The Local Education Authority (LEA) Primary School, Karmajiji, located off Umaru Musa Yar’adua Road, popularly known as Airport Road in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), was established in the 1970s. But despite being the oldest school in that area, it does not have a fence. It is also overcrowded with pupils, who jostle for few available benches.
Our reporter who visited the school noted that in the primary section, there’s an average of 70 pupils in a classroom, as against the internationally recommended standard of 35 or 40.
The story is not different at the LEA Primary School, Kuchigoro, which is not far from Karmajiji. It has a junior secondary section. On the day our reporter visited the school, pupils and students were seen carrying their wooden seats on their heads as they ran to school in the morning. The same stories are also told of many primary and junior secondary schools in the many satellite towns and rural communities in the FCT.
Our reporter observed that unlike the school at Jabi, most public schools in the old settlements of original inhabitants, area councils or satellite towns, do not have perimeter fences and security agents. They are surrounded by residential houses and shops that pollute the air with noise from musical sets, grinding machines, generators etc. Some of the schools also serve as thoroughfares, while various football clubs use the fields for training, even while the schools are in session.
It was also observed that secondary schools in Wuse and Jabi were fenced and in good condition. The ones in Wuye, Jabi and Wuse have staff quarters within the school premises.
Also, the School for the Blind in Jabi is well fenced and with a security guard all the time.
In some of the junior secondary schools visited, there were standard classrooms, but they do not have laboratories and libraries.
Pupils in some public primary schools in Abuja, who spoke with our reporter, said they were given three free exercise books from the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), but they buy textbooks at the cost of N600 and above.
But the UBEC Act, 2004 states in Part 1 Section 2 that: “Every government in Nigeria shall provide free, compulsory and universal basic education for every child of primary and junior secondary school age. Every parent shall ensure that his child or ward attends and completes primary and junior secondary education.”
A teacher in LEA Primary School, Jabi, Caleb Auta, told our reporter that in the school, pupils and students are made to pay certain amounts of money before they are enrolled. According to him, fresh enrolment attracts N7,000, which is meant for uniform, sportswear, cardigan and Parents-Teachers Association (PTA). Also, N10,000 is charged for nursery school enrolment. The amount covers uniform, sportswear, cardigan, toiletries and allowances for nannies. The school also charges N1,000 as PTA levy, which they use in paying for electricity bills.
A teacher in Junior Secondary School (JSS), Kuchigoro, who did not want to mention his name, said they charged N8,700.00 for enrolment into Junior Secondary School (JSS I). This is different from N5,500 for uniform, 1,000 as PTA contribution, N3,200 for English and Mathematics textbooks, N2,100 for 15 exercise books, making a total of N20,500 Also, every term, students are made to pay N2,000 as ‘school charges,’ which is not clearly defined.
Furthermore, a teacher in Senior Secondary School, Garki, told our reporter that to be admitted into the school, a prospective student would purchase a form from the Education Resource Centre (ERC), Wuse, go through an interview, and if successful, he/she would pay the sum of 17,000 for uniform and books. Each student would also pay N3,000 to the school, as well as N1,000 as PTA levy.
Further findings also showed that, to decongest public schools in the FCT, a colony for the disabled, otherwise known as Unguwan Guragu, was established at Karmajigi. The chief of the colony, Alhaji Suleman Muhammad Katsina, disclosed that a non-governmental organisation built the six blocks of classrooms and requested for teachers from the Federal Capital Development Agency (FCDA) and the Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC). They also asked the government agencies to pay the salaries of teachers and provide teaching aides.
At the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) Camp in new Kuchigoro, near Games Village, a non-governmental organisation known as School Without Walls is assisting the children with lessons and meals. Some of the pupils receive lessons under a tree. Asked how they coped during the rainy season, the head teacher said they usually told the pupils to go home when it’s about to rain.
A data released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), in partnership with the UBEC, indicates that in 2013, the total enrolment figure of primary school pupils in the country was 24,185,027 while the total number of teachers was 576,665. This shows that the pupil-teacher ratio was 42:1. This indicates that in 2013, public primary school enrolment in the FCT was 205,758. The number of male pupils was 102,988 while the number of females was 102,770. In 2013, the number of male pupils was higher than the number of females by 218.
In 2011/2012, the figure of pupils’ enrolment in FCT primary schools was 191,498. The data shows that the number of males was 96,132 while the number of females was 95,366. This indicates that the number of males was higher than the number of female pupils by 766.
The data shows that in 2014, the total enrolment figure in the country reduced to 23,129,927. The number of teachers also reduced to 574,579. This, according to the data, shows that the pupil-teacher ratio in the whole country reduced to 40:1. But there was an increment of 210,761 in the FCT, with 104,312 male pupils and 106,449 females. This indicates that the number of females was higher than the number of males. But in 2015, the total enrolment increased to 214,929 and 219,524 in 2016.
The chart shows that on a yearly basis, more pupils and students enroll in public schools, but government fails to provide more classrooms and employ more teachers.
Speaking on the condition of public schools in the FCT, the chairman of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), Gwagwalada Branch, Comrade Isma’il Idris Kehinde said, “The increase in enrolment of pupils has overstretched facilities in FCT schools.
“Record shows that there is 13 per cent increase in the enrolment of pupils in FCT schools. As a result of this, teachers are facing challenges of overcrowded classes, difficulty in timetable, lack of toilets, pipe borne water. And the number of pupils seeking admission continues to increase.’’
He said the ratio of teachers to pupils was beyond the required standard, adding, “This leads to promotion of pupils from one class to another even if they failed examinations. This is done to accommodate the influx of people to Abuja due to improved education facilities and relative stability as against other northern states, among other reasons.
“I call on the government to construct more classrooms, improve learning facilities and employ more teachers to address the teacher-pupil ratio in the FCT.”
Similarly, the executive director of the Universal Basic Education Board, FCT, Dr. Adamu Jatau Noma, confirmed that teachers were under pressure due to crowded classrooms.
“Over-crowdedness of pupils is one of the major challenges faced by FCT primary schools. This is due to the influx of people to the FCT on a daily basis, as well as the mobilisation of parents on the importance of education. The Board will erect storey buildings in urban centres to decongest FCT schools. It will also increase and renovate classrooms in rural areas,’’ he said.
Why UBEC has not printed books for basic education in three years
The act setting up the UBEC requires that it should provide textbooks at no cost to pupils and students in primary and junior secondary schools. However, since 2015, textbooks have not been distributed to schools across the country.
Our reporter learnt that there have been issues concerning the procurement of books by the UBEC at its headquarters in Abuja. An official of the commission said, “We have discovered that some of the textbooks procured by the UBEC were dumped by the ministries of education in many states because they do not align with their curricula. We want to ensure that this time around, the textbooks are in line with the curricula in states where they will be used. That is why there seems to be a delay in the procurement of textbooks for basic education in the last three years.”
The source added that the Commission had devised a new approach to the publishing of textbooks for students in states. According to him, “UBEC asks state governments to submit the list of preferred publishers of textbooks for their schools. The publishers’ quotations are sent to UBEC. The quotations are sent to the Bureau of Public Procurement for vetting. When the costs of the books have been approved by BPP, the publishers would print and distribute the textbooks in their respective states, while UBEC pays the publishers. This approach has eliminated the wastes that obtained in previous years.”