© 2019 - International Centre for Investigative Reporting
REPORT: Abuja Almajiri school where toilets outnumber classrooms ― and they aren’t even functional
Nigeria has always been famous for her huge population – the seventh largest in the world – and for her huge number of out-of-school children ― the largest in the world.
Therefore, former president Goodluck Jonathan established “Almajiri integrated model schools” in the North to reduce the number of children who are out of schools, but loiter the streets.
In all, he established 165 schools. But more than three years on, many of the schools lack basic facilities.
One of the schools, LEA Model Islamiyya Primary School, Kutunku 1, Gwagwalada, was completed in December 2014, but checks conducted in 2016 revealed that the classrooms were under lock and key, and covered in thick bushes because basic facilities were lacking.
Thankfully, the school is now accepting students, and is training them in various aspects of Islamic studies and ‘western education’. Presently, it boasts of 14 staff members, including the headmistress and school administrator, and 800 pupils or thereabout.
The ICIR recently paid a visit to LEA Model Islamiyya and discovered that students and staff members have abandoned the school toilets due to a lack of water supply. Instead, they defecate on the land nearby. This is a school that has more toilets than the total number of classrooms. The reporter counted two offices, 14 classrooms, and 20 toilet fixtures.
NO BOARDING FACILITY
Almajiri schools are usually built with lodging facility because many of the pupils are homeless. But LEA Model Islamiyya has none. Muhammad Sani Idris, one of the school’s class teachers who teaches Arabic, said the lack of accommodation affects the teaching and the learning efforts.
“The curriculum is broad and the time is not sufficient,” Idris said, adding that “If boarding facilities are available, both the teachers and the pupils will have more time to complete the curriculum. He also said the pupils could use free meals to make them do better. Though Nigerian government says it has spent N6.2 billion to provide free meal for primary school pupils in 14 States, the pupils of LEA Model Islamiyya are yet to benefit from this programme .
However, when ex-president Jonathan launched the first Almajiri school in Sokoto six years ago, the school not only had dormitories, it also had a language laboratory, recitation hall, clinic, vocational workshop, dining hall and Mallam quarters. He promised then that the school would be the standard for other Almajiri schools.
COMPUTERS, BOREHOLE ― BUT NO POWER
The problem of the pupils of LEA Model Islamiyya is not limited only to lack of feeding and lodging facility. The school also does not have electricity. According to Idris, the school was recently supplied with 23 computer sets. And three weeks ago, Universal Basic Education Board (UBEB) dug a borehole for the school, but there is no electricity to power them.
The school headmistress, Zainab Jankaro , said the borehole and computers have been of no use because of zero electricity supply.
“One of the parents assisted us in providing a well for the school,” Idris recounted. “After this, we requested the director of UBEB to help us with a borehole. They did this three weeks ago; but we are unable to use it because there is no generator to pump water.
“We are not using the toilets because there is no water. We wanted to patronise the mai-ruwa (water vendors), but they don’t come around because there is a small river that prevents them.
“We even went to the market to check how much they sell generators and see if we can buy one ourselves. We were told the price of the type that can power the borehole is N90,000. And we don’t have up to that at all.”
Muhammed Ahmed, the primary six class teacher who led students to wash some toilets that morning, told this reporter what the school really needs is a solar-powered borehole.
RIVER KABUL: ANOTHER HUGE CHALLENGE
It is hard to fathom why a remote location was picked for the school. In 2015, Sidi Aliyu, an official of FCT UBEB, identified inaccessible roads as one of the unresolved challenges besetting the school. Today, those roads are still inaccessible.
Commercial motorcyclists do not come close to the area, let alone motorists. And the reason for this is not only because the road is untarred and rough, there is also a running stream along the only route that leads to the school. It is called Kabul, and like other water bodies, it rages during the rainy season, putting lives of the pupils in great risk.
Teachers sometimes turn back when they get to the river, and students ― many of them four and five-year-olds ― sometimes do not bother to attend school for fear of slipping and drowning. The staff said government should build a bridge that will make crossing easy for everyone.
HALF A LOAF…
In spite of the many challenges facing the school, it has impacted positively in the lives of the residents. Children who used to hawk commodities on the highway now have an opportunity to learn. Even adult women in the community attend the school for special classes.
“Anything they give us, we accept,” said Idris. “Some of the children do not even have money to sew or buy the school uniform.
“I can say 90 percent of the kids here are coming to the school because we open our arms to them whether or not they have money. After all, it is Almajiri school.”