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How Many Teachers Does It Take To Run A School? The Answer May Surprise You

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A school in rural Nasarawa struggles with only two full-time teachers. And on the day HumAngle visited, it turned out one of those teachers had been called away by the education board for a meeting…

One thing so unavoidably distinct about the head teacher’s office, is the plastic furniture stacked against the room’s walls.

The pattern of the arrangement is such that the furniture is placed around the edges so that there is at least some space for the headteacher to use.

On a second look, you would notice that there are no books or teaching materials anywhere in the room. The place looks nothing like a head teacher’s office. It looks more like a storeroom for chairs.

Abdullahi Ahmed’s office is in the old block of classrooms a few feet across from the new one they had just moved into. Ideally, that is where he should conduct his duties outside the classroom, but in practice, he is hardly in his office at all, there aren’t enough teachers to oversee the students when he is not within sight of them. So he must be in sight of them as much as he can.

 Running a school with one teacher is an impossible situation.

Ahmed is the head teacher of a Local Government Education Authority (LGEA) primary school in Sogene community, located in Umaisha town in Nasarawa state, North-central Nigeria.

Students appear to be fond of Ahmed, but he has many problems to contend with. The most paramount, he repeatedly tells this reporter, is the school’s need for more teachers.

“There are only two teachers in this school; me and one other teacher,” he says, his forehead gathering in a frown.

On a regular school day, he finds himself rushing in and out of classrooms, struggling to teach as many classes as he can before and after recess, leaving him spent at the end of the day.

While Abdullahi speaks with this reporter, he has a difficult time concentrating. Occasionally, a peeking student by the office door would disappear for a minute, only to return with their peer a while later, their excited voices floating above Ahmed’s as he struggled to speak above the noise.

Even after a lanky boy rings the bell to signal the end of recess, the students show no intention of returning to their respective classes. Some play outside in clusters, some who are in their classes interact noisily, while those who are fascinated by the presence of a stranger hang around the door and window of the office, disappearing when they are asked to leave, only to come back moments later in their numbers.

“They think you are here to vaccinate them,” the head teacher says as he takes his seat again; he had just gotten up for the second time to send the students away to their classes.

Ahmed resigns himself to the commotion as there is no teacher available to teach the students anyway.

“My colleague is not here. He was called to the LGEA office to attend to something,” he explains.

“Only the PTA teacher is around, and he is teaching a class.”

PTA teachers   

To make up for the shortage of teachers in his school, the head teacher has employed an extra hand to help with the job. This teacher who is not employed by the Nasarawa State government is called a PTA teacher.

Hussaini, the PTA teacher, has to take three classes (classes 1, 2, and 4) on four or five subjects daily. He complains that the workload is quite heavy for him.

“The students are too much for me,” he says, slightly leaning in, so that this reporter can hear him above the noise that has drowned out his class.

When he is not rushing in and out of classes like the headteacher, Hussaini struggles to grade assignments and classwork.

“They give me about ₦‎ 5000 at the end of the month,” Hussaini says, explaining that the money barely gets him anywhere as he has four children to provide for.

“He is also a farmer and a fisherman,” the head teacher interjects when this reporter asks Hussaini how he gets by on his meagre salary.

“He catches fish very early in the morning, and by 8 a.m., he is already here in time for school, then goes back again by 1 (after school hours) and finishes up,” the headteacher says as Hussaini nods in affirmation.

“We call him PTA teacher because it is the school that takes responsibility for his salary, not the PTA itself,” he clarified.

“At times, we collect ₦‎ 10 each from students every week, so if it is ₦‎2500 that we are able to gather at the end of the month, we can say please take this one and go and buy soap to wash your hands,” he says, a metaphorical explanation of the inadequacy of the salary given to Hussaini.

“Most of the schools in areas like ours do the same,” he added.

In another LGEA primary school in Gindin Kade, located in Awe LGA of the state, the head teacher of the school revealed that he had recently employed a PTA teacher to make up for the lack of teachers in his school.

Scarcity of teachers abounds in Nasarawa LEA schools

“It was just this term that we started employing PTA teachers, and it was because of how things were going. You know you have to help yourself so that God can help you,” Ishaka Dano, headteacher of Gindin Kade LEA primary school says in a placid tone.

Unlike the LEA primary school in Sogene, the one at Gindin Kade has three teachers, excluding Dano himself. Each of these teachers has committed to contribute ₦‎2000 from their individual salaries towards the payment of the PTA teacher that they have employed.

Employing and paying extra teachers out of their own salary (which they complain is miserly) might seem like a huge sacrifice to make for their students but Dano and one of his teachers who spoke with this reporter say that they are doing so for two reasons.

“The stress is too much. How can you teach class 1, and then still go to class 2? We are not robots,” he said, explaining stress as one of the reasons.

“But the most important thing is that the three of us are all from this community and the pupils in the school are our children, so we are just doing this to help our children,” he said.

Grades combined

Teachers remain insufficient. To fill this gaping hole, the schools combine students from different grades in one classroom.

While this may seem alarming as curriculums differ according to grades, the headteachers of both schools say that the combination is merely done to curtail the noise that emanates from classes that are without teachers at different times of the day.

“That is why we combine them to manage them so that after we teach one class, then we will say you people should occupy the front row seats so that we will teach the other class. If we don’t do it like that, they will all be noisy. Some might even run away [outside the school premises],” the headteacher of Awe LEA school says.

“Make do”

 

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