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13.08.2021 investigations INVESTIGATION: Inside Kano Schools Where Pupils Learn in Poor Conditions

Published 13th Aug, 2021

By Adeola Oladipupo

To gain access into schools in different LGAs in Kano State, investigative journalist Adeola Oladipupo went undercover as a researcher with an interest in inclusive education, gathering evidence, unbeknownst to staff members, to reveal the deplorable conditions of educational facilities in the state.

Growing up, 13-year-old Sadia Abdullahi (not real name) did not speak to anyone, including her parents. Medically, she is not mute but her parents who could not explain why she would go on errands but not talk concluded that she was mentally retarded and was not smart enough for western education. 

But before she was sent off to be an apprentice at a local soup-making shop, she was enrolled at Shahuci Inclusive Special Primary School at Kano Municipal Local Government in Kano State.

At the school which operates a system where pupils who have learning disabilities are educated alongside the so-called ‘normal’ pupils, Abdullahi began speaking and teachers said she is intelligent. But there was a problem; she refused to study in the classroom on the top floor of a storey building where her mates are. 

“When we asked why, she said a storey building is not natural; it was built by a human, what if a mistake was made and it collapses one day? She felt unsafe,” said staff members whose names have been withheld to protect them from reprisal by authorities.

DEARTH OF FURNITURE

Shahuci Inclusive Primary is one of two other primary schools on the premises. While Shahuci Special Primary School and the Early Children Centre have fairly good structures and pupils have chairs to sit on, in Shahuci Inclusive school, pupils sit on the bare floor because there are no chairs. 

Pupils sitting on the dirty bare floor at Shahuci Inclusive Special Primary School Photo credit: Adeola Oladipupo

Also, classes do not have windows and doors and there are many leaking spots on the roof, leaving pupils exposed to the sun, the rain and cold.

One of the classrooms at Shahuci Inclusive Primary School without windows and doors. Photo credit: Adeola Oladipupo

“It can be interpreted as part of the discrimination against people living with disability,” said a staff of one of the schools who didn’t want to be named. 

In line with the 2014 policy on inclusive education, Shahuci Inclusive Primary School enrols pupils who are living with disabilities, including autism, down syndrome, partial blindness, behavioural disorder, hearing and speaking impairment. These impairments not only affect learning but also hinder functions such as the ability to walk, climb stairs, hear, see or grasp an object. 

Stairs for children living with disabilities at Shahuci Inclusive Primary School raises concerns about accessibility. Photo credit: Adeola Oladipupo

“We have had times when some students fell and got injured. Fear of something terrible happening made us stop them (students) from using this side (staircase without railings). The other side is a bit okay,” a staff member said.

With many students required to climb stairways to their classrooms, there is the risk of falling off and sustaining injuries due to damaged stair railings. Classrooms are not accessible, contrary to the operational approach by the Kano State Government on inclusive education policy which stated that the State will adopt infrastructure designs that consider children with disabilities. 

Stair railing damaged and removed at Shahuci Inclusive Primary School, leaving children at risk of falling off. Photo credit: Adeola Oladipupo.

“Access is important in everything. There should be special provisions for pupils living with disabilities in the construction of school buildings. While educating students who have disabilities can be expensive, we must educate them because they have the right to,” said Educationist and Retired Professor, Rasheed Aderinoye.

BULLYING AMONG STUDENTS    

Another challenge, apart from poor infrastructure which pose danger to the safety of pupils, is bullying among students. For classrooms comprising both persons living with disabilities and regular students, bullying is a big problem. Advocates of inclusive education, however, believe that it provides an opportunity for students to learn about and accept individual differences.

“We continue to orientate pupils who bully others. In addition to guidance and counselling, we tell the pupils to be their brother’s keeper by helping the person being bullied to resist,” a staff member told me.

A psychologist, Dr Charles Umeh said that bullying among pupils includes physical assault, name-calling and teasing. 

He explained that some of the reasons pupils bully each other are frustration the child is going through either at home or at school, attention-seeking and conduct disorder. 

“If it is not nipped in the bud, it could lead to psychopathic personality disorder,” Dr Umeh said. “The teachers need to be proactive by educating the children to let them know the implication of bullying and inculcate the sense of altruism.”

UNPAID VOLUNTEER STAFF, NO TEACHING AIDS, KANO’S OLDEST SCHOOL IS DYING

The oldest school in Kano, making it somewhat like a monument, Shahuci Primary School (as it was formerly called) has been in existence for 102 years. The poor state of the school betrays the prominent alumni it has — both living and dead. 

The leaking roof at the Learning Development Centre Shahuci is soliciting funds to build. Photo credit: Adeola Oladipupo

The school, which has about 400 students, needs more classrooms and renovation of existing ones whose concrete floors and tiles have given way to sand and students who have no chairs and desks to sit and write on, are forced to lie on bare ground. They return home each day appearing like they had spent the entire day in school rolling in the dirt rather than learning.

Pupils and teachers arrived at school to find human faeces in the corner of one of the classrooms. Photo credit: Adeola Oladipupo

Seven years after the inclusive education policy stated that Kano State would adopt “instructional materials that consider all types of learners” and use a “curriculum that meets the learning needs of different categories of children” but not much has happened. 

Empty shelf in classroom. Photo credit: Adeola Oladipupo

ONE KINESTHETIC WHEELCHAIR WHERE SEVEN IS NEEDED

Shahuci Inclusive Special Primary School has one whiteboard and its blackboards are so white that so-called normal students struggle to see what is written on it, while those with minor visual impairments move inches close to the board to sight properly.

The only whiteboard in the school. Photo credit: Adeola Oladipupo

The school has one kinesthetic wheelchair with straps — used to hold pupils who have cerebral palsy in place while they write — but urgently needs more than seven. 

The only kinesthetic wheelchair in Shahuci Inclusive Special Primary School. Photo credit: Adeola Oladipupo

“If we had teaching aids, there are many ways to teach each child, depending on the learning disability. With this limitation, we improvise, but things are difficult,” I was told by a staff member.

The challenge of shortage of staff was resolved with volunteer teachers. While one volunteered to help other kids after seeing how her brother who has a learning disability improved, another who has speech impairment has been a volunteer for 12 years. The volunteers are supported with donations by regular staff members.

DORAYI BABBA: ANOTHER SCHOOL WITH NO TEACHING AIDS AND NO CHAIRS AND DESKS 

Sights of pupils sitting on the bare floor in classrooms at Dorayi Babba Special Primary School at Gwale LGA deviates from the beautiful environment that greets visitors to the school, which is fenced and has a gate. Huge Neem trees grow in rows in the school’s compound.

Signpost at Dorayi Babba Special Primary School. Photo credit: Adeola Oladipupo

The school operates inclusive education and has eight pupils who have disabilities, including hearing impairment and deformed hands.

“It is challenging to follow the curriculum fully because there are no teaching aids. There used to be chairs but they got spoilt and have not been replaced,” a staff member who does not want to be named told me. 

There are threats to students’ health as sitting on the bare ground increases the chances of touching and ingesting dirt because not many wash their hands regularly. This raises more concerns for a State where about 186 people have died of Cholera since March. 

According to World Health Organisation (WHO), every year, environmental risks such as indoor and outdoor air pollution, second-hand smoke and unsafe water and sanitation take the lives of 1.7 million children under five years – 26 percent of child deaths — globally.

The data by the WHO suggests that the deplorable conditions of many schools in Kano expose the pupils to health risks that may result in death.

“Being exposed to dust and human waste put children at risk of respiratory infections, including pneumonia and respiratory condition such as asthma because viruses and bacteria thrive in an untidy, unhygienic and unhealthy environment,” said Dr Chinyere Uzodinma, consultant Paediatrician and Community Health specialist.

“I am not sure that if you look around you would find where those children can wash their hands. Also, the issue of toilets and lack of water. The students are at risk of gastroenteritis and diarrhoea.

“There is the risk of an outbreak of disease and even skin infection if the pupils continue to sit on the dirty floor, touch one another and eat with unclean hands.” 

KUKA BULUKIYA: A SCHOOL UNDER ATTACKS BY THIEVES

Kuka Bulukiya Special Primary School operates an inclusive school system and like other schools, it suffers from poor infrastructure. With no chairs and desks, pupils sit on the floor. Also, for a school that has persons living with disabilities, classrooms are not accessible. 

Classrooms at Kuka Bulukiya Inclusive Special Primary School are not accessible. Photo credit: Adeola Oladipupo

There are no teaching aids and it is difficult to teach children who have learning disabilities without teaching aids, staff members said. 

The school is also under constant attacks by thieves. Kuka Bulukiya Special Primary School now depends on a residential building close to it for water, since its submersible pumping machine was stolen by thieves.

Borehole at Kuka Bulukiya Primary School with submersible pumping machine stolen. Photo credit: Adeola Oladipupo
Kuka Bulukiya has water tanks but depends on a residential building for water since its borehole was stolen. Photo credit: Adeola Oladipupo

Three toilets are used by both the primary and secondary sections. The structural design of the toilet poses a challenge of accessibility for students and staff members living with disabilities, as they could slip and fall.

Toilets at Kuka Bulukiya Special Primary School has accessibility problem for students who are disabled. Photo credit: Adeola Oladipupo

“The boys use one, the girls have one and the teachers use one. We need at least 10 toilets,” the staff members said.

The secondary school section near the primary school was stripped bare of electrical fittings, including wires and fans, by thieves who gained access through the roof. 

Footprint of thieves on the wall as they gained access into a classroom through the roof. Photo credit: Adeola Oladipupo
Thieves stole everything including electrical fittings. Photo credit: Adeola Oladipupo

I gathered that thieves don’t come at night but during the day when schools are closed.

But it is not all woes for the school, especially the secondary section, as newly built classrooms have wheelchair ramps for persons with disabilities. 

The new building at the Secondary section with a wheelchair ramp. Photo credit: Adeola Oladipupo

WAY FORWARD

According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Kano has the highest number of out-of-school children in the country with 1,496,736. Some of them are destitute while others have learning disabilities. 

Inclusive education was meant to provide equal access to qualitative education. However, this investigation found that many primary and secondary schools lack infrastructure despite budgetary allocations of 30percent to the sector in 2020 and 25percent in 2021.

The free, compulsory Basic and Post Basic Education will have little impact if pupils are taught without teaching aids, if children continue to study in deplorable conditions and if teachers are not trained to manage children with a learning disorder, experts say.

Yahya Yahya, chairman of the Association of People Living with Disabilities in Kano State, wants the government to provide quality education, especially for people living with disabilities. 

“I call on the government to go round the schools and see the condition of things. No chairs and no teaching materials. The schools are not safe for the children,” Mr Yahya said.

DWINDLING REVENUE

Kano State Commissioner for Education Mohammed Sanusi-Kiru, blamed the poor condition of some schools on dwindling revenue to the state, large number of schools and increase in enrolment since the government declared basic and post-basic education free.

“We have more than 7,000 primary schools in Kano and over 1,300 secondary schools. So, you can see that there is no way everything can be said to be perfect,” Mr Sanusi-Kiru said.

“Provision of chairs and desks and teaching aids is a continuous process. It is gradual, but we will eventually turn around the poor conditions of the schools.

“When you see some schools that are dilapidated, most times, it is because of the negligence of the community. We expect communities to take ownership of the schools and not wait for the government to do everything, including security.”

DAILY EXPOSURE TO DANGER

When help will get to the pupils is not known, but they are exposed to danger daily.

 “Children are vulnerable. Their outcome and life path depend on what we do for them. It is because the children’s parents are poor, that is why they attend those schools. The children of the elites in Kano do not attend those schools,” Dr Uzodinma said.

“Education is about the dignity of human beings, including children. Their dignity should be protected and respected if we want them to grow into patriotic citizens.”

This report was facilitated by the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism under its Regulators Monitoring Programme.

Published 13th Aug, 2021

By Adeola Oladipupo

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