There are fears of an impending disease outbreak and health crisis in Arikime Primary School in the Potiskum Local Government Area of Yobe State due to the large number of pupils in the school.
At the moment, over 13,000 pupils attend the public learning centre, according to a recent headcount by local government officials, with more children likely to enrol in the weeks ahead as a result of inadequate schools in the state occasioned by displacements caused by activities of terror groups in the region.
According to findings by SaharaReporters, over 300 pupils are crammed into each classroom oftentimes with the school’s grossly inadequate teachers struggling to impart knowledge of any kind to the students.
Some pupils are forced to take classes under trees and in the open as a result of a shortage of classrooms equipped with desks and chairs.
Also, sanitary conditions within the school are nothing to write home about as pupils urinate and defecate indiscriminately on the premises, raising the risk of a disease outbreak.
The few toilets in the school are hardly kept clean and grossly inadequate to cater to the needs of over 13,000 pupils in Arikime.
Potable water is also not readily available here, leaving a huge number of pupils dehydrated most times of the day and unable to clean themselves properly whenever they answer nature’s call.
Despite efforts by the school’s management to salvage the situation, facilities at the place have been stretched beyond limits due to the unusually large number of pupils with the situation likely to get worse in the coming weeks.
“The situation in the school is very terrible,” a parent, Halima Adamu, whose child previously attended the institution, told SaharaReporters. “Students often learn under trees and in the open. Many of them also sit on bare floors in classrooms when such is available to them. The entire environment smells of urine and faeces because many of the students defecate openly around the compound. There is no steady supply of clean water and that is why the students are always dirty.
“Many students who attend the school graduate to secondary school without really learning anything.
“I had to withdraw my daughter from the school after we realised she fell ill often and was performing poorly with her academics.
“There is no way students can learn anything good in such an environment where sometimes over 200 of them are crammed into a single classroom,” the parent added.
Another parent, Musa Babagana, who spoke with SaharaReporters on the situation at Arikime Primary School, disclosed that he was compelled to withdraw his son from the school as he was constantly falling ill as a result of Sepsis contracted from the school environment.
According to him, despite his complaints that his child was always falling ill due to being crammed in classrooms with poor ventilation, the school management was unable to do anything about it, leaving him with no choice but to remove his child from the place.
“As a result of the large number of pupils in the school, the air available for the children to breathe is highly contaminated.
“The children are crammed into hardly available and conducive classrooms where they breathe on each other. In the process they pick up infections and other illnesses that terribly affect their health.
“My son was always down with Sepsis. There was no two months that he wasn’t going to the hospital for treatment. We had to take him away from the school and look for a small private school to enroll him despite the fact that there was not much income coming into the family each month. His safety is more important to us.
“I think the Yobe State Government should do something urgent about this disturbing situation before a full-scale health crisis breaks out in the school,” he said.
A teacher in the school, who asked not to be named, revealed that they were overworked and underpaid for all the troubles they go through in managing and attending to the academic needs of the large student population at Arikime.
“The school management has assured us several times that the state government was planning to bring in more teachers to assist us but till date that has not happened.
“I take more than five classes in a day. The students are too many and distract each other during lectures.
“Even with the presence of some corps members to assist us with teaching the students, we are too few for the population of students in the school. The work we do is too much for what we are paid. I don’t know how long more teachers can cope with this situation because everybody is grumbling already,” the teacher said.
Confirming the severity of the situation at Arikime Primary School, Potiskum, Executive Chairman of Yobe State Universal Basic Education Board, Prof Musa Alabe, once disclosed that indeed overpopulation was a major problem in many schools across the state, especially at the aforementioned centre.
“The main problems that we have as far as Yobe is concerned are divided into two: In one area, that is in the Southern side of Yobe, we have overcrowding of pupils especially in Potiskum town.
“So many schools are overcrowded with 300 to 350 pupils per class most especially in Arikime Primary School which has about 18,000 pupils in the entire school.
“On the other side, that is in Northern Yobe, we have mere empty classes. So, on one side you have mere empty classes and on the other side you have overcrowding.
“So, you have to have two strategies to address these situations. We have advocacy on one side and decongestion of pupils on the other side.”
Commissioner for Education in Yobe State, Dr Muhammad Sani Idriss, had yet to respond to calls and a text message sent by SaharaReporters to him seeking to know what the state government was doing to avert a disease outbreak at Arikime Primary School following the large number of pupils and poor sanitary conditions in the school.
Boasting of one of the largest populations of out-of-school children in Nigeria – 57 per cent – according to the Nigeria Education Data Survey for 2020 – due to poor enrolment and dilapidated school facilities, the Yobe State Government on February 10, 2022 launched a N25 billion Education Appeal Fund to address the decay in the state’s education sector.
Frequent attacks by terror groups in Yobe have further led to congestion in most public schools with up to 350 pupils crammed into a classroom in some schools.
According to a recent report by UNESCO, the ratio of teachers to students was an important determinant in the quality of teaching and learning.
However, in Arikime Primary School, Potiskum, Yobe, the current situation falls below every acceptable standard with things likely to get worse except urgent measures are taken to avert a health crisis in the school.