How distance threatens school attendance in Kano
Nigeria faces a three-fold problem of access, quality and infrastructure in educating her growing children population. In some parts of Kano state, the ambition to acquire education places a demand on the child, not only of hard work but also of long distant trekking to access available schools.
For pupils of Army Children Special School in Zanguza Barracks, Tofa LGA of Kano state, they have lived with this reality since the establishment of the school in 1980. Although located in the outer edge of Kano metropolis, Tofa’s expansive landscape is not the site of many public or private schools. Pupils trek several kilometres through the vast geography; some barefooted, walking for over 30 minutes to access school.
A cluster of bicycles parked at the corner of the school premises tells the story of the struggle for school attendance as kids who can afford bicycles resort to their use in order to speed up their arrival at school.
According to the Head-Teacher of the school, Hajia Halira Ahmed, over 1,000 pupils attend school but distance constitutes a major factor to daily school attendance as some are not regular.
“The most serious challenge getting the children to come to school is distance. We pity the children because they have to come from far places; some trek from Kabuga to the school. Not all of them can afford to come with bicycles,” she said.
But upon their arrival at school, the kids are further concerned by the lack of basic facilities such as school furniture, toilets and sports facilities. Outside the air of friendship extended by the school authority and peers, as well as the hope of pursuing relevance through formal education, there is very little motivation left for the children given the poor learning conditions they find themselves.
Located on the northern stretch of Zanguza Barracks, the school lacks good access roads as the eroded path leading to its premises signals a disconnection between the school system and community effort at sustaining it. It has only four blocks of 11 classrooms with over 1,000 students to contain.
“We have over one thousand children population. Children come to school with bicycles because they are very far, let’s say from here to Kabuga which the distance is more than 30 minutes trekking,” Ahmed said.
She noted that a significant number of girls were also enrolled in the school nearly in equal percentage with boys, following the mobilisation and enlightenment carried out by the school-based management committee, SMC, and other stakeholders.
The head teacher however decried the inadequate school infrastructure and learning facilities as the available classrooms are overpopulated with over a hundred pupils per class, while lamenting that the school with a population of over thousand pupils has only thirteen teachers, averaging one hundred pupils per teacher.
“We have challenges of lack of staff and the buildings are not enough; we also have challenges of toilet facilities, and this is the most important because it hinders especially the girls.
“Government used to provide books for them but now it’s getting to two, three years there are no book issued; but food is being provided for primary one to three. Even now they have supplied the food already,” she said.
While the universal basic education Act, 2004, recognises the right of every child to six years of compulsory basic education, efforts by the Universal Basic Education Commission, UBEC, and the Kano State Universal Basic Education Board, SUBEB, to implement it has not resulted in the establishment of enough schools in Tofa Local Government to cater for the educational needs of rural communities.
At Tofa Model School, located further at the heart of the Local Government, the Headmaster, Malam Tasiu Sani, told correspondents that the institution, which is the only model school in the area could only admit 343 students and has only 16 teachers in its staff roll.
Sani said the school was established in 2008 but lacks classrooms and other facilities to meet the high demand for basic and secondary education in the area, adding that its admission is promptly closed to ensure the population is kept within limits.
“We have enough land to expand this school and admit more students; we want the government to add additional classrooms for us,” he said.
The headmaster noted that a certain individual donates a bus to convey students to and from school every day, to save them from long trekking. However, all the pupils encountered by our correspondent in both schools were unable to properly communicate in English, which is a reflection of the dwindling quality of education across the country.
Earlier, at a Media Dialogue on access to education organised by the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, the fund’s Education Specialist, Ms Azuka Menkiti, assured that UNICEF was working with state and non-state actors to address the gaps in education across the country.
Menkiti noted that there were still gaps in enrolment into primary schools in the country as gender inequality was still high especially in northern Nigeria.
She said the gaps were caused by poor implementation of education policies and laws as well as the poor quality of learning which affects the demand for education, poverty among families, among others.
She lamented that Nigeria contributes to a high percentage of children who are out of school in Sub-Saharan Africa and in the world, warning that if the country does not address the challenge, it could hinder the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs, by 2030.
In Kano where about 6,000 Quranic schools exists, UNICEF is working with the Malams, training them and providing infrastructure for their Islamic schools.
Dr. Adedayo Ogundimu, the Principal Consultant, ComForch Development Communications, also attributed unequal access to education to Poverty, Ignorance, Culture, Religion and others.
According to him, “the Universal Declaration of Human Rights stipulates that every child should have access to education,” adding that the Declaration does not only prescribe equitable access but also the quality of education.
Citing article 26 of the declaration, he said “Education shall be directed to the full development of human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship … among racial (or ethnic) or religious groups…..”