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How children in Abuja communities study in schools without roof


How children in Abuja communities study in schools without roof

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SEVERAL children in Sadaba and Kundu communities in Kwali Area Council of Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, have withdrawn from school since storms blew off the roofs of the only public primary school in the villages in 2014 and 2020.

The wind affected Kundu school more as about five roofing sheets were left on one of the twin blocks of three classrooms and an office.

Since 2020, the school’s pupils in primary one to three have had no roof over them.

The ICIR reporter visited the school on Thursday, 27 April, and saw the block without a roof spattered with human faeces and other wastes. Children were still on holiday at the time.

The reporter was also at the school in the first week of May, after schools had resumed, and the classrooms had been swept by the children.

He saw the pupils sit in the unroofed classrooms under the scorching sun.

More than 60 per cent of pupils in the affected block no longer attend school, the community leaders told The ICIR.

“Our pupils are scorched and drenched daily by the sun and rain. We have faced these for almost three years,” said one of the school teachers, Usman Aliyu.

“They roll on the ground inside the dust while playing. If you see them returning from school, you will think they are from the farm because they always look too dirty,” he added.

Rafters and other woods used for the roofing hang dangerously in each classroom within the block.

There are also harmful objects like nails and broken wood, which could cause serious harm.

More than half of the chairs and tables in the block have rusted and unusable after much exposure to sunshine and rain.

“There was no space to keep them. Most of them spoilt in the sun and rain”, said Gimba Ruzoma, the school’s assistant headteacher.

The ICIR noted that the building walls are decrepit and could cave at any time.

A wooden signpost in the school indicates that the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) constructed the second block used by pupils in primary four to six. The distressed block belongs to the Federal Capital Territory Universal Basic Commission (FCTUBEB) and the Kwali Area Council.

Different strokes for different folks
The ICIR observed that pupils’ enrolment differs at Kundu’s newly-built Islamic Learning Centre, which has a big mosque.

The villagers built the centre within a few months. Children receive only Islamic knowledge in an alluring atmosphere at the centre.

The centre has more children than the primary school, according to the villagers.

The newly-built Islamic Learning Centre and a mosque built by the Kundu community

Parents speak about school condition
A parent, Mohammed Ibrahim, explained that all six male teachers in the school struggle to teach, and they do so out of their love for the children and the community. “Some teachers posted here have found a way to work their posting out of the village,” he claimed.

Ibrahim did not entirely blame the teachers who refused to stay.

The only road leading to the community is untarred, and commercial motorbike operators charge each passenger between N600 and N700 from the Gwagwalada-Kwali Road to which the village road links. It takes a motorbike about 25 minutes to get to the community.

Only a few vehicles, mainly used for agriculture, ply the rough road.

The locality lacks major basic amenities such as electricity, pipe-borne water, and modern means of communication. Homes in Kundu are mostly made of mud.

However, Ibrahim rued the rate at which many children of school age have quit school and go with their parents to the farm, the predominant job in the community.

Some of the children seen by The ICIR in the community who have quit school are Tekembe Moses, Tijani Abdulkareem, Mariam Mohammed and Mallah Ahmed.

“The experience is harrowing. We live as if we are not in the nation’s capital. If we Abuja people can suffer this fate, how much more will those in remote communities in faraway states suffer if they find themselves in our shoes?” another parent, Adamu Sani, said.

Sani spoke on behalf of the community leader Bello Magaji, who neither understood nor could communicate in English.

He said the village chief had done all he could to convince the government to rebuild the school without success. Sani estimated the village’s population to be over 3,000 and children of primary school age above 300.

Kundu community leader, Bello Magaji, (3rd right) flanked by the parents and leaders in Kundu community.
Photo: The ICIR/Marcus Fatunmole
Similar scenario in Sadaba school
Six years after the government abandoned the Sadaba school, it built a new block of three classrooms in 2020 and left the old block unrepaired.

Residents who spoke with The ICIR in the community said the new three-classroom block could only accommodate a few of the village’s children wishing to go to school.

Sunday Alfa hails from the village. He told The ICIR, “You can see the building is already collapsing. Pupils can no longer stay inside. We are appealing to the government to come and renovate the building.”

He lamented that the village’s monarch, who was at the forefront of the campaign to get the government to rehabilitate the school died earlier this year, and a new leader had yet to emerge.

The government founded the school in 2009, meaning the wind blew its roof off five years later.

In 2020, The ICIR was in Kundu to investigate illegal miners milking the FCT of billions in revenues. The ICIR saw the schools in a dilapidated state at the time. Three years later, the organisation sought to know if there had been any positive change. The situation has remained the same.

We’re not aware of schools conditions, Council – FCTUBEB
The ICIR contacted the Chairman, FCTUBEB, Hassan Sule, on Wednesday, April 26, over the state of the schools. He said nobody informed him about their conditions.

He expressed shock at the incidents and promised to contact the heads of the Local Education Authority at the Kwali Area Council.

The chairman also promised to get back to this organisation but has yet to.

When contacted, Andrew Moses, personal assistant to the Executive Secretary of the Kwali Local Education Authority, said nobody reported the incidents to his boss.

The reporter told him the communities claimed they did so severally without any response. He promised to confirm with his principal and get back to the reporter. He has yet to provide feedback.

There are many such schools in Abuja – UBEC
The ICIR contacted the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) on the fate of the schools.

The deputy director of physical planning, Nura Ibrahim, an architect, said the responsibility of primary education resided with the states and local governments.

According to him, UBEC is an intervention body which supports states and would not be forced to build any school for states.

“What we normally do is to intervene. The responsibility for basic education in Nigeria is not for the Federal Government but for the state and the local government. At the federal level, we intervene wherever we see a need for that because we realise that the state cannot play that role alone.

“Wherever you see a UBEC project, it is just our intervention to see that education does not collapse.”

Speaking on the state of the Kundu school, he said it is a common phenomenon across Nigeria, especially the FCT (Abuja).

“If you go to the local communities (in the FCT), you will see them studying in classes under trees, shades and so on.”

He, however, challenged communities to always support public facilities in their locality. He said communities should not wait for the government to fix minor problems they observe in public institutions such as schools, and hospitals, among others, to enable them to serve those communities uninterruptedly.

The old block of three classrooms at Sadaba community in Kwali Area Council of FCT, destroyed by wind in 2014 and has since been abandoned by the government.

Photo: The ICIR/Marcus Fatunmole
Leaving schools in ruins negates the Nigerian Constitution, UN Charter, others

The ICIR reports that the government’s failure to provide functional schools for Kundu and Sadaba conflicts with the Nigerian Constitution and international conventions.

Chapter Two, Paragraph 18 (1) of the Nigerian Constitution (1999 as amended) says the government shall direct its policies towards ensuring equal and adequate educational opportunities at all levels.

Paragraph 18 (3) of the same chapter notes that “Government shall strive to eradicate illiteracy, and to this end, government shall as and when practicable provide (a) free, compulsory and universal primary education.”

Similarly, Part Two, Section 15 (1) of the Nigerian Child Act (2003) speaks to a child’s right to free, compulsory and universal primary education.

Paragraph One of the Section states, “Every child has the right to free, compulsory and universal basic education, and it shall be the duty of the government in Nigeria to provide such education.”

The FCT was the first territory in Nigeria where the Act became operational.

The new and old blocks of classrooms at LEA primary school in Kundu, Kwali Area Council FCT.
Photo: The ICIR/Marcus Fatunmole
The United Nations ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989, to which Nigeria is a signatory.

The UN says the treaty has become the most widely ratified human rights treaty in history and has helped transform children’s lives globally.

Article 28 (1) of the Convention clearly states that “States Parties (countries) recognise the right of the child to education, and with a view to achieving this right progressively and on the basis of equal opportunity, they shall, in particular: (a) Make primary education compulsory and available free to all.”

Besides, Section 2 of the UBEC Act (2004) states that basic education should be compulsory and free.

“Every Government in Nigeria shall provide free, compulsory and universal basic education for every child of primary and junior secondary, school age.”

The ICIR reported how the Nigerian government makes basic education free, but officials in the FCT charge hidden fees, discouraging many parents from enrolling their children.

Even if education is completely free, The ICIR reports that many children in Kundu and Sadaba may not benefit because they do not have functional classrooms to receive lessons.

Out-of-school children in Kundu and Sadaba contribute to 20 million Nigerian children not attending school – the highest worldwide.

Nigeria faces multiple socioeconomic crises, namely insecurity, unemployment, poverty, and overpopulation, worsened by illiteracy.

In November 2022, The ICIR reported how 133 million Nigerians lived in multidimensional poverty, representing 63 per cent of the population.

A new school built by the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Community and Social Development Project (CSDP) – a World Bank finance-assisted project – in Sadaba community to replace the old block of classrooms destroyed by wind. Photo: The ICIR/Marcus Fatunmole
UNICEF harps on the need to promote child rights in Nigeria
The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) is one of the organisations urging Nigeria to promote child’s rights, including education.

UNICEF says despite laws clearly stating the rights of the child, not much has been done by tiers of government in Nigeria to make the children enjoy such rights.

At a recent workshop for journalists and university lecturers in Enugu State, UNICEF appealed to tertiary institutions to include child’s rights in their curriculum as one of the best ways to raise more advocates for the rights.

UNICEF Chief of Field Office, Enugu, Juliet Chiluwe, commended the Nnamdi Azikiwe University (NAU), Awka, Anambra State, as the first tertiary institution in Nigeria to endorse child rights curriculum as a general studies course and making it compulsory for its Mass Communication students.

According to her, a broad range of abuse against children emanates from ignorance of what constitutes a child’s right.

(The ICIR)