Many public schools in Kano State are operating in wood and zinc classrooms, exposing students to rain, harmattan and dust. In this eighth report on the conditions of public schools in the state, Abdulmalik Lukman writes that the appalling situation of the schools is exacerbated by a lack of competent teachers.
Nasarawar Kwa Primary school in Dawakin Tofa Local Government Area of Kano State is odious. For over a decade, the school has lacked proper classrooms as the government has failed to build a block after a site had been earmarked for it.
To provide learning opportunities for their children, members of the community rallied around to build makeshift classes with zinc.
“We could only afford to build two different wood and zinc classrooms,” Saleh Umar, a member of the community, said.
But the classes are discomforting to the pupils, Umar said. “Whenever the sun is too much, the zinc absorbs sun and becomes hotter which affects the students' learning and health.”
Not only that the infrastructure is deplorable, but the school also does not have qualified teachers and only two volunteers are currently teaching the pupils, according to Umar.
The pupils learn at the mercy of the weather. During the rainy season, the pupils spend their school days at home, waiting for the muddy school ground to dry up.
On a recent Monday when the reporter visited the school, the pupils were not yet in school as of 10 am because they were trying to stave off the harmattan morning cold. The pupils wore white sleeveless uniforms to school without enough layers to protect them from the dry cold wind.
"During the cold season, I don't attend classes regularly because we don't have good building structures,” said a pupil. “Windows are all shattered, terrible floors and destructive ceilings."
She added that “teachers left us in the class while they stayed in the staff room to cover themselves from the harmattan."
Another school in the area, Gadamar Fulani Primary School faces as deplorable conditions as Nasarawar Kwa Primary school. The pupils lack school uniforms, reading materials, quality teachers, among other things that support good learning. Only math and English subjects are being taught to the students by some voluntary young men in the community.
Saadu Aliyu, a voluntary teacher, is saddened by the government’s negligence. "The state government has no concern towards improving the quality of life of the pupils,” he said. “For over 7 years, I have been a voluntary teacher. There is no intervention by the state or local government chairman."
Another volunteer who declined to mention his name said he was not recruited by the government. "I decided to voluntarily teach students because the government failed to deploy qualified teachers."
He added that "most of our pupils roam the street hawking with no education because whenever they attend schools, no teachers to teach the students. So the community decided to get some voluntary teachers, and no dime is paid to us."
Mustapha Ishaq, a voluntary teacher said, "A lot of complaints have been lodged, but all efforts were abortive. Sometimes only a few students attend school because the parents realized there is no tangible knowledge that is being impacted on their children. So they prefer them to hawk than come to school."
"Before, the government usually paid upkeep allowances which the school management paid us 3000 or 5000 monthly depending on the money received, but currently, the government has stopped paying the upkeep allowances," Ishaq added.
As neglected as the two previous schools is Dan Rimi Special Primary School, once a special school for people living with disabilities. Now, both special pupils and other pupils attend the school as most of the special pupils have dropped out.
"The plan is to provide special teachings for special students that are blind, deaf, dumb, and any other disabled person. But due to the lack of availability of public schools, parents enroll pupils in any school. This contributed to the dropout of many special students from school because they found it difficult to understand due to the teachers not being trained,” a teacher in the school who spoke on the condition of anonymity said.
Across the state, most of the public schools are equally neglected. At the Government Secondary School School in Kumbotso, students were studying under hazardous conditions due to the failure of the government to rehabilitate the classes and build more blocks. Most of the buildings are dilapidated.
Most of the classes lack windows, doors, ceilings, and floors. We appealed to the government to provide a secured fence, rehabilitate our school and reading materials. We are still waiting for a positive response," said a community leader who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Similarly, the Government Girls Secondary School in Kofar Wambai is unclean and dilapidated. An open space in the school premises has been converted to a dumpsite, exposing students to infections. Students urinate or defecate around the dumpsite due to the crack on the wall of the toilet which is about to cave in.
A state government official who spoke to the reporter on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press blamed corruption for the pitiable conditions of schools in the state.
"Funds set for renovations and other educational materials are being diverted by the top officials,” he said. “For example, materials bought by the state government and distributed to schools are also diverted by some local government officials and education boards."
He added that "The government should start holding those looters accountable, but it might be difficult to reform education in Kano State because it is the same government that is still destroying the structures."
This report was produced in partnership with Civic Media Lab School Report, an initiative to improve accountability and transparency in local education delivery, with support from the MacArthur Foundation.