In a Kaduna community is a primary school so highly populated that 250 pupils or more sit in a classroom, some of them on the bare floor. Such is just a bit of the story of infrastructural deficiency in UBE Primary School, Rigasa.
Kaduna State under Governor Nasir el-Rufa’i has through its free basic education and school feeding programme been able to achieve a fast growing school-age population but it is facing difficulty in the area of offering quality education to the increasing populace.
A clear manifestation of this is seen in the overcrowded classrooms that have become a common place occurrence in most public schools across the state. This problem is compounded by shortage of teachers. The Governor while presenting his 2018 budget proposal to the state assembly recently mentioned that the state education policy had raised primary school enrollment from 1.1million to 2.1million.
The Universal Basic Education (UBE) Primary School, Lokoja Road in Rigasa, a suburb of Kaduna, is one of the schools with the highest number of pupils in the state. Rigasa is a community tucked into a corner of Igabi local government area with over a million inhabitants. The population of the school, Daily Trust learnt, is presently 22,889 with 71 teachers.
Out of the 71 teachers, nine were recruited by the Federal Government under the N-power programme, 12 are Arabic teachers while four take the Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCDE) section which has a population of over 1,700 children. This means that there are only 46 classroom teachers in the school.
The school runs two sections, with primary one, two and six on the morning section, while primary three, four and five are on the afternoon section, which means about half the figure (22,889) are on morning shift while the remaining half are on afternoon shift.
Our reporter who visited the school observed that there are over 250 pupils in each class; a population which makes interaction nearly impossible. It was also observed that there are about 18 classrooms in the school, in addition to that are 23 Arabian tents under which pupils also take lessons.
Educational experts have described the classroom as the heart of any educational system because most class activities take place while the pupils are seated in the classroom but in the case of the LEA school in Rigasa, it would be difficult for proper learning and assimilation to take place because about half the population of pupils in each classroom sit on the bare floor.
For those sitting on chairs, the arrangement of the desks make the pupils to sit facing each other instead of facing the front of the class where the blackboard is mounted.
Daily Trust also observed that majority of the pupils do not have exercise books, neither do they have textbooks, what they do mostly is to chant whatever the teacher says after him/her. These pupils who don’t go to school with books don’t forget to go with their plates/coolers for the food they would be served in school.
Similarly, our reporter observed pupils of the school wearing all sorts of uniform. While some wear white and blue, some wear white and green and others blue and check material shirt. Over half the population of the school comes to school in bathroom slippers and some in mufti.
When asked how the population of the pupils was allowed to rise to such uncontrollable number, a teacher responded, “No child must be left on the street, so we must continue to enroll them as they come.”
Because of the high population, there is usually heavy traffic within the school during break time and when the children are rushing back to their classrooms after the break; this is so because, controlling the large number of children is extremely difficult.
In the area of hygiene, open urination is the order of the day in the school, as many pupils including boys and girls were seen urinating in an open carved out place within the school premises with smell of urine oozing out. It was also observed at the time of visit that there was no water in the school, therefore, the culture of hand washing cannot be taught in such school.
While pupils are having their toll of the infrastructural deficit, the teachers on their own part are over-laboured. Narrating her experience, a teacher in the school told our reporter that in all his years of practice as a teacher, he had never taught a class with 250 pupils.
“It is a very difficult task for the teachers, in fact it is blood draining to take 250 pupils at a time in a classroom. You know, it is much easier to teach adults or adolescents than to teach children. Their number makes it more worrisome; yet, the state government is not seeing our efforts.
“We are trying our best to impact knowledge to the pupils to the best of our ability but because the number is outrageous, it will be difficult for all of them to catch up and personal interaction is not possible. In fact, we have classes with 300 pupils and just one teacher and sometimes a teacher on teaching practice. What kind of magic is the teacher going to perform to make all of them learn? Now, we have some N-Power teachers assisting in the class but it is a difficult task and government should please look into this as a matter of urgency,” he asked.
Prior to this period of explosive population in the school, another teacher in the school said, “Before now, there was only Primary one A -D classes but now, we have primary one A – O classes. We also have primary two A – I and so on with other classes, so the situation is really pathetic and that is why government needs to motivate the teachers by improving on their welfare package. Some of us earn between N18,000 to N19,000 monthly without promotion having spent many years in practice,” she lamented.
The head teacher of the school declined comment about the school, saying she is not permitted to talk to the media.
It would be recalled that Governor El-Rufai announced recently that the school had secured a N30 million grant from the World Bank/DFID Global partnership on education. He also said the state had acquired land in the ward for construction of two more primary schools to spread the pupils.
“Reversing the inherited legacy of neglect of public education is very expensive but must be done to accommodate the burgeoning population of school age kids in the state,” he said.