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Bauchi: How lack of teachers, infrastructure forced primary schools’ closure, turned pupils to farmers

“The only public primary school in my community has remained closed for lack of teachers since a rainstorm damaged the roof of the school over…

“The only public primary school in my community has remained closed for lack of teachers since a rainstorm damaged the roof of the school over five years ago. We don’t have private schools to send our children to, so they will grow uneducated, thereby losing the future they deserve because, without education, their lives will not be as useful as they should be,” said Abubakar Musa.

Musa is a resident of Jamdan Kogi village in Alkaleri Local Government Area of Bauchi State and a concerned parent about the state of primary schools in his community.

He said their children and those of three neighbouring communities have been deprived of the opportunity for primary education for a long time now.

The village head, Jamdan Kogi, Malam Yusheu Usaini, told Daily Trust that the primary school was built 65 years ago and has produced many prominent personalities, but today the school is not functioning.

“All the prominent sons and daughters from this district went through this school, including the doctor in charge of our clinic now.

“We are appealing to the government to also help and restore the lost glory of the school by reconstructing it and providing teachers to give our children education so that the community will have a better future because, without education, the control of the youth might be difficult,” Usaini said.

Jamdan Kogi village community, however, is not the only one affected, as findings revealed that primary schools in many communities in the state have been shut down and children have been deprived of the opportunity to have basic education.

Daily Trust gathered that public primary education is on the verge of collapse in Bauchi State due to a dearth of qualified teachers, dilapidated infrastructure and poor remuneration of the existing staff.

Investigation indicates that many primary schools have since closed down, especially in the villages, for lack of teachers to man the schools, while others abandon the schools due to dilapidated structures.

It was also found that since 2015, the state government has not recruited teachers into public schools, following an embargo on employment, despite the deaths of many teachers for more than 12 years across the state.

It was gathered that many public primary schools, especially in the semi-urban and rural areas of the state, are either run by volunteer teachers hired by the community development committee or by public-spirited individuals while battling to attract parents and children who are shunning school.

Many parents decided to stop their children from going to school due to a lack of teachers and instead engage them in farming and other domestic activities.

A source who does not want to be named said one other factor that is worsening the situation of primary education, especially in rural areas, is that some head teachers are hiding under the pretext of lack of teachers to close classes at will, which discourages parents from sending their children to school.

Another factor is dilapidated school infrastructure in both urban and rural areas, which has turned many schools into dumping places for firewood and farm produce and some into criminal hideouts.

A teacher, who doesn’t want to be mentioned, said the recent removal of subsidy by the federal government, which caused a hike in petrol price and skyrocketing transportation fares, is also a threat to primary education in the state because teachers could no longer move with ease.

He said the salaries of many teachers cannot pay for their family needs and other necessities, not to mention transportation to villages to teach.

According to him, the situation has compelled them to abscond from their duty posts, with many seeking ways to dump the teaching for other jobs.

Another teacher, who moved from Bauchi town to Kafin Madaki in Ganjuwa LGA, told the Daily Trust that many of his colleagues decided to quit the job because “what we spend on transport to the school in Ganjuwa LGA is more than what we earn as salary.”

Another teacher in Bauchi metropolis said teachers rely on their basic salary in Bauchi as no other allowances are paid to them; promotion of teachers is only done on paper; and leave grants and rural allowances are also not paid.

Daily Trust gathered that there is not a single teacher in about 12 LGAs, while hundreds of other primary schools have only one teacher taking an entire school.

The Director of School Services of the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) in Bauchi, Korijo Usman, disclosed to journalists in September that in Misau, there were 79 schools and they had only one teacher each, adding that “all the schools have teachers except that they are not adequate.”

“Misau is even better compared to others. Go to some other schools and see the situation there. So, what we do is find out where they are congested, and we ask them to redeploy them to other places.

“That is what we told them from SUBEB: if they see a school with many teachers, they should move them to other schools depending on the number there,” Usman added.

He further disclosed that there is an average of 72 students per class, which is higher than the 1:35 teacher-student ratio recommended by the federal government.

Other challenges faced by primary school education are dilapidated infrastructure, despite billions of naira spent on the construction and reconstruction of the existing schools by the government, UBEC, development partners, groups, and individuals in the state.

Another area of concern is the lack of toilets in many schools, poor construction work, lack of furniture and perimeter fence, thereby exposing the pupils and staff to danger.

Recall that Governor Bala Mohammed had said his administration had failed the people of the state in terms of educational development.

The governor blamed SUBEB and Local Government Education Authority (LGEA) secretaries for sabotaging his efforts at developing education better than how he met it in 2019.

“My attention was drawn to some areas where, completely, SUBEB is not doing anything after spending so many years there and bragging that we have renovated over 5,000 classrooms,” he said.

The governor noted that some mega schools were left untouched and condemned the poor quality of work done on others, saying, “I have visited those schools myself, and the roofs are leaking or blown off.

“The quality of supervision by SUBEB is appalling, so you have the opportunity to change. I have done my best, but certainly, there is no supervision, and no quality control, it has been business as usual.

“I am highly disappointed with all managers in the sector, from my humble self, the SSG that is supervising SUBEB, the Ministry of Education and the LGAs. We have not done well in that sector.

“You are not doing anything; it is just eye service and making money; that is all, and I will not allow this to continue. No, it must not continue. In Dumi, a few kilometers from here, an old school, older than some of the towns in Bauchi, with about 20 classes, is left abandoned. Our pupils are sitting on mats; all the roofs have been blown off,” Bala said.

The governor said: “I wonder where our education secretaries are in the scheme of things. The rate of attrition among teachers and schools is unbelievable. They show a high number of teachers, but in reality, it is just one or two teachers; we only find volunteers. Something must be wrong with SUBEB and our system.

“And the World Bank and UNICEF, as well as other development partners, are assisting us to develop the sector, but there have been no positive results. We are regularly paying our counterpart grants. Just in 2022, we spent N3 billion, but I can’t see what we have done with such an amount. We spent N5 billion and N9 billion, yet the schools are left like that. Definitely, something is wrong with the system.”

When contacted, the Public Relations Officer of the Bauchi SUBEB, Mohammed Abdullahi, said the state government is making an effort to employ more teachers.

“We have a lot of schools that are under the board, and recently the state governor has given approval for the employment of teachers, and in addition to that, we have another programme being sponsored by UBEC tagged the Federal Teachers Scheme, which assists to ensure we have more teachers, including from programmes like N-Power and NYSC as supporting teachers.”

Abdullahi said the board is presently building more schools—more junior secondary schools.

“We have an influx of people from neighbouring states because of the insurgency, and our schools cannot accommodate the numbers, which is why the number of out-of-school children is increasing. Despite the challenges, with the coming of BESDA, we have recorded tremendous successes in the area of out-of-school children in Bauchi because significant numbers have been returned to classes.”

Responding to the case of one teacher taking all subjects and volunteers, Abdullahi said, “As far as we are concerned, we can’t deny the challenge of lack of teachers in Bauchi State, but we are addressing the problem drastically.”

He further explained that Bauchi State was created in 1976 and that almost every year, teachers were going for retirement, and when they go, “we have to replace them, and we have trained the new ones according to the prescribed criteria of the National Certificate of Education (NCE) because to be a teacher is not a day’s job.”

On dilapidated infrastructure, Abdullah attributed the problems to the activities of vandals and the negligence of host communities, saying that education is the responsibility of all, especially parents, the community, and the government.

“When the government provides the infrastructure, it is the responsibility of the community to protect the infrastructure in their area, but to our dismay, the problem of vandalism has persisted, even in the metropolis.”

Abdullahi said, “We have challenges with the community, particularly their children and youth, as they remove some of the ceiling fans, electrical wiring, and even the roofing, which is vandalised and removed especially at night.

“The board finds it difficult to tackle the cases of vandalization of schools. We invited the community leaders and the School-Based Management and Parent Teachers Association (PTA) and enlightened them that they should take ownership of the schools provided in their communities and protect the infrastructure.

“You notice that after some months of construction of new schools or reconstructed schools, they either removed the windows, doors, or roofing or carried out other forms of vandalization.”

Speaking on the lack of furniture and children sitting on the floor across the state, even in Bauchi metropolis, Abdullahi said: “The state government provides furniture to schools, but after some time the pieces of furniture are vandalised or even stolen.

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