NIGERIA. Niger State: Primary schools in Niger State, Northcentral Nigeria, have been closed for the past two months due to a strike called by the Niger State Wing of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) over the payment of salary in percentages and to push for better welfare and an enabling environment in which to do their jobs.
Transcontinental Times learned in this special story that the “sit-at-home” order was sparked by a difficulty in the state’s percentage payment of teachers’ salaries.
The pupils’ plight
Mansura Musa, a primary six student at Chanchaga Primary School in Minna, the state capital, said she had been doing nothing but housework since the school closed. Musa further stated that even if school resumes today, she will be unable to recall anything she learned previously.
Aisha Jafar, a primary four student at Chanchaga Primary School, said that while school is closed, she has been mostly responsible for family activities.
“I have only been playing and doing household chores since the school’s closure and I cannot recall what I learned the last term while in school,” Musa and Jafar collectively said.
Mohammed Usman, a 12-year-old primary six student at Ndayako Primary School in the state’s Bida Local Government Area (LGA), said his main task during the eight-week school closure is to attend an Islamic school to strengthen his religious knowledge.
Usman went on to say that his parents encouraged him to learn furniture skills, which he said made him happy and proud.
Usman, on the other hand, expressed his unhappiness, saying that he would like to remain in school, and asked the government and the relevant authorities to take the necessary steps to allow primary school students to return to school and finish their education.
“I attend Islamiyya and also learn skills. I am an apprentice under furniture, I am not happy and comfortable with the ways things are going. I would love to be in school more than just learning skills. Government should please respond to the demands of the striking teachers,” Usman pleaded.
Sadiq Mohammed of Bida’s Ndayako primary school, said his main fear regarding the school closure is that the session and time are moving too quickly to be easily restored.
Mohammed went on to say that school closures have caused him and many other children to stay at home for far too long and that he is beginning to worry that the school will not reopen.
“Not because I’m idle but the fact that we are not in school and the session is going is a matter of great concern,” Mohammed noted.
Abullahi Mansur, a Primary 4 student at New Tunga Primary School in Minna, said he had nothing significant to do other than play football in the neighborhood and attend Islamic school since the school has been closed for nearly 8 weeks.
“I am not worried because I know I will resume back to school anytime the school reopens and I will learn,” Mansur confidently said.
Parents expressing their grievances
Habibat Haruna, a parent of one of the impacted schoolchildren in Bida LGA’s Gbazhi region, said it’s evident from all signs that the government is unconcerned about the plight of the masses only because their children do not attend public schools.
She begged the government to refrain from politicizing the educational system.
“Pupils are being left at the mercy of their cruelty. Something urgent should be done to arrest the situation,” Haruna added.
Hajiya Maryam Jibril Gata, a parent and former Area Education Officer from Bida, says: “The fact that teachers are the least paid in the country’s civil sector is no longer new.”
“Teachers’ salary, particularly at the basic level, is extremely low and deplorable, resulting in a poor status of departing. Teachers’ rewards, of course, aren’t just in Heaven, as is commonly assumed,” she said.
“One needs to eat to be mentally stable if he or she intends to impart knowledge to others. Education is a right and not a privilege hence the government should treat it as such. This lack of political will on the part of the government is decried and scorned. I hope the government rises to its responsibility to bring sanity back to our schools,” Gata said.
A classroom teacher, Halima Sadiya Abubakar, said that it is a significant setback for the children since they would not be able to meet up with their counterparts in private schools because they are already behind in terms of learning the material.
“Looking deeply into the already existing effect of Coronavirus, and now that the children have been sitting at home for 8 weeks, the pupils don’t have much left to learn. This is because in each term there are 13 to 14 weeks to spend in school. In each week a topic is expected to be taught to the children and lessons stop around weeks 10 to 11, while weeks 12 and 13 are for exams,” Abubakar said.
As a result of this, many youngsters will struggle to recall what they learnt in the past and may struggle to be serious in class due to the amount of time they spend at home.
Teachers will also be unmotivated to teach since the children will be stressed by their inability to recall what they were taught previously.
As a result, Abubakar recommended the government to listen to teachers and meet their needs so that they are driven to educate better, despite the fact that most instructors find it difficult to execute their tasks even with a percentage wage.
“Parents should as a matter of urgency enroll their children in lessons before the schools reopen.”
Educational expert’s viewpoint
Dr. Manko of the Niger State College of Education Minna’s Department of Mathematics Education described primary education as a planned course programme that dealt with a specific time frame, and when the time or period is tempered with, the needed contents will not be covered, and when they are not covered, it is a step backward for the educational system and pupil performance.
Manko went on to say that closing the school for an extended length of time will have an impact on the children’ educational performance, resulting in unsatisfactory results.
“Let the government as a matter of urgency and importance look into the issue and resolve it for the betterment of the pupils and the parents. One among the roles of every government is to provide adequate and affordable education for all its citizens, therefore, let both parties dialogue and resolve amicably,” Manko pleaded.