Sokoto — The Sokoto State government recently announced plans to build 160 new primary and secondary schools in order to provide enough opportunities for the expected 1.2 million new pupils to be admitted through the school enrolment drive.
Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, who made the announcement while inspecting the ongoing construction of Government Secondary School, Balle in Gudu Local Government Area, said the proposed schools would consist of 100 primary schools, 45 senior and 15 junior secondary schools.
The state government had in December 2015 declared a state of emergency on education with the view to addressing all the bottlenecks militating against educational development in the state.
However, there have been divergent opinions regarding the workability of the project and whether it is necessary.
Some stakeholders have lauded the project while others see it as unnecessary. Another school of thought opined that the whole project was political and nurtured just to compensate those who had in one way or the other supported the APC to secure power in the state.
A former principal of Sani Dingyadi Unity School, Alhaji Ahmed S. Fada, said the 160 additional schools were not necessary as they are unrealistic, adding that what the state needs were additional infrastructure, facilities and qualified teachers for existing schools.
He disagreed with government's stance that the additional schools were to decongest populated ones across the state, saying there were many schools, especially in the rural areas, with empty classes.
"Go to some schools in the rural areas you will find out that the total population in a school is less than 100 pupils. I will advise them to shelve this idea of building more schools. My fear is that these schools would be underutilized, and left to deteriorate and decay at the end of the day," he said.
A resident of Sokoto metropolis and public affairs commentator, Malam Abubakar Umar, however said if the 160 schools were meant to cater for those students learning under trees and in dilapidated structures, the government should go ahead and build them but if this was not the case, they would run the risk of constructing schools only to be taken over by reptiles and possibly social misfits when it subsequently becomes a white elephant project.
Similarly, a lecturer at the Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Malam Bashir Achida said there was nothing wrong with building additional schools in order to decongest overpopulated ones "because there is a set standard on the number of pupils per class which is not being adhered to. You will see over 100 pupils in a class which is very outrageous," he noted.
He added: "It is equally important for them to address the issues of standard of education, punctuality and productivity among the teachers as well as monitor pupils' attendance as has been the case in private schools. But if they cannot do that, then it would amount to a waste. You know government always needs one project or the other to take credit for. Don't be surprised that the whole idea is to compensate politicians who had assisted them in coming to power."
The state Commissioner for Basic Education, Dr. Muhammad Jabbi Kilgori, explained that the schools are in four categories. "Category one is Early Child Care that is Nursery for children between the ages of one and five. We want to make sure they are enrolled into the pre-primary to be prepared for one to two years before being admitted into the next category which is primary for six years."
He added that the third category is junior secondary education for those between the ages of 13 and 16 while the fourth category is the senior secondary schools for three years for those within the age 16 to 18.
He also said they wanted to bridge the gap between female and male students enrolment by creating enabling environment that is gender sensitive, "this entails separating female students from male students in deference to parents who would be more comfortable with such arrangement."