Dilapidated buildings, paneless windows, doors without doors, mats on the floor, broken floors, ceilings and restrooms without the necessary materials were the scene that greeted visitors who visited the Government Science College, Kagara, Niger State, the college where 27 students, three teaching staff, two non-teaching staff and 12 family members were abducted on Wednesday in Niger State.
The blocks of classrooms, hostels, administration block, school hall and laboratory blocks were nothing to write home about, making one wonder why parents would send their children to such an institution to learn.
The school which is supposed to be a science college cannot boast of any science apparatus in its lab as all the labs visited had little or nothing in it.
Taking a tour of the school, The Nation discovered that the children slept on mats, there was no window to prevent unwanted entry into the hostels and the doors were broken down.
The kitchen was in disarray while the school hall had broken down chairs. The majority of the buildings had blown-out roofs.
The perimeter fencing of the school was broken down which made it easy for the bandits to gain entrance into the school; the school gate was also not secured as one part was almost removed from the hinges.
Government Science College, Kagara portrays the state of the 59 other public boarding schools in Niger State, of which many them are nothing to write home about.
According to the Niger State Government, the state has 500 day secondary schools, 60 boarding secondary schools and over 1000 primary schools.
Parents: we have no alternative to schools
There have been a lot of questions as to why parents would allow their children and wards attend such schools which are in a deplorable state.
Some of the parents who spoke with The Nation said they had no alternative to sending their children to the school as it was the only way their children could get quality education.
Ahmad Isah, whose son is in SS 1, said he was very happy when his son was offered admission into the school, thinking they could manage the school the way it is.
“It is something of pride when your son secures admission into a boarding school. Where I stay in Shiroro is one of the areas that are hard to reach and there are no schools here, so getting the admission was happiness to my family.”
Ahmad said his son told him the state of the school but he felt he was exaggerating and did not pay heed, saying that he rarely visited his son in the school and when he visited him, he did not go into the hostel.
One of the students, Ibrahim, said majority of them do not tell their parents the state of the school because they would have been withdrawn back home.
“Most of us are just happy to be out of the village and telling our parents that the school is not that good will make us stay back at home or be sent to one uncle in another local government for us to school.”
Ibrahim said apart from the poor state of infrastructure in the school, they also suffered the problem of electricity, adding that most nights they made do with touches for reading and other activities.
“We use mats here but everyone is lucky to get a cupboard to keep their things. There are no fans or light. Oftentimes, we are disturbed by lizards which come from the ceiling. During heat period, it is always hot because there’s no fan for us to use.”
Ihe father-inlaw of one of the kidnapped teachers, Khamis Tahir, said he had always expressed worry over the state of security of the school whenever he visited his children.
Tahir, whose children are among those abducted, said the school was not secured enough to have people living inside, wondering why the government had not renovated it over the years.
“The place is not secured for the students. Looking at the condition of this school, the place is not secured at all. This is because there is no fence and the places that have fence have been destroyed. That is why criminals can enter at any time.”
Some residents of Kagara community also expressed dismay over the state of the school, saying that it was a reflection of the state government’s failure to fix the educational system in the state.
“I went round the Government Science College, Kagara and I was amazed at the rot in the school. The student hostel is grossly dilapidated and the fence that was built in the era of Governor Musa Inuwa has broken down, this is why the kidnappers found it easy to invade the college.
“I know the Niger State Government will not admit to the world that the administration has failed woefully in putting the needed infrastructure at Government Science College, Kagara but we all know that the government has recorded absolute failure in fixing decayed infrastructure in schools across the state,” Isha Kagara said.
Niger Govt defence
Niger State Governor Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello admitted that the majority of the public secondary schools were in bad conditions, adding that the fault did not come from his administration but from the previous administration which had abandoned the education sector.
He said majority of the schools had not been renovated in the past 40 years, adding that the state government was doing its best to renovate the schools but would not be able to finish them before the end of his tenure.
He said rebuilding a school cost about N350 million, adding that the state did not have the resources to rescue all the schools from decay.
He said: “The situation we are in pre-dates the past two administrations. Previous administration did not pay attention to schools.
“A lot of these schools have not seen paint for 40 years, no paint, no fence, no work done on them at all. It is so bad that some schools do not have any toilet and cannot fix blown off roofs.”
The governor further explained that his administration has rebuilt nine schools in the three zones across the state, stressing that all the schools cannot be fixed in 20 years.
He promised that the school in Kagara would be attended to despite the fact that it is not in the schedule of government for schools to be renovated in 2021, “the school in Kagara is one of the schools that will be attended to this year but on our calendar of schools to be rebuilt, it is not yet their turn but we will do it this year”.
Niger Education Budget
There has always been a huge amount of money budgeted for the education sector in Niger State but a little percentage of the budgeted amount is released.
The Nation found out that in 2015, N1,132,298,175 was approved for primary education while N1,736,948,106 was approved for the construction and provisions of public schools and N569,272,636 approved for the rehabilitation and repairs of public schools.
In 2016, N90 million was approved for Primary Education in Niger state while N3,241,608,108 was expected as UBEC intervention in the state with UNICEF Support to Basic Education of N80,000,000; N771,455,804 was approved for construction and provision of public schools and N1,428,194,082 approved for rehabilitation and repairs of public schools across the state
In 2017, N4.155 billion was budgeted for education; in 2018, N 2.8 billion was voted while in 2019, only seven per cent of the N840 million allocated to the education sector was released. In 2020, N2.6 billion was approved for the education sector.
Last year, the Niger State House Assembly Committee on Education, Science and Technology disclosed that only seven per cent of the N840.516 million education allocation of the 2019 budget was released to the state Ministry of Education.
The chairman of the committee, Hon Suleiman Gambo who stated this during the presentation of a report at a plenary in 2020, said that the committee discovered that many primary, junior and secondary schools across the state were dilapidated.
The chairman also disclosed that N1.3 billion was spent by the state government to renovate nine schools under the Whole School Development Approach. However, three of those schools were yet to be completed.
He listed the schools not renovated to include Government Day Science College, Baro, Government Girls Secondary School, Tegina and Mu’azu Ibrahim Commercial Secondary School, Kontagora.
SOURCE: THE NATION ONLINE