He took the job five years ago but says he has almost lost his passion for it due to poor infrastructure at the school where he serves.
“We have less than 10 chairs for 50 pupils in this class,” Mr Sanni said from his decrepit classroom when this reporter visited his school in July.
The reporter met the same situation when he visited Gwalada, a community in the Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC). As in Kilankwa, there was no public school to serve the thousands of residents, until the Local Education Authority (LEA) built two primary schools in the two communities, after years of letter writing by the residents.
From Kwali, Bwari, and Abaji to AMAC abound similar stories of absent or poor basic amenities, such as roads, healthcare facilities, schools and electricity power supply, as PREMIUM TIMES moved across remote communities in four of the six council areas of Abuja.
Distressing sights and sounds
It was 12:14 p.m that July afternoon in Kilankwa when the school headmaster, Dogo Emmanuel, pointed at little Halima, one of his pupils, as the girl ran into a nearby bush to ease herself. The bush serves as a toilet for the hundreds of pupils of the school.
The seven years old Halima has no idea of what a conducive learning environment looks like. Her classroom has no door, windows or even a decent roof and the walls have large cracks.
The headmaster, Mr Emmanuel, said there are over 300 pupils between the ages of four and 11 years attending the school. Most of them have their classes under trees in the school compound.
“We have a nursery and primary 1 to 6. How many pupils can three classrooms contain? The little things you are seeing are from our efforts. We salvaged materials from the renovated three classrooms to put this up,” he said, pointing at a crude structure they also call a classroom. “Under this tree that we are sitting now used to be where we took classes for Nursery and Primary 1 and 2.”
The headmaster was transferred to the school six years ago. Since then, not much has changed, he said.
“If rain starts now, we cannot keep them (the pupils) here. We will have to take them to another classroom because this building is not good. You can see our windows, when rain is falling, it enters through here. We will have to pack our attendants’ books to the office,” Mr Sanni, the primary 1 class teacher, corroborated.
The headmaster and some of his 19 teaching staff have converted the makeshift cubicle under one of the trees as the staff room from where their pupils call on them when it is time to teach.
Dashed hope for electricity
Residents and children in other districts of Abuja shared similar experiences with this reporter.
Despite their location in AMAC, the most developed and cosmopolitan area council in the FCT, Tungan-Ashere, Gwalada and Tungan-Samu are not different from the poorest communities in the poorer council areas of Abuja.
Along a muddy road by the Abuja- Zuba highway, lies a primary school that has about 700 pupils from eight rural communities.
Isah Yakubu, 43, inherited the leadership of one of the communities, Tungan Ashere, from his late father. He was born and has lived in the community of about 2,000 residents all his life.
Like everyone else in the community, Mr Yakubu does not enjoy electricity unless he goes to the offices of the local government chairman or their councillors in the city centre, especially during elections.
After mobilising votes from the community for the last two chairpersons and councillors of AMAC, the community head eventually struck gold twice in a space of two years – the area council built a primary school and then installed electrical poles in Tungan-Ashere.
But the school has not been equipped with furniture, so the pupils sit on the bare floor in their classrooms. And what about electricity? The over N23 million electrification project was billed to be executed over two months when it was announced in October 2021.
“In October 2021, when the contractor and engineer met and told us that the project had been approved, we were very excited. We as a community agreed to support the project in every possible means to see that we have light for the first time because so far, we use a generator to power our ICT Centre which helps our children and women to get more enlightened. We contributed about N45,000 to clear the trees in the community so the poles can be rooted in the ground.
“We even made our young men join the engineers to do the work in order to facilitate the project. But after digging the holes, they didn’t return to continue. All we kept hearing was one excuse and another. We went ahead to inform the higher authority in charge but to no avail,” Mr Yakubu said.
As of June when PREMIUM TIMES visited the community, some of the concrete poles were already bent, posing danger to people using the rough roads into the community.
But when this reporter approached the AMAC Supervising Councilor for Works and Housing, Jagaba Sarki, he seemed not to understand why the residents were complaining about electricity, since “they have been living there without light all this while.”
Mr Sarki told the reporter in a phone interview: “The project has been contracted and work has started, they will have to be patient which is the normal thing. And comparing another community that was later approved after that of Tungan-Ashere, is uncalled for because both communities have different contractors and they are of different capacities.”
PREMIUM TIMES’ found that the Tungan-Ashere electrification project is stalled because the contractor has not been paid. The then chairman of AMAC, Abdullahi Candido, did not answer or return calls from this reporter.
Having served the constitutionally allowed two terms of six years, Mr Candido handed over in June to Christopher Maikalangu, who was elected in February.
The change in leadership has, so far, not brought any succour to the residents of Tungan-Ashere.
Marriage at 10 is ‘okay’
Since he survived an auto accident, Abdullahi Gimba has redefined his life’s priorities among his kindred in Gwagwa.
Located in the innermost part of Kubwa, Gwagwa has fertile soil and watermelon fruits spread across hectares of land in the area. This reporter bought a big fruit for N100. Later the same day, a seller in Lugbe quoted N1,400 for the same size of the fruit.
Beyond its fresh and cheap agricultural products in his agrarian community, Mr Gimba was eager to access higher education, until 2020 when a car hit him on his way from school. He lost his arms and legs in the accident and to compound his woes, he lost his two parents while he was still bedridden from the accident.
With no primary or secondary school in the area, every child walks 40 minutes daily to attend primary school in Dakwa, one of the closest communities to Gwagwa.
Those attending senior secondary school travel further, crossing the ever-busy Kubwa highway to Mopol Barrack. Mr Gamba is one of the many pupils who have been involved in road accidents while doing this. Sadly, unlike Mr Gamba, some of the victims did not live to tell their stories.
As a result of the constant accidents, the community discourages girls from attending secondary schools and makes the boys wait until they are eight years old before starting school.
“Because of these challenges, we do not allow our children to go to school until they are eight (years old), by then they would have known what they are doing,” Hussaina Dahiru, a woman leader in the community, told PREMIUM TIMES.
“Once our girls are 10 or 12 years old, we tell them to go and marry. We would rather have them alive with us than risk their lives every day on the expressway.”
The community leader, Yakubu Tanko, who is called the Mai-Angwa of Gwagwa, spoke in the same vein as Mrs Dahiru.
Scale of needs
Many rural communities in the FCT have common challenges and modest expectations of government.
Mr Sanni, the primary school teacher in Kilankwa, did not rate the construction of toilets as a priority in his school. He puts decent classrooms and potable water tops. For Mr Yakubu, however, his immediate desire is for electricity supply in Tungan-Ashere.
For residents of Gwagwa and neighbouring communities in AMAC, they said potable water and electricity supplies, schools, and public health centres would go a long way in transforming their lives and in making them feel a part of Abuja, Nigeria’s centre of power.