From Sola Ojo, Kaduna
Universal Basic Education (UBE) Primary School, Sabon Gaya II, Kaduna, is a place where 1, 572 pupils are currently undergoing tutelage, seeking education for the purpose of securing their future.
But the security of that future is in doubt, just as the security of their lives and their health is also uncertain.
Many would consider that school worse than a pigsty. And with 1, 572 pupils – 821 girls and 751 boys sharing two classrooms with neither water nor toilet facilities, those saying the school is worse than an abode for pigs could not be wrong.
“Whenever I’m in my monthly period, I don’t feel like coming to school because it will be double trouble for me,” Aisha Haruna (real names withheld), one of the 821 female pupils in the school told the reporter.
“Since I was enrolled in this school some years ago, the story has been the same. We learn under a leaking roof during the rainy season and harsh environments during the dry and harmattan seasons.
“Please help us beg our governor, Malam Nasir El-Rufai to come to our aid urgently. We also want to have a fine school like what they have in Kaduna town. We were told about how beautiful some public schools are in Kaduna, with water and toilet facilities for pupils and teachers. Here, we don’t have anything to make learning attractive.
“Our governor should help those of us in the rural areas too so we can learn very well and our parents who cannot afford to send us to private schools can be encouraged to send us to school and not marry us off out of frustration,” she pleaded.
Sabon Gaya, a community of about 50, 000 persons of diverse nationalities, is located at Kilometre 16, Kaduna-Abuja Highway. Majority of residents are peasant farmers and animal rearers who also offer petty trade to motorists plying the road.
The community, which the locals claimed to have been existing for decades, has a very high fertility rate. Sabon Gaya is the immediate host community of the permanent camp of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) in Kaduna State.
It was gathered that UBE Primary School, Sabon Gaya II, was established 21 years in 2000 as parts of the efforts to bring basic education closer to the people. Then, a block of two classrooms was erected and a few teachers deployed to start the school.
The school has since grown in population, but nothing has been added in terms of infrastructure.
Facilities to accommodate the growing population remains a serious concern to education enthusiasts in Kaduna and beyond.
Ideally, UNESCO recommends 40 pupils per class to ensure good contact between the pupils and their teachers. This recommendation, which is being practised by a good number of private schools, remains a big issue in most government-owned basic schools across the country.
When Saturday Sun visited the School alongside some public procurement monitors from Legal Awareness for Nigerian Women (LANW) who are currently tracking UBEC/SUBEB projects in Soba, Chikun and Kaura Local Government Areas of the state, pupils were sighted sitting on the bare floor in an inhumane environment.
Chairman, Parents-Teachers Association (PTA), UBE, Sabon Gaya II, who doubled as the traditional leader in the area, Alhaji Musa Kanu, lamented the neglect by the political representatives from the area. He said several letters have been written to draw the attention of the authorities to the level of decay in the existing block of two classrooms as well as the need to add new ones.
The traditional leader, who spoke through an interpreter, said: “When this school was established in 2000, we had only one block of two classrooms constructed under the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC).
“Since then, nothing has been done to improve the facility. We have been using the two classrooms for over 1, 500 pupils until recently when we put the makeshift one to reduce the pressure on the other two classrooms.
“We have Nursery 1 and 2 and Primary 1 in one class with a population of about 400 pupils, all using the class at the same time. The other class takes Pprimary 2 and 3 with a population of about 300 pupils. In that single makeshift class, we have about 250 pupils who are among the Primary 4, 5 and 6. The number is small because we don’t allow all of them to have classes at the same time because of COVID-19.
“We have written several letters to the local government and SUBEB with photographs showing the condition of the school and the need for urgent intervention due to the high number of school children. We have not received any reasonable response to all that. How do you ensure learning in a class of 400 pupils? No chairs, no instructional materials that can fast-track learning.
“ In truth, several people from the government have come here. They will take pictures and act as if they will commence work the following week. But we have not seen anything.
“We have 12 teachers. No toilet, no water, no security, no library. We have a population of over 40,000 people here. We have a polling unit in the school which means we participate in elections. They will come for the election and we have been telling them about the school. They will promise to act, but the story has been the same. It is very unfortunate.
“”It is disheartening to see our children being treated this way. Don’t forget we are a community along this highway and no sane parent will allow his or her child to cross the road. We need help and it can come from anyone.”
Team Lead of Coalition of Associations for Leadership, Peace, Empowerment & Development(CALPED) in Kaduna, Yusuf Goje called on the state government to do build the needed infrastructure in rural schools.
“The major thing is that the enrolment drives of the government will be meaningless as long as the needed infrastructure is not there for these children that are coming up to enrol.
“So, the government must step up in the provision of more classrooms, instructional materials and teachers’ training and retraining if the decay in the educational sector is to be tremendously improved upon.”
To keep the likes of Aisha in schools as a strategy to check ‘child marriage” so the state can boast of more qualified female medical doctors, female engineers, female lawyers among others as a sustainable development goal, schools like UBE Sabon Gaya II, must be giving top priority instead of building new bridges and new roads without considering those that will grow to use and maintain that beautiful infrastructural development in near future.
Indigenous Corporate organisations like Oando Foundation, MTN Foundation, Aliko Dangote Foundation, Tony Elumelu Foundation and many more can identify schools like the one in question here, rehabilitate and rebuild where necessary as part of their corporate social responsibility so children who are brought up here will not constitute a nuisance to children there later in life.