- Renovation contract awarded since 2017 – State government
It has become routine for students to walk into class rooms with wrappers, mats and polythene bags at the Government Secondary School Sabon-Tasha, in Chikun Local Government Area of Kaduna State. In a class of at least 70 students, there is often a scramble to find the least uncomfortable sitting position in an uncomfortable class, characterised with broken floors and often full of dust. There are no signs of desks in all the school’s class rooms except for a single JS1 class with about 40 double-seater desks, recently constructed and donated to the school by a Non Governmental Organisation (NGO).
“I wouldn’t say those who lean on walls or lean by the window panels are any better off. I have tried all the positions; I have sat on the floor using the wall as support, I have sat in the middle where there is no support, I have leaned by the window frame and I have stood. There is no lesser evil,” said Veronica, an SS1 student in the school.
“There are times we seat for between 20 and 30 minutes then get up to stretch our legs for a few minutes even when the teacher is in class. Other students even go for a stroll just to stretch their legs. We know it is not right to walk around during classes but the teachers understand and they sympathise with us,” said Joseph, another SS1 student.
At the over 40-year-old school which is the biggest and oldest in Chikun LGA, Daily Trust correspondents were not allowed to take pictures during school hours and had to return to the school after it closed for the day. However, a few teachers who agreed to speak with our correspondents in confidence said only a single JS1 class had desks, which was donated by the NGO in January as part of efforts to assist the school with learning facilities.
But as our correspondents observed, even the number of desks were grossly inadequate and could only accommodate students of a single class. John, who attends the afternoon session at Sabon-Tasha said as a SS1 student, he was among the few who make use of the JS1 class with donated desks in the afternoon and says he has now become the envy of many of his friends.
John however said he does not consider himself lucky as he had also suffered the uncomfortable floor or window panels in the past. “Before we got these desks, we all sat on the floor and it was very uncomfortable to write or concentrate in class. When it came to learning, you find that our concentration is poor, there is a lot of distraction because after some minutes, someone may want to stand and there is a lot of shoving or you will have to stand up before the person by the window can get up.”
But the school has not always been without desks as Daily Trust learnt from some of the students. Kadiri explained that about four years ago, during his days at the junior secondary section, the school had received desks but were mostly damaged by students who later claimed the facilities were poorly made and could not stand the test of time. “During my junior school days, we had chairs but the students broke them because they were not strong. The school used some of the broken pieces to make new chairs but those ones were equally damaged beyond repair. That was the last time we got chairs in the school, until the NGO donated some recently,” he said.
Some of the teachers who spoke to our correspondent said in a school with approximately 4,500 students when the morning and afternoon shifts are combined, learning and class room management becomes less effective without the needed learning facilities.
The teachers lamented that some of the building structures had been abandoned in the last few years and expressed disappointment that buildings with lesser damage had been renovated, leaving out the ones that required immediate intervention.
“The situation has been the same in the last three years, there are no learning facilities and we have to make do with what is available,” said a teacher in one of the senior classes.
“There are as many as 70 to 100 students in a class and it is distracting when students are not comfortable during classes. Some students want to get up, some want to stretch their legs and for the female students, it is more challenging as most of them avoid sitting in the front rows or they come to school with extra wrappers to cover their legs,” he explained.
The teacher however said though they are aware of the state government’s reform and passion in the education sector, they were however disappointed that despite series of complaints channelled to the Ministry of Education through the zonal division, nothing had been done to ameliorate their plight.
In Nigeria, it is expected of students to get up when answering questions in class, but the rule is seldom enforced at GSS Sabon-Tasha due to the peculiar nature of the sitting arrangements. However, teachers expressed confidence that their students continue to do well and have in the last three years produced outstanding results during external examinations.
“We have the teachers and manpower but our challenge is teaching facilities which is now affecting class room management, you cannot deliver effectively when the students are uncomfortable in class,” said one of the teachers.
Though the students face relatively similar challenges that affect their posture and concentration in class, the challenges are more nerving for female students who say they are constantly conscious of their sitting positions and mindful of how they get up from the floor to ensure there is no wardrobe malfunction.
“We wear skirts as uniform,” said Grace, a senior secondary school student. “Getting up during classes is challenging, most times we prefer to stand or seat behind others during classes. We have also devised a way of gripping the hemline of our skirts together to get up or wear tights or sometimes use wrappers to cover our knees downwards before getting up just so that we don’t expose our underwear,” she said.
When contacted on the development, the Kaduna State Commissioner for Education, Dr. Shehu Usman Muhammad, acknowledged that letters have been written to the ministry on the condition of the school.
Dr. Muhammad said a contract sum of N200m was awarded for the renovation of the school in 2017 to a company called Embrayo but said based on the present situation of the school, the state government will now revoke the contract and issue it to another contractor.