Kaduna’s oldest pupil faces poor motivation
Danjuma Aliyu popularly called Sarkin Lambu recently enrolled in a public school, Local Education Authority Primary School 2, Kachia, Kaduna State. He was banned from attending school by his parents when he was young and at the age of 63, he decided to start schooling.
Although local authorities, in conjunction with traditional rulers, accelerated efforts in wooing parents towards the importance of education in northern Nigeria, especially during the colonial rule, many parents turned down requests to send their children to school. A number of parents had to be sanctioned while many children were forced to get access to basic education.
Aliyu said his parents were against western education and culture and thus, refused to allow him to go to school. He was however sent to Islamic Tsangaya school were he learned the Holy Qur'an.
"A lot of parents in the northern parts of the country saw western education as a taboo and they didn't allow us to acquire it in those days. They saw school children and their teachers as people being led astray. I attempted to plead with my parents at different times to allow me attend primary school but they declined my request.
“When my parents died I had to look for a job to earn a living and I embraced irrigation farming. I was named Sarkin Lambu or leader of irrigation farmers, years after.
He said, “I decided to start schooling at 63 years partly to gain modern knowledge and partly to give confidence to young people to pay much attention to their studies.”
He said he was disappointed by the way young people drop out of schools or parents in the rural communities deliberately refuse to send their wards to schools, adding that most careers require some form of education. He said the surge in the rate of unemployment, poverty and disease would have been checked if education was given prominence and schools made conducive for learning.
“If you look around, you will see that majority of school drop outs or illiterates are unemployed and have little or no source of income. It is obvious that people who have completed advanced education are more influential and make more money than those who have not been to school.
“I struggled hard to send my children to school but most of them opted for vocational works, farming and petty trading. I want to inspire people to go to school and make positive impacts in the country.”
Aliyu would have started school about ten years ago, he said, but he lacked the motivational support until recently when Kaduna State Governor Nasir ElRufa'i introduced free and compulsory education at basic level. He had succeeded in convincing himself to stop thinking about anything that might distract his attention and said he would concentrate fully in his academic pursuit.
As a new pupil in Primary 1, Aliyu follows and obeys all instructions and had consistently attended lessons without lateness. He commits considerable amount of time and energy into both class and home works assigned to him by the teachers and almost under one month, could identify numbers and alphabets and write his name.
Class one pupils in Aliyu’s school do most of their works in small groups and as group leader; he had developed the social skills for productive work with his peers, mostly at the age bracket of his grandchildren. All the groups sit in a manner that members interact effectively and less articulate members are allowed to make contributions.
“While in class, Aliyu will not engage into any sort of off-task discussions and took it a responsibility to ensure that everyone participates by reading aloud all instructions,” one teacher said.
Aliyu’s headmaster, Ahmed Zubair, said in the beginning, the school was unenthusiastic in admitting the 63-year-old pupil but when he accepted to put up with rules and regulations, he was enlisted into class one and since then he had always listened and respected the teachers.
“He came to us and requested that we admit him as new pupil. He said he was unable to attend school when he was growing up as a child. And I told him that as long as he will adhere to school laws and consider himself as a pupil not an elder, he will be enlisted as pupil. He agreed to come to school early, respect the teachers irrespective of his age and to take interest in all the school activities. He was registered and given a class.
“He is doing well in his class and participates in group activities with other pupils. We have adopted new strategies of teaching provided through a UK funded initiative, Education Sector Support Programme in Nigeria (ESSPIN). It gives more attention to group work. It is designed in such a way that every child is given the opportunity to acquire basic education,” the headmaster said.
The headmaster said one of the problems they foresaw was that Aliyu may not get the chance to work on his farm and have time his family.
But Aliyu had told the teachers that his children, who are successful in their respective trades and businesses, will provide food for his family and he will stay in school.
He said teachers were monitoring his development in a meaningful way and if he shows significant improvement he may be promoted to a higher class.
But inadequate teaching and classroom facilities, including furniture, may likely weaken Aliyu’s morale; he sits on bare floor to take lessons. Apart from class six pupils, all other pupils sit on the floor.
The condition in which pupils learn in the school was actually ‘pitiable’ and most of them including Aliyu seemed stressed. There were no chairs and tables for pupils in Primary 1 to 5; they sit on bare floors to take notes and do other class activities.
Most pupils were discouraged from school due to lack of furniture and teaching aids as they pay little attention to teachers, according to one pupil.
A teacher in the school said poor school facilities including furniture tended to slow learning processes, adding that "posture is critical to learning and attention. That is why it is not advisable to allow pupils sit on ill-fitting furniture because it will prevent them from being able to take notes.
"If children are expected to sit still and pay attention for long periods, the furniture they sit on must absolutely fit.
"When they are sitting, shoulders should be relaxed
Danjuma Aliyu and other pupils in their classrooms.