Long Walk For Students In FCT Community

Long Walk For Students In FCT Community
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The fate of students at the Passo community in Gwagwalada Area Council of the FCT is hanging in the balance as they trek long distances in search of education. CHIKA MEFOR-NWACHUKWU brings to bear the suffering of these young ones and why the government should come to the rescue.

Many factors are currently militating against the quest for the reduction of out-of-school children in Nigeria.

While poverty may seem to be the key factor behind this menace, distance (between the student’s home and school) has been found to be an even bigger problem for many of the rural communities in the country.

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Some opinion holders will dismiss this fact as the usual thing with growing up in this country, and even assert that it is normal with the sayings such as “na wetin we do when we dey young. We trek from Kaba to Abaji to go to school.”

But in view of this issue, experts have opined that the problem of covering long distances to get to schools and places of learning, should not be dismissed with a wave of the hand as many children these days are dropping out of school because of this challenge.

This could become the fate of students in the Passo community in Gwagwalada Area Council of the FCT where students trek long distances of one to two hours to get to school. This huge burden of movement exposes the children to all kinds of risk and danger, and it is clearly a cause for great concern.

Shafiu Ibrahim, a student of Junior Secondary School, Hajj Camp, Gwagwalada, narrated to AljazirahNigeria how he treks to school every day, even under the harshest of weathers. “During the rainy season, we sometimes get to school drenched. Our uniform will be wet and we will be cold.

“When we trek, it takes us hours to get to the school. When we arrive at school late, we are given punishment. It is either you pick the littered materials around the school, or you go to the farm or receive some flogging,” he stated in a pathetic tone.

After serving his punishment for coming late, Ibrahim said he would walk back to his classroom to face the challenge of looking for where to sit and receive lessons.

“We are 91 in the class. If you come late, you won’t have a seat. You can sit on the window edge or sit on the floor. We do not have enough chairs in the class,” he added.

He noted that sometimes, he is able to get transport fare from his parents or save up some money to take a commercial motorcycle to school, but added that it was always rare as he had to ‘cry a river’ before he gets any money from his parents.

The search for education for Ibrahim, hasn’t been an easy one as the young Junior Secondary School student has been knocked down twice by a car on his way to school.

“One day, I was walking down to school with a classmate of mine, called Ramat. A car came and beat the traffic light, even when the police signaled him to stop. It sped on and hit me and Ramat. We were injured and had to stay away from school until we were better,” he narrated as tears rolled down his eyes.

Ibrahim eventually got a bicycle to ease the stress but was once again hit by a reckless driver on his way to school, “I was riding by the side of the road when a car lost control and hit me. I fell inside a puddle on the road. After that accident, my leg hurts badly.”

The young student, who wants to be a doctor, believes that things will change for the better if a secondary school is built in his community.

“We won’t be trekking long distances to school again. After trekking back home, we hardly have time to do our assignments and wash our clothes. We trek under the hot sun. Our uniform gets torn easily due to constant trekking. As I am talking to you now, my short is torn,” Ibrahim stated as he turned to show his torn short.

For Khadijat Bala, another student of the same school, the distance between her home and the school is so huge a challenge that it breaks her and makes her wish for better. Her own challenge was compounded by the fact that she had to wake up early every morning to finish up her house chores before heading to school, and always ended up among the late comers.

“When I get to the gate, the teachers will be outside waiting for the late comers. They sometimes tell us to pick the litters around the school or they will cane us. When we get to the class, we receive another punishment. The teachers in the classroom will make us kneel down until they have finished teaching their subject. After trekking, I am always tired and stressed out. Sometimes, I fall sick,” she narrated sadly.

A youth in the community, Jonathan Otokpa, while speaking to AljazirahNigeria lamented that during his secondary school days; he passed through the same ordeal and wished that the sets of students coming after them would experience a better life.

“When I was in JSS 2, my brother who is in JSS 1, then had to stop going to school because he couldn’t handle the distance. Every time we come back from school, his legs would be swollen and he will then miss school for a week,” he said.

Otokpa added that after so many considerations, his father enrolled his younger brother in a nearby technical school. He lamented, however, that not everyone would have the same opportunity his brother had, to have a second chance at education, as many parents in the area cannot afford fees for private schools.

He further stated that the children got exhausted after trekking to and fro school, even as they risked being kidnapped in the lonely paths, or even knocked down by vehicles.

The risk of being knocked down by a vehicle is what Justine Onyebuchi, a patent medicine dealer, said he worries about the most as he watches the students trek to school daily. He narrated with sadness how he had witnessed many accidents that involved students, in the course of his duty, adding that the government should quickly come to the rescue. 

“In 2018, there was an accident along the Paiko road. Three children were on a bike. One of them died. The other two were rushed to the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital.  One of them could not return to school for more than six weeks.

“Another one happened around Phase 3; they brought the student who they said was on a bike when it happened to him. He was badly injured. I told them that I can’t handle the case, that they should take him to the hospital. This is what I see severally in my shop,” he said.

Now, apart from the fact that children who trek long distances to school could be compelled to abandon their education, Zainab Ahmed, another resident of the area, fears that her children could be consumed by social vices if nothing is being done.

She stated that she did not have the opportunity to go to school, but that since discovering the benefits of education, she had strived to send her children to school, but that the distance being trekked by the children is making her lose passion.

“The school is far. We want our children to go to school since we couldn’t. We do not have money to give them for transportation. We believe that education will help our children follow the right part. We are scared we might lose them to social vices if nothing is done,” she added with fear.

Passo community, according to the residents, has a population of over 5000, of which 3000 are children. The people of the community believe that if a secondary school is situated in the community or even close to it, their children will be the better for it.

In implementing the compulsory free education programme in Nigeria, many states agreed that schools should be located at not more than one kilometre from the communities to be served. This stipulation, no doubt, has not been adhered to in many parts of the country of which stakeholders in the sector think can contribute immensely to the increase of out-of-school children in the country.

There are so far 13.5 million out-of-school children in Nigeria, according to UNICEF, and this figure could increase with the advent of new challenges posing a threat to the acquisition of education in this part of the world. Experts have recommended many feasible ways of dealing with this problem, one of which is to ease accessibility of education and augment it. If both states and the federal government prioritize education, there will be a real reduction in the humongous figure of out-of-school children in Nigeria and the world.

Aljazirahnews

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Gwagwalada Area CouncilPasso community