From Aminu Adamu
The Kano Special Education School was initially established as a centre for juvenile delinquents in 1958 but was converted to Special School for Persons with Special Needs in 1977. At the moment, the school has challenges of classes and hostels, shortage of instruction materials, which hampers the learning process of the students. In this report, Daily Trust on Sunday presents the general condition of the premier and one of the most important schools in Kano.
Adjacent a block of classrooms in the junior secondary section of the school, a teacher was trying to settle a fight between two hearing-impaired students. Speaking to our correspondent he said, “Judging and settling fights are a daily routine here.”
The school, located at Tudun Maliki in Kumbotso Local Government Area, is a combination of boarding and day institution, with multiple sections serving the educational needs of persons with special needs from different parts of Nigeria.
The school “started with four visually impaired students and seven teachers,” the school history boldly inscribed at the gateway of the administrative block indicates.
Although the school management and teachers do not entertain journalists, for fear of possible backlash from the authorities, who often deny or trivialise the problem, the school accepts non-governmental organisations who support the institution with learning and teaching materials, in addition to supporting the pupils with detergent and laundry stuff, an opportunity our correspondent utilised.
The school recently became public sensation, especially on the social media when some visitors posted dilapidated condition of the students’ toilets, which prompted the chairman of Kumbotso Local Government to come to the rescue by renovating one toilet and constructing another. Another philanthropist also built a toilet for the students, as explained by a teacher in the school.
“There are 1,500 pupils and students, comprising both male and female spread across primary, junior and senior secondary sections of the school.
“It is sort of a unity school because its students are not only from Kano. We have students from neighbouring states, such as Jigawa, Kaduna, Katsina and Bauchi. We also have students from Yobe, Taraba, Abuja and some from as far as Lagos State.” our tour guide who teaches at the secondary section of the school said.
Although there are other special education schools at primary level for persons with special needs in Kano, this particular school is actually unique as it provides students the opportunity to complete their senior secondary education.
“There are primary school sections of this type established by some metropolitan local government areas in Kano. After their primary education there they come here to continue with secondary school,” a teacher who preferred to be anonymous said.
Dilapidated classrooms and hostels in need of renovation
Considering the fact that there are few special education schools of this type that impact knowledge to persons with special needs in the state, it is expected that this very school should have standard classrooms and hostels for this unique breed of students. However, classrooms at the school are anything but befitting for learning and teaching.
“It is not conducive for teaching and learning. There are no seats in the classes, so students sit on the floor. The windows and doors to the classes are all broken,” a teacher narrated as he ushered the team into a primary six class.
The sign language/gesture, with which they greeted the visiting group, as it was later understood, was vividly telling of fertile minds, hearts and brains eager to learn and expand frontiers of knowledge, not just in the hearing impaired community but also in the larger society. With their complete white uniform, the hearing-impaired pupils looked untidy for obviously having constant contact with the bare floor due to the absence of desks and chairs in the class.
What is more startling is the apparent joyous and smiling faces of these innocent souls full of hopes and dreams as they welcomed the group into their supposedly learning vicinity.
In most of the primary school classes, there was no single chair or desk for the students’ learning convenience. In a class where few desks were available, they were broken, and therefore, convenient for neither sitting nor writing.
“That is how all of us manage the situation. The teachers and pupils are doing their best in this environment,” one teacher said as he responded to an inquiry.
Passing through the students’ hostel blocks, the story is the same. The sorry conditions of the dormitory stare at passersby from every corner. Most of the windows were broken and the doors are not any better.
“It is terrible when it is very cold because the windows, as you can see, are broken,” said the guide as he led the group around the school.
Similarly, the condition of both the hostels and beds for the students is terrifying. The beds are grossly inadequate, leaving many students to sleep on the floor with mattresses alone due to shortage of bunks. The teacher-guide said they pitied the students, especially during cold weather, but there was nothing they could do to help the situation.
Despite inaccessibility to the hostels, peeping through the broken windows revealed their dilapidated condition, ranging from shattered windows, scratched and cracked walls, to badly spoiled ceilings.
The teacher-guide appealed to the authorities concerned, saying, “Government owns this school and it is doing its best. But I still call on the leadership of the state to do more. I also call on non-governmental organisations and well-to-do individuals to support government’s efforts. There are a lot of things to do here. There are a lot of problems to solve, especially classrooms; one cannot learn in a dreadful environment.
“We need additional hostels. There is shortage of beds. Some students are sleeping on the floor; of course with either a mattress or mat. We have a lot of students but the accommodation is not enough. We need both bunks and hostel blocks. As the saying goes, a single tree cannot make a forest. People and organisations should come and support the government. We hope people would turn out to support the education of these special students.”
Dearth of teaching and learning materials
The peculiarity of the students of the school requires a unique learning instrument to impart knowledge to them successfully. Although it was relatively easier to teach hearing-impaired students using a sign language, with a blackboard and chalk like conventional students, it was more challenging to teach visually impaired students how to write and subsequently read their writings.
A teacher corroborated this when he said, “Honestly, we don’t have the material for teaching and learning on ground. There is little challenge regarding hearing-impaired because they use learning materials like everyone else, such as chalk, blackboard, textbooks etc. We don’t have textbooks but their parents buy for them to read.
“But for the visually impaired students, that is where we have a very big challenge. Previously, non-governmental organisations used to bring learning materials, but they no longer do. And their learning materials are expensive, especially if you want to enroll them in primary school. You have to buy what is called “slate and stylus” which currently cost around N10,000. And this is a must if you want your child to study because it is the first learning instrument. So some parents, because they cannot afford to buy such material, prefer to keep their children at home.”
Even the mosque of the school is in a state of disrepair
NGO came to the rescue, donates textbooks
As part of its effort to support and empower adolescents, a Kano-based non-governmental organisation, Teens Development Initiative (TDI), made a commitment to address some of the challenges in the school, especially on learning materials.
Fadhila Nuraddeen Muhammad, the founder and executive director of TDI, told Daily Trust on Sunday that the initiative was working with the school authority to establish a library. She said they discovered that science-based subjects were not taught in the school because of the absence of instructional materials, but the students were eager to learn; hence their commitment to support with the necessary materials, especially textbooks.
She said TDI donated 1,000 books to the school, obtained through purchase and donations from individuals. She said the books would be placed in the library when everything is put in place.
“We have already delivered the books to the school. We are planning to raise some funds for the shelves in the library,” she said.
‘Our students don’t starve, get nutritious meals’
Despite the challenges confronting the school, the students are not left to starve, one of the visually impaired students revealed. The student, Abdullahi Adamu, confirmed that, saying, “They give us food in the morning, afternoon and night.”
In the same vein, a teacher said, “They get good food here. Some of them cannot get what they get here in their parents’ houses. They are served three good meals a day. The government provides their food. Some of us, as their teachers, cannot afford what they are being served in our houses.”
Another teacher further confirmed that, “In their breakfast, for instance, they are served bread, tea and egg. In the afternoon they are given food with chicken in it. It is not everyone that can afford that nowadays. Every Wednesday, they are served fish in their meal. In the past, after every two weeks, cows used to be slaughtered, but now, beef is always available weekly for serving in their meals.”
Their religious knowledge is considered too
The daunting task of educating these special students did not stop at giving them secular education, they are also immersed in religious activities, where they are taught how to perform their religious rituals and other obligations. A teacher in the school said that for the visually impaired it was through reading out to them while for the hearing impaired it was through sign language, the normal procedure for teaching them.
The teacher said some former students also helped in this regard when they observe the hearing-impaired students were left behind in religious knowledge. The former students established the Islamiyya section inside the school. They got approval from the ministry and charge a token of N500 per term to teach them their religion from morning to afternoon on weekends and in the evening on workdays.
However, like other buildings, the school mosque is in a state of disrepair, ranging from smashed windows and shattered doors to general roofing. The absence of a ceiling in the mosque further exposes the students to extreme cold or heat as they have no sanctuary in the classrooms, dormitory and the mosque. With neither tiles nor carpet/rug, the tattered mats arranged in rows were only half-full in the mosque. A teacher appealed for members of the society and Islamic organisations to come to the rescue of the mosque.
Dahuru (centre) an alumnus of the school was given a permanent teaching job last year by Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje after reports of his exploits as a volunteer teacher
They are not left out in sporting activities
As the saying goes, “there is ability in disability,” students of the school make this statement realistic. There are many sporting activities for the students to participate at their discretion. A teacher who does not want his name in print noted, “We have sporting activities, especially football, handball and volleyball. Recently, our students participated in sports at the Sani Abacha Stadium. We even got an award there. We are now preparing for an interstate competition coming up soon. All the students participate in sports.”
‘Our alumni are excelling’
To help the special students get higher certificates, the Bayero University, Kano provides an opportunity for the former students of the school to acquire higher degrees.
“As at now, there are alumni of this school that teach here after they successfully finished their degree programmes. We have at least five teaching staff who were students here,” a teacher said.
It could be recalled that Dahuru Idris Abdulhamid, a visually impaired volunteer teacher at the school was recently employed by the Kano State governor, Dr Abdullahi Umar Ganduje to continue teaching in the school.
Malam Abdulhamid also attracted a philanthropist that renovated a toilet for the visually impaired students in the school.
A teacher who is an alumnus of the school remarked, “One of our alumni is now an adviser to the state governor on persons with special needs. His name is Adnan Ado Daneji. Some of them are into other sectors of the civil service. There is another one in the Kano State Ministry of Finance. Alhamdulillah, we have a lot of them in other places.
“Our former students see this school as their home, even after graduation. Hardly a month or two pass without some of them coming here. They do help. They even help in bringing students with special needs to the school,” he said, adding that their relationship with former students remains heart-warming, “but people like Adnan should come and do something to the school that he would be remembered for; and he can point to it, even after leaving the government.”
Efforts to get Adnan’s comment and his plan for his alma mater were not unsuccessful.
Teachers call for upward review of salaries
A cross section of teachers in the school bemoaned their condition of service, calling on the government to consider upward review of their salaries due to the unique challenge of their work. One of the teachers said it was important that if students were considered, teachers should also be considered because of certain peculiarities.
“We have a special challenge because of the nature of the students. We know it is only God that will reward us, but we deserve to be different from other school teachers in our pay. We are teaching in a special school. We should also be given a special package as salaries because of the difficulties in dealing with the students,” one of them appealed.
We’re working to change the situation – Kano government
Meanwhile, the Kano State Government, through the commissioner for education, Muhammad Sunusi Sa’idu Kiru, said that the government was privy to the situation and was working to address identified problems in the school.
In an interview with our correspondent, the commissioner disclosed that Governor Ganduje had included the school as one of those to be renovated and equipped with necessary instructional materials in 2022.
Kiru, however, could not make any statement on the teachers’ need for upward review of remunerations.