Despite years of funding, Nasarawa schools still in poor shape (1)

One of the dilapidated classrooms
One of the dilapidated classrooms

An examination of public schools in Nasarawa State has shown some of the facilities to be 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 PREMIUM TIMES were in a poor state, posing risks to pupils and teachers.

Even some new model schools, built in 2012 by the state government, are becoming dilapidated. While some schools have new blocks, they lack adequate equipment and teaching materials.

The poor state of educational facilities in the state appears contrary to the huge funding the state government says it has made in recent years.

Funding

The Commissioner of Education, Nasarawa State, Aliyu Tijani, recently announced that the state spent N1.9 billion on renovation of schools in 2018 alone. He said that since 2012, no less than 700 classroom blocks have been constructed across the state.

The state received N11.6 billion from the Universal Basic Education Commission’s matching grant between 2005 and 2018.

Under the UBE Act 2004, the federal government sets aside 2 per cent of its Consolidated Revenue Fund to support states in the implementation of the UBE programme. The federal government releases 70 per cent of that amount to states, on the condition that the states make an equal contribution — called matching grants.

The remaining 30 per cent of the federal government’s consolidated revenue contribution go to funding education imbalance among and within states, school feeding and health programme, incentive for good performance, education of physically and mentally challenged children, monitoring and implementation of UBE programmes.

In 2016, the total budgetary allocation to the Nasarawa State Universal Basic Education Board was N978.5 million. In 2017, N1.4 billion was allocated for UBEC while N4.5 billion was allocated for the state’s Universal Basic Education Board.

Combining UBEC’s matching grant with state’s budgetary allocation, it is estimated that over N18 billion (including the grant) was allocated for the education sector in Nasarawa State. That is assuming all funding releases were made.

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Unfortunately, some schools in the state have little to show for this huge investment in the sector.

Apawu Secondary School

The Apawu Secondary School building houses dilapidated classrooms, caved-in roofing, and green algae on the walls.

Before the intervention of community members, who wanted an education for their children and pooled their resources to achieve this, the only block of classrooms in this school would not have been sufficient for the number of students currently enrolled.

Currently, the school is overcrowded, classrooms broken-down as students have to sit on the floor to receive lessons.

A teacher in the school who pleaded anonymity said of the school’s five buildings, one was built by the community members and the examination hall was built by the Parent Teachers Association (PTA) while the roofing was done by the community.

“Putting the structure together was not easy as we had to reach out to the community and the PTA to come to our aid and out of nothing, they put up the structures together,” he said.

Teachers in the school told this newspaper that the last time the government supplied educational materials for students and teachers was three years ago and the last time textbooks were provided, they were not enough to go round.

The school has 14 teachers who teach and care for more than 360 students. Some teachers have only ever written Senior Secondary Certificate Examinations (SSCE), making the quality of education being given in this school questionable.

Most of the furniture in the school were supplied using funds contributed by students as PTA levy.

Out of about 360 students in the school, less than 40 per cent has desks. Many of the students were seen sitting on the bare floor.

The school buildings cracks in the walls.

“If it starts to rain now, we will all leave our classes because almost all classes are with detached roofs, so, we can’t stay here when it’s raining. We will have to go and hide somewhere,” said a teacher.

Apawu Pilot Primary School

In Apawu Pilot Primary school in Kokona Local Government Area of Nasarawa, the teachers and pupils suffer a similar experience.

The school, founded in 1975, has large student population per class. Overcrowding is not the only thing that makes learning in the school undesirable. In the pursuit of education, most pupils have to sit on the floor while some learn in unconducive conditions.

According to a teacher who asked to be anonymous, “[The] government used to provide textbooks for the school in the past but not anymore.”

The last supply of textbooks by the government to this primary school was five years ago.

The quality of teachers here is questionable as well as the school also has teachers whose only qualification is the SSCE.

Due to the unconducive learning space, a teacher remarked that the pupils have no enthusiasm to learn, and they rarely show up for class.

Enrolment has reduced drastically because of the bad state of the school’s learning structures, the reporter was told. Out of five buildings, three are unusable due to their various states of disrepair.

As a result of this, about 785 pupils have to squeeze themselves in the other two buildings available.

Parts of the two buildings in use have no roof and, just as in the Apawu Secondary School, when it starts raining, pupils and teachers of the Apawu Pilot Primary School are forced to run from the classes, pausing their lessons for hours at a time.

The staff and students of this school do not even have any reprieve when it is not raining as the pupils are exposed to the scorching sun.

One of the students said: “The classroom is not conducive at all. Our lessons are affected by sun, and some of my friends told me they are not coming to school because we [are] plenty in the classes.”

One of the senior teachers in the school explained further:

“We have about three arms for each class with an average of 5o students. Now, we [have] had to merge three arms to have an average of 150 students in a class. We have insufficient class [rooms]. We should have an average of 18 classes. During [the rainy] season, we don’t use some of those classes because of poor roofing. We also lack furniture. Recently, the parents had to contribute little money, that was how we [received a] small [number of] chairs and desks. Most times, pupils have to sit on the floor.

“Just last week, I went to the market to buy Civic Education textbooks. Since I joined this school in 2016, the government has not provided any textbook for pupils. If students have textbooks, they will go home to do assignments, read better and all that. The government used to provide English and math textbooks in the past but not any more.

“Despite [the] minimum teaching qualification of NCE, we still have SSCE teachers who are grossly inefficient to teach and impart knowledge effectively. This has affected the quality of instruction, and since we are short of staff, we can’t but make do with what we have,” he said.

Kana Secondary School

In Kana Secondary School, the government has not built any classroom since 2006. Determined to fight illiteracy and ensure that members of the community have access to good and quality education, a community school known as Kana Secondary School was established by the members of the community in 2006.

However, since its establishment, apart from sending teachers there, the government has failed to build any additional structure in the school premises to aid education.

“You see, this whole school has about 700 students, the five blocks of classrooms here was built by the community. There [is] no furniture in the name of the government,” said a teacher.

Located about seven kilometres from the Kokona Local Education Authority Office, our reporter saw unkempt surroundings, dilapidated structures and a general aura of shabbiness.

Like other schools in the area, the Kana Secondary School management has been sustained by the Parents and Teachers Association working in collaboration with members of the community. This team has only been able to provide classrooms for the students in the area and, since its inception. The government has only been able to supply teachers to the school.

“The current population of the students stands at over 700. The textbooks made available [are] outdated and not in line with the current curriculum.

“We have no furniture; we contribute money to provide desks and chairs. The community has been doing a lot; if not for the PTA and community, students probably would be learning under the tree. The school has been in existence since 2006,” lamented the head of the school.

The PTA chairman, who also doubles as the representative of the community, Issa Vgana was equally bitter.

“I had no opportunity of going to school, same with almost all of us in this community. With this in mind and determination to avoid such a fate of illiteracy befalling our children as a community, we, in 2006, decided on constructing a community school where our kids will learn and become great in life.

“In a settlement like ours, where most of us are not educated, we feel incomplete. We feel we would have been developed more than this if we had access to education. This is the reason why we had to pool our resources together alongside the community to provide all that the school needs. But you know, it has not been all rosy because of limited resources. We can’t do it alone, and that is why we need the government to come and intervene.

“When the school started in 2006, we constructed the first block of classrooms for about N275,000. In 2011, we constructed the second building for about N2 million. The third building was constructed in 2009 for about N3 million. We started the construction of the fourth building for N3 million, and now the fifth building cost us about 5 Million, and that was in 2012.

“You see, it is not like we have money as a community, it is just that we value education and we want to see our children go to school and receive a quality education. When we saw that the government was not forthcoming, we had to, as a community, pool resources together so we can put these structures you see, in place.

“Apart from the buildings, we also work closely with the school to ensure we encourage students who are truants.”

The structures and classroom blocks in Kana Secondary School built by community members are beginning to fall apart. Some have roofs in various stages of disrepair; one block has collapsed completely while another block is dilapidated and may soon collapse.

“All the classroom blocks in Kana secondary school are not in good condition, and there is an urgent need for total rehabilitation,” the principal said.

“They had to cut trees from the bush to make seats for pupils in the school to avoid the situation where students will have to sit on the bare floor to learn because of a lack of desks.”

Kana Pilot Primary School, Agwada

Entering a fenceless compound with a visible collapsed classroom building served as a pointer to the experiences of staff and students of Kana Pilot Primary School in Agwada, Nasarawa State.

Our reporter later learnt from a teacher in the school that a classroom block which was poorly constructed by government in 2011, was to be rebuilt but, because the actual work already done was beyond repair, it eventually collapsed on a wednesday afternoon while renovations were ongoing and rain was falling.

“They wanted to renovate it using iron and cement. They started renovation and when it was raining, the structure collapsed. Since then, it has been like that. Government never bothered to come back and build another structure despite the fact that the school has insufficient classes to accommodate its growing student population,” the staff said.

“We have about 300 pupils with grossly insufficient classes, buildings, furniture and insufficient teachers. We are in a community where many kids, with the cooperation of their parents prefer to go to farm. As you can see, this environment is unsafe and obviously not conducive for learning.

“The unserious elements among kids in this community and those that never wanted to come to school have got enough sentiments to mutter as to why they never wanted to come to school. They most times taunt their colleagues in school that they cannot come to a school with tattered roofs, collapsed buildings and no fences,” said a teacher who works in the school.

Library turned to store for maize

Unfortunately, not only has the government completely abandoned the school and its need for classroom blocks, our reporter was told that the last time textbooks were supplied to the school was three years ago. A sentiments shared with previous schools.

“We were given about 100 copies of textbooks in 2014, that’s about 30% of what we needed. So, as it is now, we have to use our personal money out of nothing (half salaries) to buy textbooks and instructional materials,” a teacher said, regrettably.

“In the past, the government used to pay us in percentages. Sometimes we are paid 50%, 40% or 30% and as at now they are owing us not less than 1 year salary. Government should sympathize with us and please, provide basic amenities, pay our salaries and ensure the environment for learning is conducive.”

Akwanga South Primary School

The entrance of Akwanga South primary school is not only attractive but left this reporter with a feeling of relief that the experience in this school would not be the same as those he had earlier visited.

Inside, the story was not different. A teacher explained how a school with over 700 pupils has been forced to grapple with dilapidated structures, bedraggled classrooms, a severe lack of furniture and buildings nearing collapse.

“With over 80 N-power teachers who mostly are unserious…a lack of classrooms has made us merge over 200 pupils in a class. Most of the pupils had to sit on a mat that we had to improvise instead of furniture.

“Teachers had to sit in a cage-like office in a very bad condition. We have had to abandon some classes because they are in bad shape and with any serious wind [they] will collapse. So we had to save our kids from being victims and moved to lump them together in the other small classes we have,” the teacher said.

The teacher remarked that they do not have enough facilities to cater for the number of pupils who troop into the school everyday to receive their lessons for the day.

“If you go round, you will see how students are learning under worse conditions. We had to evacuate some classes as they were nearing collapse. There is nothing teachers could do to help the situations and most teachers sit inside a “goat house” like containers called staffroom.

“The idea to get mats to spread on the floor for the poor kids was borne out of the very urgent need to improvise as we can’t afford furniture.”

Most classroom blocks in this school have no roofs. The remaining blocks are currently sitting in various stages of decay, making them unsuitable, unsafe and absolutely unconducive for pupils and staff alike.

The teachers have no staff room. They have to sit inside an old store to hold meetings, plan lessons and mark students’ notes. They explained that when it rains, they are forced to scamper into leaky classrooms and wait with the children as the rain falls.

Like most public primary schools in the state, the staff room has no urinary, no toilet, and no source of drinking water.

UBBE Primary School, Akwanga

UBBE Primary School, Akwanga appeared strange for several reasons. By 12:00pm on a Tuesday morning, a multitude of students were seen leaving the school, while others were just arriving. The school compound has no fence and the few teachers seen around the classrooms looked as though they were on their way home as well.

When asked about the school’s head teacher, one of the teachers replied: “We are closed for today, come tomorrow.”

Upon further inquiry, it was discovered that the school compound was being utilised by two different schools.

“We are sharing this school with another (UBBE Junior Secondary). Lack of schools made the government merge this school together with a junior secondary school. So we have two streams of students. The primary session usually come to school from morning till 12 pm, while students from the secondary school resume by 12 to 5. That’s how we run it daily.

Most of the classroom blocks in the Government Primary School, Ubbe, appear new and in good condition. From the outside, it appears to be well maintained, recently painted though unfenced. However, upon closer observation, one can quickly see cracks in the facade. In the school classrooms, pupils are forced to sit on the floor during their lessons as there is a shocking lack of desks in most classrooms.

In the classroom where JSS2 students have their lessons, the roof is falling apart and this is true for a few other classrooms in the building.

When this reporter visited the Local Education Board in Kokona Local Government that houses most of these schools, the Local Education Secretary in Kokona local government (who refused to introduce himself), declined to talk about the issue with our reporter. Instead, he directed him to the State Universal Education Board (SUBEB) office.

“This is a government office, we can’t give you audience unless there is order from above. So, I’m sorry. I can’t answer your questions,” he said.

Initially, the Commissioner of Education in Nasarawa State, Aliyu Tijani, did not respond to our calls and messages on the issue. When presented with details of our finding, the commissioner brushed the issue aside and advised the reporter not to “ridicule” himself.

“Why don’t you mention those in good condition, well, write what you feel is your observations and make sure you don’t redicle yourself,” Mr Tijani wrote in a text message.

This investigation was supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism

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