Special Report: How teacher shortage, neglect crippled schools in Niger 

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Amidst a deepening education crisis, Lapai Local Council in Niger state faces a challenging confluence of resource scarcity and a faltering education system. The resultant impact on primary school pupils’ learning abilities is unmistakable. Hamzat Ibrahim Abaga uncovers the dire impact: a surge in student dropouts, with farming emerging as a prevailing alternative.

 In the heart of Lapai Local Government Area (LGA) in Niger State, within the walls of Mandala, Katakpa, and Kuchi-Kebba primary schools, a tale of disillusionment unfolds—a narrative of educational neglect. The very system meant to nurture the minds of pupils seems indifferent to their struggles for knowledge. When asked about their names and classes, Zulkarnaini, Surajo, and Hassan, students in primary five at these schools could not respond in English until an interpreter bridged the gap.

These three pupils, alongside their peers, stand as symbols of the pervasive impact of a faltering educational infrastructure, the erosion of learning foundations, and a dire scarcity of teachers in the local council. Tragically, numerous schools within this district have been compelled to close their doors temporarily due to these dire circumstances.

UNICEF’s stark declaration that 70 percent of Nigerian children face a learning crisis finds its echo here. This sentiment is mirrored in the data from the 2021 Learning Crisis in Nigerian Literacy report, which reveals that a staggering 53 percent of 10-year-olds struggle with basic writing and reading skills.

The profound consequences of this crisis are sadly evident in the staggering estimation made by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)—an estimate that lays bare Nigeria’s burden of approximately 224 million children denied access to education.

Within this disheartening outlook, Niger State emerges as a worrying focal point, harboring 478,412 of these out-of-school children, thus situating it among the states where this distressing statistic thrives the most.

Learning Hindered: Pupils unable to write exams due to dire school conditions

An investigation conducted by Daily Nigeria has uncovered distressing conditions at Mandala Primary School, Lapai LGA. Notably, the school’s final-year pupils were unable to participate in the recently concluded state promotional examination due to inadequate infrastructure and a concerning shortage of teachers.

Constructed in 2008 through the collaborative efforts of the Parents Teachers Association (PTA) of the community, the school comprises two classrooms and an office space, all devoid of any furniture.

Upon approaching Saidu Yakubu, the PTA Chairman, his discontent with the dismal learning environment was evident from the frown on his face.

“As you can observe, even the primary five pupils struggle with basic tasks like counting from 1 to 50, let alone spelling or writing their own names,” he remarked with a sense of disappointment.

“The scarcity of teachers has also led to the temporary closure of the facility. Consequently, some parents have opted to keep their children away from school, preferring them to work on the farm instead,” Yakubu emphasized.

 Corroborating Yakubu’s assertions, Tauheed Mohammed, a concerned parent, expressed his disappointment, revealing that despite having children in primary three and four, he couldn’t discern any meaningful signs of learning taking place.

“With a heavy heart, I must admit that my children aren’t gaining any knowledge here. Instead, they seem to be wasting time and resources,” he lamented.


Idris Isah Ismail, the headteacher of the school, recounted that upon his posting to the school in 2019, he found the condition to be dire. At that time, there was only one Arabic teacher who irregularly visited the premises.

“The school, accommodating around 100 pupils ranging from primary one to six, had to be downsized due to inadequate infrastructure and staffing. Consequently, the available classrooms could only cater to primary four students. This led to a situation where each classroom was shared by two sets of students; primary one and two occupied one classroom, while primary three & four were crammed into another,” Ismail narrated.

“I’ve had to alternate my teaching approach. I allocate separate hours for primary one and two, ensuring that each group receives focused attention,” he continued. “The same method is applied to the other set of students.”

One Teacher, Four Classes: A struggle for education

Despite having a student population of approximately 200 pupils, Katapka Primary School is grappling with a challenging situation where a single teacher is responsible for teaching students from classes one to four.

Zainab Dahiru, the sole teacher who also assumes the role of headmistress, described her demanding routine. She constantly rotates her attention to cater to the needs of all pupils.

“During the third-term examination, I conduct exams for the pupils one at a time. At times, exhaustion creeps in, and I’m on the verge of giving up due to the overwhelming stress,” she lamented.

Dahiru expressed concern over the community’s uncooperative stance, resulting in school closures during her absence. Despite her efforts, parents are hesitant to ensure their children’s regular attendance at school.

“I’ve repeatedly appealed to the village head to support me in finding an assistant teacher by using PTA (Parent Teachers Association) fees. Unfortunately, my requests have fallen on deaf ears.”

In an interview with Daily Nigeria, the Emir of Katapka, Alhaji Isah Aliyu Abubakar, urged relevant authorities to intervene promptly to prevent children from disengaging entirely from education in the community.

“Given the current situation at our school, parents can’t prioritize their children’s education. With limited chairs, tables, and just a solitary teacher, the state of education here is dire,” Abubakar emphasized.

Dismissals, Demotions, and a Faltering Committee: Education Struggles Persist

Much like the difficulties encountered by Mandala and Katapka primary schools, Kuchi-Kebba Primary School is confronted by a similar issue, as the school operates on a limited basis. Decisions about when students should attend or stay at home are seemingly arbitrary.

During a late July visit by Daily Nigeria, Kuchi-Kebba Primary School was found to be locked even before regular school hours were due to end. When questioned about the closure, residents confirmed that the school only functions when the headteacher is present.

Alhaji Musa Umar, the headteacher at the school, explained in an interview that he took the drastic step of demoting all pupils in 2021 due to poor performance.

“At present, the school lacks a primary six class because none of the pupils in that grade qualify for the common entrance exam. Therefore, I enforced an overall demotion across the entire school,” he clarified.

Umar further noted that he handles both administrative and teaching responsibilities alone, as the other teachers at the school display a lackadaisical attitude towards their duties.

“Previously, the school had seven teachers, but the Lapai local government authority dismissed five, and others stopped coming due to unpaid salaries,” he added.

Efforts by the traditional ruler of Kuchi-Kebba to improve the school’s situation proved futile due to a lack of cooperation from various sources. Abduljabar Umar, the Personal Assistant to the Emir, attributed the situation to the failure of a committee established by community members with the assistance of the Emir.

“I believe the fault lies with the parents, as the headmaster cannot compel students to attend school without the parents’ willingness. Currently, it appears the community requires the intervention of relevant stakeholders to rectify the situation, as both community and school management efforts are yielding minimal results,” Umar emphasized.

Poor state of education in Niger State mirrors national crisis

In Nigeria, the responsibility for infrastructural development in public schools is shared between the federal and state governments. The federal government takes the lead by providing substantial funding and allocating resources to enhance educational facilities across the country. In parallel, state governments actively participate, utilizing their financial resources and managerial expertise to complement federal initiatives.

The substandard state of primary education in Niger State mirrors the overall underperformance of primary education across the nation. This situation is influenced by several contributing factors. According to David Mba, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Dean of Computing, Engineering, and Media at De Montfort University, one significant contributing factor is the inadequate qualifications of teachers. This issue has a tangible impact, as evidenced by a distressing reality revealed in a 2018 survey conducted by the National Bureau of Statistics: only 20% of Nigerian pupils who have completed primary school possess the ability to read a three-sentence passage fluently or with minimal assistance.

The structure of a typical school day in Nigeria also presents a significant challenge to primary school education. Various factors contribute to students losing a considerable portion of their learning time, including classroom activities being diverted to other tasks and teacher absences.

A survey conducted by the World Bank in 2018 encompassing 2,968 teachers from 435 private and public primary schools in Nigeria revealed a startling statistic: teachers were absent from the classroom for around 25% of the scheduled teaching time. Consequently, the actual teaching time that students receive amounts to less than 33% of what was originally planned in the timetable.

Concerns arise over decreasing education funding by Niger State Government

Moreover, poor budgetary disbursement stands as a significant impediment hampering efforts to enhance the standard of primary education in Niger State. Despite a visibly gradual increase in the total education budget between 2017 and 2022, the actual funds disbursed to the state’s education sector have consistently dwindled.

When examining budget allocations and disbursements over the years, it becomes evident that the state’s education sector has faced a perplexing scenario. In 2017, a substantial N5 billion was allocated to education, but the actual released amount was a mere N1.7 billion, highlighting a significant gap between allocation and disbursement.

This concerning trend persisted in subsequent years. In 2018, despite an allocation of N5.4 billion, only a modest N439 million was released. Similarly, in 2019, an allocation of approximately N3.1 billion resulted in a disappointing release of only N199.8 million. The situation further deteriorated in 2020, as an allocation of N426 million translated to an incredibly meager N55.4 million released.

Even with an apparent increase in the 2021 budget allocation of N4 billion, the released funds amounted to just approximately N591.5 million, once again falling short.

The declining funds have raised alarm bells, directly impacting initiatives like the Girl Education Project (GEP3), aimed at addressing low enrollment, retention, completion, and transition rates among girls in basic education. 

READ ALSO: INVESTIGATION: Leaking Roofs, Inadequate Equipment and Drugs… Many Loopholes In Niger Primary Healthcare Centres

Furthermore, UNICEF representatives, including Francis Elisha, an education officer from the Kaduna Field Office, have also raised these concerns. Recognizing education as a fundamental pillar of development, UNICEF emphasizes the urgent need for the Niger State Government to prioritize and enhance the allocation and disbursement of funds to the education sector.

Authorities, education expert react

When confronted with findings of this investigation, Lapai Local Government Education Secretary, Mohammed Babagala, responded that: “…the challenges facing education in the council can best be described as a silent crisis that has continued to threaten the foundation of education in rural communities.”

Babagala asserted that the dearth of sufficient teachers falls under the purview of the council chairman, emphasizing that “essential steps will be implemented to address and rectify the situation.”

When asked about specific actions intended to address these challenges in the local government area, Babagala sharply noted that he has no answer to this.

His words: “These questions are to be directed to the Council Chairman, Mua’zu Hamidu Jantabo, who was responsible for the screening and disengagement of some teachers in the council and not me. There are things I cannot talk about.”

Meanwhile, in 2022, Hamidu Muazu Jantabo openly acknowledged the shortcomings within the council’s educational sector. He attributed these deficiencies to the inadequate utilization of the existing pool of teachers. Meanwhile, Mr. Jantabo has now been sworn in as the Niger state Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs.

As of the time of this report, Daily Nigeria’s attempt to reach out to Mr. Jantabo proved abortive, as text messages, WhatsApp messages, and phone calls directed to him remained unanswered.

Acknowledging a widespread deficiency in the state’s basic education system, Idris Kolo, the Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the Niger State Universal Basic Education Board (NSUBEB), affirmed that the issue extends beyond Lapai LGA and encompasses a substantial gap in the overall educational landscape of the state.

 “For a long time now, there has not been recruitment into the sector as such it has contributed to crippling the sector further,” he told this reporter when contacted.

 Speaking further, Kolo said that the board is not responsible for the recruitment of teachers in the state but only the Local Government Education Board can do so.

 “The NSUBEB is only responsible for supervising and regulating the activities of education in the state. But with the few resources at the hand of the NSUBEB, it cannot be everywhere to ensure adequate service delivery,” the spokesperson clarified.

 “I want to assure you that, I will personally convey this concern to the authorities involved and the needs will be done iittime”.

In response to the findings in this report, Adamu Idris Manarakis, a seasoned development expert and the founder of the Indigenous Languages Learning Centre (ILLEC), stressed the need for swift action. He pointed out that the state’s educational system is already in a state of disarray and requires urgent intervention. 

Manarakis stressed that resolving this situation hinges on raising teachers’ salaries, which in turn would enhance the quality of education. He further highlighted the significance of offering yearly welfare packages, with a special emphasis on teachers working in rural areas.

He strongly advocated for the state government to give precedence to the construction of robust educational infrastructure. Specifically, he urged the rebuilding of dilapidated classrooms to establish an environment that is more conducive to learning and advancement.

In addressing this challenge, Manarakis pressed for substantial investments in teachers’ training initiatives and seminars. This strategic approach would lead to an overall improvement in the quality of education. He affirms that these measures are essential to overcoming the current educational hurdles in the state.

This report was republished from Daily Nigerian

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