, told PREMIUM TIMES that the school is overpopulated with no commensurate educational facilities. The official spoke on anonymity as civil servants are not allowed to speak to the media.
“We have about 1,984 pupils. The enrolment keeps on improving every day. All the classes are with no chairs. The little we have are not in good conditions. We don’t have an updated library. We want government to look into this and help us out of this messy situation,” the teacher said.
But teachers also blamed some of the pupils for the poor state of the school, saying they vandalised the few properties the school had.
“Most of the students here are rascals. They break desks and furniture (in connivance with their parents), remove the iron and sell it,” a teacher said.
“We have organized PTA meetings with parents to sensitize them on why they should refrain their kids from such criminal act; but they won’t just stop.”
The attacks happen mostly at nights, the teacher said.
But there seems to be hope as there is an ongoing renovation of a big classroom. The structure was one of the model schools constructed by the state government, but was poorly executed before. Luckily, the government is renovating it now.
“We are optimistic, after the completion, things may change and if properly equipped, our problem will be half solved,” the teacher stated.
Ibrahim Barde Nursery and Primary School, Keffi
The Ibrahim Barde Nursery and Primary School, Keffi, sits in a pitiable condition. One can easily tell the pupils are unhappy and unmotivated by the poor state of infrastructure in their school.
Most pupils in this school sit clustered in an overcrowded classroom, surrounded by planks and other harmful objects.
A teacher in the school admitted that the pupils were used to the unconducive environment, stating that there was nothing teachers and the school authorities could do.
The only new building in the Ibrahim Barde Nursery and Primary School was built two years ago. Other classes were constructed haphazardly with wood and roofing sheets, making them unsuitable and unsafe for pupils and their teachers.
Most pupils sit on bare floor to learn because of the lack of chairs and desks.
The school was originally built by the community before it was later handed over to the state government. There is no staff room in the compound and so the teachers are forced to sit outside the classroom block to hold meetings and prepare for the day’s lessons.
Also, like most of the public schools included in this report, the Ibrahim Barde Nursery and Primary School, Keffi, has no urinary, no toilet, and no source of drinking water.
Kofar Hausa Primary School
Keffi, next door to Abuja, has its own share of dilapidated schools, unkempt structures and a whole lot of dirty stories.
The head teacher in Kofar Hausa Primary school, Keffi, refused to grant this reporter audience due to “orders from above,”. But the challenges were clear.
When all observations were conveyed to the head teacher, he advised that they be forwarded to the State’s Universal Basic Education Board.
Dunama Primary School
Many students expressed their displeasure over the current state of things, but they appeared optimistic that this will end as soon as an ongoing renovation is complete.
One of the teachers registered happiness over the new building, noting that they hope the building will come with the provision of furniture and instructional materials to make teaching and learning better.
Unguwan Wajen Lalle Primary School, Lafia
In Lafia, the state capital, there was not difference. Classrooms here also are broken and have no seats. When asked why the students were writing exams whilst sitting on the floor, a teacher laughed and said they were used to this unpleasant situation.
Lafia East Pilot Science Primary School
In Lafia East Pilot Science Primary School, several pupils in Primary 5 sat on the floor in a single classroom, as the teacher writes exam questions on the chalkboard.
Teachers there said they had complained several times to the relevant authorities and could only hope the government comes to their aid soon.
Williams Pilot Primary School
The Williams Pilot Primary School suffers from challenges similar to other schools in the area. They include decayed infrastructure, battered classrooms, inadequate teachers and classrooms, a lack of functional laboratories, libraries and no furniture.
One teacher said when there was no intervention from the government, “we can’t sit back and watch things get bad, we had to raise about N100,000 to fix the roofs.”
“We have a library here, a rare facility in most public primary schools around here but it’s disheartening that not only has the library become an eyesore, the small hall, with leaky roof and broken furniture, has now been neglected and abandoned for years. It is full of outdated books that cannot withstand the 21st century educational demands,” the teacher said.
PREMIUM TIMES learned the last time the school received new books from the government was over 10 years ago.
The school, which caters for more than nine villages in the area, has a pupil population of about 2000 pupils and only about 23 teaching staff.
Nurudeen Primary School
Nurudeen Primary School, founded in 1971, is also grappling with the challenge of inadequate classrooms.
About four classroom blocks have no roof, furniture and appear as though they will collapse soon. Recently, the teachers were forced to evacuate pupils from the buildings to avoid a disaster.
Salary Paid in Percentages
In addition to the terrible state of school buildings in parts of Nasarawa State, teachers for years were not paid promptly. Teachers disclosed that the state government paid salaries in percentages over the last four years.
“We have been subjected to penury, suffering and teaching. Since 2015, we just started collecting full salary in October 2018, while the last 4 years, we have been living on salaries hovering around 40%-50%,” said a teacher who asked not to be named.
Education Commissioner, SUBEB Chairman Keep Mum
Several calls to the State’s Universal Basic Education Board Chairman, Mohammed Dan’Asumi, were ignored and several messages sent to his known line were not replied.
A development activist and the chief executive officer of Connected Development, Hamzat Lawal, said: “First off, I’ll declare a national state of emergency on education. No nation is better off than its educational system.”
He called for the institutionalisation of free education from primary to tertiary level. This, he said, would give room for a wider coverage of students attending schools.
“We need to review our curriculum such that it would give room for skill acquisition for students while schooling,” he said.
Mr. Lawal added that by making skill acquisition a part of the Nigerian school curriculum, the government would be addressing the challenge of joblessness after school– a contributory factor to the high rate of illiteracy in the country.
He went on to highlight the need to improve the infrastructure of our schools, noting that improving the facilities would be beneficial for the students and country alike.