It is a scorching July afternoon, around 2 p.m., at Government Girls Science Comprehensive Secondary School in Argungu, Kebbi State. The school’s teachers and students are fully engrossed in their daily activities.
Among them is Happiness Olamide, a 14-year-old student in Senior Secondary 1C. She is comfortably seated alongside her fellow students in a well-furnished classroom with whiteboards and white and green tables and chairs. All the students in SS1C mirror the excitement on her face as they eagerly engage with their Mathematics teacher.
Despite the sweltering heat outside, the school building, sponsored by the Constituency’s lawmaker Yahaya Abubakar Abdullahi, offers a welcome respite to the students. Well-placed windows and doors ensure proper ventilation, creating a healthy indoor environment while allowing fresh air to circulate freely.
“Before this building was constructed, this classroom was not looking good; it was bad and polluted. We were much in a class and sitting on the ground, but now, everywhere looks good. The classroom is beautiful, and we have everything needed inside,” Happiness said.
Likewise, Victoria Gabriel, also 14 years old and a student in SS1B, echoed Happiness’s sentiments. She shared the experience of the days when the dormitories were overcrowded, and the classrooms were insufficient in both space and chairs, owing to the high number of students crammed into a single room before the construction of these new buildings.
“I want to thank him for what he has done because before these buildings, the environment was not looking good, but now everywhere is looking good, the students are happy, and we have enough seats,” Victoria expressed her gratitude for the two dormitories built for the boarding girls.
According toPrihoda, poor ventilation reduces attention span, affects learning, and makes pupils more prone to errors.
This situation can result in lower academic performance, as the inability to concentrate is a well-documented issue for students and teachers. Government Girls Science Comprehensive Secondary School in Argungu was previously marked by these challenges, given the scarcity of classrooms, until the recent development.
Researchhas consistently indicated that the most effective education strategy involves maintaining a maximum teacher-to-pupil ratio of 1:40 in secondary schools.
In Nigeria, the issue of overcrowded schools has given rise to many problems, including negative attitudes towards learning new concepts, inconveniences for both instructors and students, deficient communication skills, increased cheating, and discipline-related issues.
Meanwhile, Nuhu Ishaq Lawal from the Department of Science Education, Federal University, Gusau, Zamfara state, commented that the climate of overcrowded classes would not be conducive to effective teaching and learning activities due to its lack of cross ventilation and classroom management will be difficult on the part of the teacher which will manifest inattentiveness on the part of the students.
“Students will not be able to understand what the teacher is teaching. Regular assessment of students by the teacher may not be possible. The normal ratio of 1:35 between teachers and students has been violated,” he said.
Projects improve access to quality education
Government Girls Science Comprehensive Secondary School, situated in Argungu along Birnin Kebbi road, Kebbi North Senatorial District, had a shortage of classrooms and dormitories. The available ones were in a bad state and congested.
The school principal, Musa Abdkarim, said the school experienced overcrowding for years before the intervention of the projects.
“Before the construction of this project, more than 100 students would be in a dormitory, but now an average of 40. In fact, some dormitories have like 20 students,” said Mr. Abdkarim.
He recounted how the classes were overcrowded while termites destroyed the ceilings and how students would sit on bare grounds.
“We thank God that we got this intervention. Before this renovation, students stayed on the bare floor. I cannot lie to you. There was no conducive learning environment, but with this intervention, you can see by yourself that there are now boards and seats,” Abdkarim said while also asking for more intervention.
Female education in Northern Nigeria
UNICEF statistics reveal a concerning situation in Nigeria, particularly in the Northeast and Northwest regions, where the female primary net attendance rates are alarmingly low, standing at 47.7% and 47.3%, respectively. This indicates that over half of the girls in these areas are not enrolled.
The primary culprits behind this issue are economic barriers and deeply ingrained socio-cultural norms and practices that discourage girls from pursuing formal education. In the world, over 129 milliongirls are out of school despite the transforming effect of investing in girls’ education.
Research has further identified various factors contributing to the high number of out-of-school children in Nigeria. These include inadequate funding for education, corruption within the educational system, poor implementation of the Child Rights Act, security challenges, a lack of political will to address these issues, and a high poverty rate.
To address some of these disparities, boarding schools were established to enhance female students’ access to quality education. However, there remains a pressing need to improve the facilities in many of these schools.
Over the years, the Nigerian government hasstruggled to meet the recommended allocation of 15% of the budget to education, as advised by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization or UNESCO in its ‘The Dakar Framework for Action’ report.
This chronic underfunding of education in Nigeria has led to subpar learning environments, insufficient teaching resources, and understaffed schools. Consequently, only families with the financial means can afford to send their children to private schools. In contrast, less privileged children face inadequate resources and perform below expectations in poorly funded public schools. Addressing these funding issues is crucial to ensuring equitable access to quality education for all Nigerian children.
Muhammed Ibrahim, a professor at the Department of Curriculum Studies and Educational Technology, Usmanu Danfodiyo Universityin Sokoto State, said, “What the education sector gets is not fair enough to cater for the resources necessary to enhance its growth.”
To curb these challenges and fill the gap in Argungu, in 2020, N100 million was allocated for constructing and furnishing two (2) dormitories in Government Girls Science Comprehensive Secondary School Argungu in Kebbi North Senatorial District.
Also, in 2022, N50 million was allocated to rehabilitate classrooms in the same school.
The 2021 Zonal Intervention Project document shows that the federal government budgeted N50 million for a project titled “Rehabilitation of Classrooms at Government Girls Science Comprehensive Secondary School Argungu LGA, Kebbi North Senatorial District,” assigned to the Ministry of Education and placed under the supervision of Universal Basic Education Commission or UBEC.
Also, in 2020, the Zonal Intervention Project shows that N100 millionhad been budgeted to construct and furnish two dormitories in Government Girls Science Comprehensive Secondary School Argungu in Kebbi North Senatorial District.
The project was assigned to Trade and Investment under the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria or SMEDAN. A Senator, Yahaya Abubakar Abdullahi, the Constituency lawmaker, sponsored both projects.
UDEME, a platform monitoring government projects under the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development, gathered that both projects have been completed and are aiding learning in the girls’ school.
Meanwhile, a letter from the Accountant General office showed that the project is fully funded and indicates the current status of the project as 100% completed.
Speaking with UDEME, the principal expressed his gratitude to the senator while highlighting the challenges the school is still battling.
“We are grateful for this intervention. However, we are imploring for more intervention. We need more powered water projects because there are many students, a stable power supply, and a well-equipped laboratory. We are short of equipment in this laboratory,” the principal noted.
Walking with the principal around the school, the principal showed this reporter dilapidated laboratories, including chemistry, physics, biology, and computer laboratories, which have been constructed since 2005 but still struggle for equipment while some need renovation.
When this reporter reached out to Ismaila Dantagogo, legislative aide to the senator in September, he said the building “was to make things easier for the students and encourage girls’ education”.
“We have been doing different empowerment for women. We facilitate many projects in different girls’ schools to encourage girls’ education. For instance, in Government Girls Science Comprehensive Secondary School, Argungu, we have sponsored water projects and built classrooms and dormitories,” he recounted.
As of the time of the filing of this report, the aide has not responded to the effort of the lawmaker to equip and renovate the laboratories and tackle other challenges.