Janguza Community in Kano State presents two striking features; first is a giant construction site where the federal government is building the proposed biggest prison in the country with state of the art designs, and on the other hand is a neglected government primary school that lacks basic tools needed for proper early life learning. Martins Ifijeh writes
About 35 minutes drive towards the outskirt of Kano town rests Janguza Community in Tofa Local Government Area of Kano State. It is an agrarian village where sugarcane is produced in large quantities.
The quiet town boasts of a young population, whose modest vocations span from being farmers like their fathers to becoming Islamic scholars. For the girls, they just want to be housewives like their mothers. Generally, for many residents of the community, there are no other options beyond these.
Carcass of a Primary School
But away from the regular life of the residents, the community presents two contrasting tales. First is the Army Children Primary School, Tofa, which lacks basic amenities needed for early life learning. Save for the painted blocks and 13 teachers, there is nothing else to show it is a school; no chairs, tables, toilets or water for pupils.
Some of the females do not attend school during their menstrual periods due to lack of water and functioning toilets. Also, the children who go to school have their clothes soiled with dirt because they learn on bare and dusty floors.
While this special school, which on the long run could save Janguza community from poverty if proper learning aids are available, is one of the few schools around, it is obviously not enjoying funding.
Irony of Priority
Ironically, just a stone throw from the school is Nigeria’s proposed biggest prison, which sits on 50 hectares of land and could house 30,000 prisoners when completed. The massive construction is no doubt enjoying huge funding and when completed, could pass for a state-of-the-art university.
It is a project the government is ready to spend its fortunes on at the expense of providing quality education for the pupils of Janguza community.
A field trip to the community by journalists during the two-day media dialogue on Promoting Equity in Education for Children, organised by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) recently, shows that the federal government is keen on putting Janguza community on the map through the establishment of the prison; notwithstanding that the feat can be better achieved with the provision of quality education to children of the community.
Speaking with THISDAY, the Head Teacher, Army Children Primary School, Mrs. Harira Ahmed, believes the obvious challenges facing the school has hampered learning and has continued to discourage parents from bringing their children to school.
In an attempt to address the issue of lack of chairs and tables, Ahmed, through the Parents/Teachers Association (PTA) tasks the children N50 per term so they can repair the few chairs they have.
“We do not know how far we can go with the levy, because at the end of the day, you will realise that it is a very small amount. It cannot repair the few chairs, it cannot give us the toilets we want or new classrooms. But I cannot sit down and see our children learning on bare dusty floor. I cannot sit down to watch them suffer during the course of acquiring education,” she said.
Ahmed, and members of her staff have also tried other means of raising funds. She at some point wrote to the ‘big men’ and politicians in the community, but as typical with Nigerian politicians, they would rather invest in infrastructural development, which they and the community members can see, than on human capital development which is usually virtual.
A typical example is the prioritisation of prison construction over poor educational facilities in the same community where human capital development is on low ebb.
“Another issue is that 13 teachers cannot cover all the classrooms. If I have 10 more, I will be more than happy. The buildings are not also enough, the toilets are in bad shape; and this is especially worrisome because many of the girls do not come to school when they are on their periods,” Ahmed said.
She said while government used to provide books for the school, the practice stopped years back. Thus, the school is gradually losing patronage even though the children are willing to learn.
“Despite the obvious challenges, all I can say is that our children are trying. This year, we graduated 180 pupils, and many of them did well. Some even got distinctions and were recognised. Our children are ready to learn. They trek several kilometers just to be in school. Some spend over an hour thirty minutes just to be here, and they cover same distance going home.
“For children this willing, I believe they deserve more. That is why we are putting all our efforts in place to provide these facilities for them, but you know there is a limit to what we can do,” she added.
Increasing Attendance of Females
Despite being handicapped in changing the narrative, Ahmed has continued to be a source of motivation to the girls in the community. Many of the families now let their girls come to school because they believe that if a woman can become a head teacher, their female children can also amount to something in the future.
“Few years ago we had much more males in the school than females, but all that is changing now. Families now bring their female children to school. They often call me their role model. Am happy attendance is gradually increasing, because we most times pet these pupils to attend school. If you use force, you will lose them. So we want all well meaning Nigerians to join us in encouraging them. And one of the ways this can be done is by making sure all the needed facilities are in place for them,” she added.
On the long run, if these children fail to acquire basic education, which could propel them to make it in life and put the community on global map, they would most likely become tools for societal vices, and then the biggest prison in the country will not be short of inmates.
If nothing is done, Janguza children who couldn’t occupy themselves due to illiteracy and unemployment, would likely take to robbery, terrorism, and become tools for inter-communal clashes, and the prison would then end up living to its billing. Thus, continuing the cycle of a failed state.
Whichever way, Janguza community will be on the global map, either as the community with the biggest prison in Nigeria, or as a community in Northeastern Nigeria with high number of literate Nigerians.