In 2018, UBE Tsohon Kamfani Primary School, Bosso Local Government Area, Niger, was shut down due to its collapsing and dilapidated structures, which many locals thought were beyond manageable. It used to be the only primary school the community and its neighbours depended on to access primary education, and it held a yearly enrollment record of over 400 pupils.
Despite calls for the government to step in before 2017, a depressing change emerged as a quiet stillness replaced the students’ once-loud voices in the classroom. Many children whose parents couldn’t afford to send them to far-off schools have been out of school.
Ibrahim Abdullahi, 47, had hoped that his son, Usman Ibrahim, would be sent to his brother in Suleja to further his secondary education after primary school. However, the hope to finish primary school has yet to come through as UBE Tsohon Kamfani Primary School has been shut down since 2018 due to its all-dilapidated classrooms that are beyond management.
“We discovered my son has a good brain and passion for education, and when I spoke with my elder son in Suleja, I would like his younger brother to join him to further his secondary education because we didn’t have any secondary school in our community. He agreed that I should send him as soon as he finishes primary school, but up till now, he hasn’t gone because he was in primary 4 when they shut down the school due to the poor infrastructure,” Mr Abdullahi said.
Before the school was shut down, Muhammed Nurudeen in 2017 withdrew his 12-year-old daughter from the school due to the fear of the possible collapse of dilapidated classrooms. His daughter has joined him in his farming business since she has no hope of returning to school.
In Niger State, the lack of access to quality education and the regular invasion of communities by rampaging bandits in recent years has forced many children out of school.
Niger State contributes over 700,000 children to Nigeria’s 20 million out-of-school children. The data is based on children aged six to 18 years from primary one to senior secondary school three.
UBE Tsohon is not alone
Kodo Primary School, also in the Bosso LGA, was once a citadel of high-quality learning, but the dilapidated classrooms forced many parents to withdraw their children from the school.
Its primary three and six nursery sections had ceased because their structures had collapsed. Only primary four and 5 were functional and merged into a single classroom.
While the school has never been renovated since its establishment in 1976, the pupils sit on bare floors under leaking roofs and cracked walls and endure learning under the terrible deplorable conditions in their classrooms.
A 42-year-old Salamatu Ahmad, who engages in farming in the Kodo community, lost her husband after a short sickness. She had hoped to ensure quality education for her two kids till the university.
She was frantic about unexpected circumstances that the school buildings could collapse would make her lose the two children she had with her husband. To prevent this, she withdrew her children and enrolled them in another school in a community 25 minutes away.
“Since I lost my husband after a short illness, I’ve been trying to ensure my children get quality education.
“But I’m always afraid that I am trapping [death] on them by making them attend a school with no safe infrastructure. So, I withdrew them from the school.” Mrs Ahmad said.
Usman Abubakar, the Headmaster of Kodo Primary School, who bemoaned the condition of the dilapidated classrooms in the school, said the three classrooms they were using have totally collapsed. Now the entire school relies on a block of three classrooms constituency project, which is also getting collapse.
“The dilapidated structures have affected pupil enrollments. Before we had over 700 pupils in the entire school, but now it has reduced to almost 200 pupils. Many pupils have stopped coming to school or been withdrawn to another school”, said Mr Abubakar.
In the same vein, the community leader of Kodo, Muhammad Musa, lamented the deplorable state of the school structures and added that the government had neglected the school, and the community has been contributing money to save the school from total collapse.
“Since the government is not helping the school, we have been the one that has been supporting them (school). Everyone wants his kids to be educated, so when the government doesn’t give them quality education, we must try our best to support the school.
“The decay of the classrooms is beyond what we could decide to fix any longer. If not for the lawmaker that gave us the classrooms they are managing now, it’s obvious we won’t have any school in our community again.”Mr Musa.
Lingering Challenge of Poor Basic Education
In the 21st century, where schools in other states are technologically advancing learning for their pupils, Niger state pupils sit on bare floors under perilous infrastructures. This has become a norm among its primary schools, but it could simply portray how the state suffers from access to quality education.
The sorry state of Niger’s basic schools reflects neglect of basic education, demoting Nigeria’s progress in achieving the Sustainable Development Goal, SDG 4–quality education– to be achieved by 2030.
According to UNICEF, all children have the right to quality education, no matter where they live. It also revealed that one in every five of the world’s out-of-school is in Nigeria.
This is the case in Niger state, where many are out of school due to lack of quality education.
The former Chairman of Bosso LGA, Abubakar Gomna, expressed the challenge of deteriorated classrooms for basic education in the state and added that pupils sitting on bare floors and collapsing classroom infrastructures are major challenges that discouraged enrollment into basic education.
He blamed these on the state’s low allocation for basic education and said it is not enough to ameliorate its ruined infrastructure.
“The major problem is you see infrastructural decays, but these are difficult to handle by the state and local governments unless the Federal Government devises a further way of additional subvention.
“The only intervention we are getting to complement is the lawmakers, parts of their constituency projects,” said Mr Gomna.
Why the failure?
While there are efforts by the state government to ensure quality basic education, there are factors why Niger’s public schools have been in a helpless sorry state of deteriorated infrastructures.
Niger State, over the years since 2017, has been experiencing declined funding for education, where the amount released to the education sector far falls below the allocated amount.
A report by Premium Times revealed that Niger State, since 2017, has been having increasing budget allocated funds for education. However, funds released to the sector always decline against the yearly allocation.
In the report, Francis Elisha, the UNICEF Field Office Kaduna, revealed that N1.7 billion, representing 34 per cent, was released out of the N5 billion allocated to the education sector in 2017.
He added that N439 million out of N5.4 billion, N199.8 million out of N3.1 billion, N55.4 million out of N426 million, and N591.5 million out of N4 billion were released against the allocated amounts in 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021 respectively.
According to him, the total budget released in 2017 was 35 per cent; in 2018, it was 8 per cent; in 2019, it was 6 per cent; in 2020, it was 13 per cent, while in 2021, it was 15 per cent.
Another reason for the poor quality of education in the state is that, between 2015 and 2021, Niger State failed to access almost N3 Billion matching grants from the Universal Basic Education Commission(UBEC).
The former minister of education, Adamu Adamu, said Niger State and 20 other states could not access the funds because they failed to pay the required 50% counterpart funding due to “corruption” and lack of willpower.
South West, Ondo State: It was 1:25 p.m. on a Wednesday in June at the Anglican Grammar School, Ogho, in Ondo State. This reporter observed the school seated around bushes; it was difficult to identify as a school by a first-time visitor.
The school, formerly known as Ogho Community Grammar School, was established in 1980 but has suffered some setbacks, leading to its few-standing buildings’ collapse.
Due to limited chairs and desks, the school students had to sit on the bare floor under leaking roofs to learn. Nothing in the school could tell it benefited any infrastructure intervention from the governments in recent years.
Speaking with Campus Reporter, one of the parents, Alu Gabriel, expressed displeasure about the situation of dilapidated infrastructures and said the neglect has crippled quality education among the students and fueled the disinterest of parents to enrol their children to the school.
“The communities have tried their best to ensure the school keeps running— for our wards to be educated, being the only secondary school in the area.”
Mr Gabriel added that he withdrew his children from the school to another school outside the community, a journey he said would take 10 minutes by car.
Idu Margret, a 14-year-old student of SS1 expressed that the neglect of the school by the government has discouraged interest in modern education among the students.
“Since I have started schooling here, there has been no intervention from the government except the Parents Teachers Association (PTA) which provides furniture,” she lamented.
Another parent, who preferred to be identified as Mr Benjamin, said the situation made him withdraw his ward from the school years back due to lack of intervention.
“The building is dilapidated, and anything could happen to the building, and I can’t allow evil to befall my family,” Mr Benjamin said.
Adeyoriju Rufus, the secondary school principal, said the school was privatised in 2014 following a total collapse. However, he added that the low enrollment in the school has affected the source of funds to improve the school’s infrastructure and pay teachers.
In February 2022, the Ondo State governor, Arakunrin Akeredolu SAN, said his administration had renovated no fewer than 600 schools to enhance the standard of learning of pupils in the state.
“We have renovated over 600 schools. I don’t believe in mega schools, though I am not condemning it. At least the one in Owo is useful for the polytechnic. I believe in the renovation of schools. We have touched over 600 schools in Ondo State
“We are committed to tackling the infrastructural deficit in Ondo State. However, funding is a big problem, but we will continue to do our best,” the report read.
In a report by Dataphyte, Ondo state, in the South Western region of Nigeria, has 948,353 public primary school students in its 1164 public primary schools. By this, it would mean that there would be an average of 814 students in each public primary school in the state.
The high ratio of students to school is perhaps why the state government awarded contracts for renovating six classrooms in 53 primary schools in the state. The contract for all the schools is worth N1.145 billion.
Expert Weighs In
In an interview with Michael Abdullahi, an education expert, he said poor infrastructure has been one of the major causes of the increasing number of out-of-school children in many Nigerian states. He added that governments must grapple with out-of-school issues and devise ways of enrolling and re-enrolling children into education.
“Governments must prioritise investment in school infrastructures by constructing new classroom buildings, renovating the existing ones, and providing amenities like toilets and libraries.” Mr Abdullahi expressed.
Reacting to out-of-school children, he said governments must be responsible for building new schools in the lacking communities to ensure every child has access to education.
“The path forward demands a holistic approach that addresses these children’s multifaceted challenges. Collaborative efforts between the government, local communities, and international partners can pave the way for a brighter future, ensuring that every child has access to quality education and the opportunity to break free from the cycle of poverty”, he concluded.
This story is funded by the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID) under the Campus Reporter project.
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