Ahmed Hassan* did not visit Government College Funtua for several years after he retired as the school’s principal. Arriving on an invitation to an event at the school recently, he was so shocked by what he found on the ground that he vowed never to set foot on the school again.
“I shed tears and I told the principal and some of his staff that they should never invite me to any function again. When I retired, the school was still among the best. The structures were still good. But now the situation is heartbreaking. I could not believe it was the same school I managed. Wallahi I shed tears over what I saw.”
What is known today as Government College Funtua was established in 1940 as an elementary school by the British colonial authorities. It was the first school in the Funtua zone of Katsina State. In 1962, two years after Nigeria’s independence, the school was elevated to a provincial secondary school. It was later renamed Government Secondary School Funtua, and finally Government College Funtua by the Governor Ibrahim Shema administration in 2008.
Mr Shema also changed the school from boarding to a day school. Many people, including Mr Hassan, said that singular decision changed the fortune of the school.
In its illustrious history, Government College Funtua had produced some prominent Nigerians, including the current Katsina State Governor, Aminu Masari; former Kwara State governor, Abdulfatah Ahmed; former military governor of Borno, Abdulmuminu Aminu; Sadiq Mahuta (former chief judge of Katsina and district head of Malumfashi), the current Chief Judge of the state, Musa Danladi, and Umar Maska, Chairman, Local Government Service Commission in the state.
But today, many of the old students may not recognise the school. The classrooms are dilapidated with broken ceilings, doors, windows and blackboards. There are mostly no desks.
PREMIUM TIMES learnt from several ex-students of the school that the number of students has dropped drastically from what it was in the glorious days of the school. An official in the examination unit of the school said it currently has 1,200 students.
“This school used to have more than 3,000 students. But the school has been split into pilot and government secondary school but that doesn’t mean parents are happy with the school these days,” the official said, asking not to be named as he has no permission to talk to journalists. All the current officials of the school interviewed for this report gave the same reason when asking that their names not be mentioned for this report.
Another alumnus of the school, who is now a journalist with Vision FM in Katsina, Abdullahi Fikra, said before he graduated in 1996, parents were “falling over themselves to get their children into this school.
“We cannot fault Masari alone,” Mr Hassan said. “Because when Shema wanted to convert some of the boarding schools to day, the ministry advised him not to but he went ahead to do his wish. Boarding schools are better taken care of in our society today. Go and see how what used to be the hostels have become now.”
Rats, lizards and students share classrooms
During a recent visit to the school, a senior academic staff conducted PREMIUM TIMES around the vast school compound.
Two rats raced across the wall into the ceiling as the reporter and the teacher walked into a classroom. There were only two desks in the classroom and the blackboard was broken. The teacher said students had become used to rats dropping from the broken ceilings of classrooms during lessons. There were no desks in most of the classrooms and all the blackboards were broken. In some of the classrooms, a portion of the building was painted black as makeshift blackboards.
The exterior of some of the laboratories, especially the one for woodwork, was overgrown by grass while thick cobwebs hung from all corners of the laboratories. The ceilings are also broken and reek of bats’ droppings.
“We still use all these laboratories,” the teacher said. “One of the reasons why students don’t like practical sessions is because of the conditions of the laboratories.”
Apart from the classrooms, PREMIUM TIMES observed that most other buildings in the school were in various stages of collapse. From the central administrative block to the teachers’ offices and classrooms down to the laboratories, no building was spared from cracks.
Some classrooms were renovated by members of the school’s old students’ association while the only usable computer laboratory was repaired by MTN Foundation.
“If these buildings were not made by the British, they would have all collapsed by now. But instead of them (government) to manage them, look at how they left them,” a senior non-academic official of the school told PREMIUM TIMES.
The toilets too are all dilapidated, making it difficult for staff and students to use them conveniently.
An overwhelming majority of residents of Katsina are Muslims and it is not uncommon for schools in the state to have mosques in them so the staff and students can go there to pray. However, the only mosque in the Funtua school area has been abandoned and was overgrown by grass, though the security guard said students and some of the staff still use it.
During the visit, the reporter observed a teacher walking out of the school gate to observe his afternoon prayers.
“We don’t have a functioning mosque to pray. The one in the classes area is also in a total stage of dilapidation,” the teacher said.
He said the teachers twice tried to gather money to repair the mosque but to no avail.
Katsina Hoodlums hideout
Because the hostels are no longer being used by students, the cracks are more evident there. Faeces passed by humans, bats and other animals littered the six hostels.
A security man at the school, who gave his name as Adamu, said the hostels had become a hideout for hoodlums. Mr Adamu, who conducted this reporter round the hostel area, said criminals and hoodlums hide in the hostels before and after committing crimes.
“I have informed the school authorities but there is also nothing they can do about it because the fence of the school is no longer effective. As you can see when you came in, the fence has cracks in virtually every corner, so how do we manage who comes in or goes out?”
The abandoned hostels are named Galadima, Sarkin Maska, Faskari, Bakori, Magaji, Makama, Sabuwa and Dandume.
This reporter crossed the school fence through a hole in the fence and noticed some boys going through the hole to neighbouring buildings such as Funtua Housing Quarters (Shema quarters), Shema Housing Quarters, Shagari Low-cost, Zamfarawa and Jabiri areas.
Musa Yusuf lives in Shema Housing Quarters. He said hoodlums taking refuge in the abandoned hostels were always terrorising them.
“On several occasions, we lost a lot of our properties to the criminals living in the school. As you can see, you too followed through one of the cracks in the fence which brought you here. That is how the bad boys do,” he said.
Mr Yusuf added that many residents had left the area because of incessant burglary and minor attacks.
“Some fear that their daughters could be raped because of how bad the situation is,” he said.
A former student of the school, Abdurahman Ado, who graduated in 1999, said it has become a ghost of its former self.
“I know how good products of the school used to be. Today, the environment is not conducive for students to learn because equipment for practicals is not there. How can students learn under broken and leaking roofs?”
Mr Ado called for a total renovation of the school.
Restoration agenda and huge budgetary allocations to education
In the build-up to the 2015 Katsina governorship election in which he was elected governor, Mr Masari titled his campaign “the restoration agenda” with a promise to revive the key sectors in the state. He mentioned education as the top in the list of prioritised sectors to be revamped.
The state government, from 2016 to date, allocated huge sums to the sector in its budgets. According to official data, in 2016, Mr Masari budgeted N22.2 billion while N16 billion was budgeted in 2017. In 2018, he budgeted N42.4 billion and N19 billion in 2019. Education got N24.5 billion in 2020 and N19 billion for this year.
During the 2017 budget presentation, Mr Masari said his government had spent about N3 billion on construction, rehabilitation, renovation and upgrade of secondary schools for the 2016/2017 fiscal year. The government did not provide the list of the schools that benefitted from the expenditure but apparently, Government College Funtua did not benefit.
The Commissioner of Education in the state, Badamasi Charanci, did not respond to calls and text messages sent to him by this reporter on the situation of the school.
After several visits to Mr Charanci’s office at the Bello Kofar Bai State Secretariat, this reporter could not meet the commissioner. Officials of the ministry refused to provide the reporter with information on the schools renovated or built by Mr Masari and how the education budgets were spent since 2016.
A former chairman of the ex-students association of the school, Abdulmuminu Aminu, who is a retired colonel and former military governor of Katsina State, and the incumbent chairman of the association, Musa Danladi, also did not respond to SMS and calls seeking their comments on what the association was doing to help the school.
“We construct over 2000 classrooms” – Masari defends Restoration Agenda
In November 2020, during an education summit organised by the state government, Mr Masari said his administration had not derailed from its core campaign promises of restoring the glory of Katsina State, especially in the education sector.
The governor, who was represented by Mannir Yakubu, his deputy, said “there was the establishment and construction of seven new secondary schools in Katsina State. This is in addition to rehabilitation of 38 secondary schools and partial renovation of 37 schools due to storm damages and dilapidations.”
He said the state government had committed a lot of resources to the education sector from 2015 to date.
He added that the sector has “witnessed holistic revolution in the areas of infrastructural development, staff employment as well capacity building of teaching and non-teaching staff.”
The deputy governor said: “In the Basic Education Sub Sector, this administration has constructed and rehabilitated over 2,294 classrooms, 1334 offices and store were renovated. There is also the upgrading of 12 primary schools into storey buildings.
“Also 930 toilets were constructed in various primary schools across the state aimed at improving the sanitary condition of both pupils and teachers. This is in addition to drilling of 70 boreholes in some primary schools in the state,” he said.
*Not real name. The subject asked not to be named because he still serves as a consultant to the Ministry of Education in the state.
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