BY: ABDULRASHEED HAMMAD
Enoch Isiah, an SS2 student of A. A. RAJI Special School in Sokoto, who is visually impaired, sat down, brooding over the condition of the school built to educate students with disabilities. The school’s structure makes it difficult for him to move around. Enoch and other visually impaired students lack access to assistive tools such as Braille displays, Braille note-taking devices, and screen readers that would facilitate learning. To worsen matters, teachers hardly come to the class.
On August 10, 2023, at 11:39 am, the reporter entered SS 2C classroom and found three students sleeping. Those who were awake disclosed that 30 other students that were supposed to be in class with them were still at the hostel.
“The school merged students with different disabilities in one class. When teachers write on the board, nobody will read it for us (visually impaired students), leaving us without anyone to dictate the content,” Enoch lamented.
He explained that teachers often gave them notes, disclosing that some of them never explained the notes. He said the school’s structure was not favourable for students with disability, stressing that some students sometimes got missing owing to the nature of the building.
Students in the school told our reporter that the last time a teacher entered the class was on August 3, 2023. The reporter confirmed this date by looking at the last subject and the date written on the board. The reporter visited the school on August 10, 2023.
Though the Sokoto State Government awarded over N93 million (N93,207,625) contract in 2022 for the expansion of A.A. Raji Special School, students continue to face distress. On June 26, 2022, the state government awarded a contract to Shenuus Solid Minerals Limited for the expansion of the school. This project was awarded after a competitive bidding process under the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education. However, investigations showed that students of A. A. Raji School still learned in dilapidated classrooms with leaky roofs and rundown furniture, without access to assistive devices approved for People With Disabilities (PWD)’s learning. Hence the contract awarded to Shenuus Solid Minerals was not executed.
A visit in February and August this year confirmed that the project had not been executed, as students still had to contend with overcrowded classrooms, absence of furniture, and leaking roofs.
The shady contracts
Checks on the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) portal revealed that Shenuus Solid Minerals Limited was established on December 5, 2018. Further checks on NG-Check.com and Nigeria24 indicated that the company’s directors are: Abubakar Haliru and Kabiru Shema’u Haliru, while the shareholder, secretary, and deponent are Abubakar Haliru, Usman Ibrahim, and Ibrahim Usman respectively.
Kabiru Haliru was the secretary of the Sokoto State Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) when this contract was awarded. It was not clear whether he is the same person as Kabiru Shema’u Haliru. However, Kabiru Haliru is a recurring name in most of the contracts highlighted in this story.
Birds of a feather
The other companies that bid the contract with Shenuus and failed at the preliminary stage were Sunakhab and Marbash Farm Limited. A check on the CAC portal showed that Sunakhab was registered on December 10, 2018, a week after Shenuus Solid Minerals Ltd got its CAC certification. Both companies share the same address: No. 5, Kebbe Road, Tambuwal, Sokoto State. Incidentally, this is the home address of Kabiru Haliru, secretary of Sokoto BPP.
The directors of Sunakhab are Kabiru Haliru, Kabiru Abdulrahman Haliru and Usman Ibrahim (secretary and deponent).
The third bidder of the contract was Marbash Farms Limited, whose address was No. 2 Kebbe Road, Tambuwal, Sokoto State. The directors of the company are Haliru Yunusa and Usman Ibrahim.
Haliru Yunusa was the head of procurement at Sokoto State BPP when this contract was given to Marbash Farms Limited where he is a director.
Staff, students narrate their ordeal
Kabiru Abubakar, an SS2 student living in the school hostel, said that he crawled from the hostel to the class every day, injuring himself in the process. He said his wheelchair had been damaged and could not be used anymore.
“Entering the toilets is a big challenge for us because the dirt at the toilets often stains our bodies and clothes since there’s no wheelchair provided at the entrance,” he said.
He noted that there were no assistive tools to aid them in their learning, just as teachers were not reporting punctually to the school.
One of the students, Mas’udu Tukur, bemoaned lack of sufficient lessons due to teachers’ irregular attendance. He urged teachers to start coming to class to enable them learn and become useful to society.
Principal of A. A. Raji School, Bashir Sani Doki, disclosed that former Governor Aminu Tambuwal visited the school and noticed that the roofing of some classes had deteriorated. Doki said Tambuwal directed the commissioner of education to take immediate measures to repair the leaking roof. However, a day after, the engineer measured it but nothing was done until the present administration took over.
“This is not the only school facing problems in Sokoto. Almost all the schools in the state are struggling with the non-implementation of developmental projects. It’s hard to find even furniture provided in schools from the beginning of Tambuwal’s administration up until the time he left office. Although most of our projects here are from SUBEB, we still need a comprehensive renovation in this school. There are dilapidated classes and toilets that need attention,” he asserted.
He added that if the N93.207 million contract was executed, the school would have significantly had a facelift.
“This is a special school, and a lot needs to be done. We need footpaths for students with visual impairments and guide rails to help them move around the school. These guide rails would direct them to the kitchen, classroom, or anywhere they need to go within the school premises.
“Another problem we face is that students with mobility challenges struggle due to the sandy nature of the school premises. Crawling or using a wheelchair becomes very difficult. If we could implement a plan to address this, it would greatly benefit students with special needs and ease their movement.”
Children with disabilities more likely to be out of school
According to ActionAid Nigeria, 95.5 percent of children with disabilities are out of school due to their condition. An analysis of the 2022 United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) report showed that children with disabilities were more likely to be out of school than children without disabilities.
However, the Child’s Rights Act (CRA) says that every child is entitled to free, mandatory, and universal basic education provided for by the government.
Ministry of Education responds
The Director of Planning, Ministry of Education, Abdullahi Marafa, said though the ministry had the powers to put the budget together, the government awarded contracts and financed release of funds. He said the Ministry of Finance often would not communicate the amount released to the contractors to the education ministry.
“All our contracts now, like Dogondaji, are over N3 billion. They are not awarded by the BPP Procurement Department; they would not even know when they are awarded. The Kasarawa that is now turned to the university is awarded here by the Ministry of Works, not Procurement, and is over N3 billion,” he noted.
He added that A.A. School was in the budget but it had not been awarded to any company. He stated that there were two consecutive fire outbreaks at the school that needed to be repaired, noting that the past administration didn’t have the intention of including them in the budget until someone raised it at the budget town with the governor.
When Marafa was supplied with the information on the awards notice found on the Sokoto State e-procurement portal, he replied, “The document is not a good document. As far as the ministry is concerned, there are no contracts with A.A. Raji, and they are not emanating from here. Go and find out who signed the document. The director of procurement doesn’t give contracts. We have our processes for giving contracts, and we don’t have any contracts with A.A. Raji. We are not under him. Go and ask them.”