Between December 2010 and May 2015, the Goodluck Jonathan administration embarked on the Almajiri Education Programme which saw to the construction and equipment of 157 Tsangaya (Almajiri) Model Schools across Nigeria. ABDUSSALAM AMOO visited some of the sites of the schools in North Western Nigeria recently and reports about the deterioration of facilities and abandonment of the programme.
Apart from the Almajiri Model School, Dutsin-Ma, in Katsina State, which was left to rot away after completion, some of the facilities in other Almajiri Model Schools in the North-West states of Sokoto, Kaduna, Katsina and Kano are decaying fast, our investigation has revealed.
Visits to a cross-section of the schools showed that the facilities are in various degrees of decay. Some functional facilities have also been abandoned to rot away.
Behind the pupils’ hostel block at the Almajiri Model Boarding School, Gagi, in Sokoto State, is an uncompleted staff quarter. A teacher said that the building had remained abandoned since the opening of the school.
Another one like it currently accommodates three members of staff and their families. Had it been completed, more members of staff would have been resident in the school compound as planned by the federal government.
The “Integrated Science Laboratory” at the Tsangaya Model Boarding Girls Primary School, Tsakuwa, in Kano State, has remained without facilities other than laboratory tables dumped there since inception. As a result, practical science classes are yet to start holding there.
Abandoned at the entrance of the administrative block are an uninstalled Techno Diesel Engine generator and a Frajend motorcycle. Both items have the Education Trust Fund (ETF) Special Project 2010 labels on them. They have apparently been left unused for eight years!
Headmistress, Hadiza Hassan, said the motorcycle had to be abandoned because there was no need for it while the school uses another generator donated by the Sarkin of Dawakin Kudu, Alhaji Ismail Tsantali.
A visitor to the Almajiri Integrated Model School, Tambuwal, located on Kebbe Road in Sokoto State would notice only a front fence with a gate. Contractors who handled the project left the three other sides of the fencing undone. The Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), however, handed over the school to the Sokoto State government in that state.
Beyond the one-quarter-fenced gate is an uncompleted gatehouse. Its builders failed to roof or ceil the building.
Close to the gatehouse is an electric transformer with two electric poles abandoned and yet to generate any power since it was delivered to the school. A security guard had earlier hinted that the cables to connect it had long been stolen, a claim the school’s headmaster, Abubakar Aliyu, corroborated.
“We don’t have electricity here. So, we make use of torchlight. The transformer was never connected to power by those who put them there. We have a generator we are using for the pumping of water alone,” Mr Aliyu said.
Toilets in the school are also without connecting channels to the sewer, forcing students to engage in open defecation there. Some toilets at Almajiri Model Boarding School, Gagi, were also uncompleted. Its surroundings were littered with faeces when this reporter visited.
Also, despite the claim by UBEC that laboratories were part of the facilities provided in Model I schools, most of those visited had none.
At the Tsangaya Model Primary School, Harbau, in Kano, laboratory equipment for another model school was simply dumped there, according to the headmaster of the school, Shuaibu Harisu.
In schools where libraries are available, they are not being put to use. Furniture and books there were dusty. At the Almajiri Integrated Primary School, Tureta, there were no reading tables that could have even made pupils use the library conveniently.
An initial report in this series described the abandoned and dilapidated nature of facilities at the Almajiri Model School, Dutsin-Ma, in Katsina State.
Over a hundred kilometres away from Dutsin-Ma is Madrasatul Hadikatul Qur’anil Kareem, Funtua. It was completed in 2012 but the state of facilities there would give it away as one constructed several decades ago.
When we visited the school in September 2018, the neglect of the facilities was apparent. This is apart from it being restricted to the traditional Almajiri education rather than the integration of Quranic and Western education as conceived.
From the entrance, a visitor could see open ceilings apparently giving way to pressure from continuous rainfall, and a rusty water tank.
A teacher at the school, Kamal Hassan, who conducted our correspondent around the facility revealed that the water tank did not work beyond two months after it was constructed. It simply broke down.
Close to the dormant water tank is the space meant for the hand pump that was not eventually installed, according to Hassan.
The broken doors to some of the bathrooms in the school lead straight to the broken floors therein. Any bath taken there would only make the place waterlogged.
A toilet block adjourning the classroom block was said to have been uprooted after a heavy thunderstorm in July. Dried faeces that spilt out of there were still visible during this reporter’s visit.
Due to overpopulation at the Tsangaya Model Boarding Primary School, Ganduje in Kano State, the state government built an improvised pit latrine in addition to the existing toilet facilities which are functional but sometimes get flooded.
Meanwhile, a satellite dish meant for the computer room at the Almajiri Model Boarding School, Gagi, has fallen. It was then dumped at a secluded corner inside the science laboratory.
Also, the roof of a classroom block in the school got blown off since last May and has remained open to air ever since.
Within the same school are classrooms with damaged furniture yet to be repaired. The Assistant Headmaster of the school, Ibrahim Shehu, said authorities there were waiting for government’s directive for repairs.
At Umar Musa Yar’Adua Almajirai Bilingual Model Boarding Primary School in Maraban Gwanda, Kaduna State, torn ceilings and broken windows were seen at a store near the school kitchen and staff quarters.
There were cases of leaky roofs at Almajiri Model Primary School, Hunkuyi.
But the situation of the Almajiri Integrated Model Primary School, Tureta, in Sokoto State is worse as almost every part of the compound has varying degrees of dilapidation.
The gates, flung open on the three occasions this reporter visited, make the property susceptible to vandalism. That is obvious from the broken louvres at the gatehouse to those partially missing at the Administrative Block of the school.
A supposed three bedroom apartment labelled “Amir’s Block” has severely deteriorated that this reporter initially thought it was no longer in use. Its sitting room was filled with poultry faeces.
A man who simply identified himself as a non-teaching staff told this reporter that the room fell into disuse when its roof and ceiling began leaking. The broken windows of the same room could be sighted from afar.
To the left of that rundown apartment is the cracked wall of part of the school’s kitchen. Part of its roof too had got damaged too. Damaged roofs were also seen in some classrooms and hostels.
Behind the administrative block are empty classrooms with damaged furniture. Damaged ceilings and roofs had rendered some classroom blocks and other facilities unusable.
Even in some of the occupied classes, pupils were found sitting on tables instead of benches or chairs because of the largely dilapidated classroom furniture.
Not even the staff room was spared the rot the school had become. Aside from its broken windows, chairs and tables for teachers have broken down.
A broken wall within the hostel block is also noticeable. That part makes the school vulnerable to attacks even if all doors and gates are locked.
The Headmaster of the school, Shehu Muhammad, would later explain that the school was waiting on the state government to renovate the facility.
Across the schools, pupils were seen sleeping on springs and thorn mattresses. Others were seen sleeping on mats. The situation is however different at Tsangaya Model Boarding Girls Primary School, Tsakuwa, where beddings are still in good shape.
On the poor conditions at Kano State Almajiri/Tsangaya Schools, the Coordinator, Modern Tsangaya Schools at the Kano State Qur’anic and Islamiyya Schools Management Board, Ibrahim Dankano, simply said the government was working on improving it.
“We are working on it,” he said. “Every year, we are putting it into our budget. We are requesting the government to provide the schools with all boarding facilities including beds and so on.”
But the Desk Officer, Arabic and Islamic Studies at Katsina State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), Muhammad Bello and that of Almajiri Education at the Sokoto SUBEB, Dr Umar Boyi, refused to comment on the poor state of schools in their respective states despite office visits, several calls and text messages sent to them.
Also, UBEC’s spokesman, Ossom Ossom, who promised to respond after liaising with officials of the agency is yet to do so almost a month later.
Almajiri Education Programme not built on sustainability
The Executive Director, Almajiri Child Rights Initiative, Muhammad Keana, observed that despite the laudable goal of the Almajiri Education Programme, it was not built on sustainability.
“The Jonathan administration schools programme is a very good initiative and attempts to address the Almajiri problem,” Mr Keana said. “But the idea was not built with sustainability background in terms of funding and administration of the schools.”
He noted that the facilities, even when being put to use, are not for the benefit of the Almajiri.
“The problem of abandonment is across the country,” he said. “Those that are in use are not actually addressing the need of Almajirinci issue. The ones I had visited are not being used by the so-called Almajiri children but rather by the community children.
“So, it’s more like the community school. The state governments have refused to make their own commitment to take on the finances of the schools. So, there is no budgeting for it. Therefore, the school cannot run.”
The Almajiri child activist believed that if corruption could be eradicated from the system, things would get better.
“Money is available to address these issues and increase the capacity of these schools,” Mr Keana said. “But we’ve seen that government prioritises investment in things that do not affect the lives of ordinary people. They prefer to divert money to frivolous projects even when money is budgeted for the education sector, it is not being properly utilised.”
He criticised UBEC and states for “the lack of accountability” despite the agreement reached when the schools were handed over.
On his part, an academic, Dr Abubakar Abdulkadir blamed the state governments’ indifference to the Almajiri Model Schools on lack of interest by the current Federal government under President Muhammadu Buhari.
“Some states abandoned the programme because of the lack of sincerity especially when they look at it that the current government is no longer promoting the Almajiri Education Programme anymore, unlike it was promoted by the Jonathan administration,” said Dr AbdulKadir, who teaches at the Umaru Musa Yar’Adua University, Katsina
He also harped on creating proper planning, monitoring mechanisms, and adequate funding as the ways forward.