By Ibrahim Yusuf
In the heart of Funakaye, Gombe, the community of Komi grapples with the remnants of its once-promising infrastructure. From the crumbling Komi Primary School, starved of classrooms and educators, to the deserted primary healthcare facility teeming with insects, and the relentless quest for clean water, Komi’s residents wage an enduring battle against neglect. Ibrahim Yusuf reports.
Upon traversing the sandy road connecting Wawa to Komi village, Funakaye Local Government Area in Gombe, one is greeted by a skeletal building: its roof absent, doors and windows mere memories. This forsaken structure bears no resemblance to a place where the people of Komi, Kufayin Komi, Gudu, and Wuro Bale should receive their basic primary education. Yet, it bears the name of Komi Primary School.
Komi’s story extends far beyond its dilapidated primary school. The village also lacks basic amenities such as water and healthcare. Despite significant government budget allocations, the people of Komi continue to grapple with the dire consequences of this neglect.
Komi Primary School, built 30 years ago, now stands dilapidated. Only two permanent teachers remain, causing a significant decrease in enrollment.
“The situation results in a gross decrease in the enrollment of primary school children in the community,” said Muhammad Atiku Shuaibu, a resident of the area.
“Because during our time, there were teachers and facilities, and that motivated us to enroll. But today, there is no roof over the school, no facilities, and no teachers except volunteers.”
Komi’s children add to the tragic statistic of out-of-school children in Gombe state, reaching over 700,000 in 2021. The deplorable state of the school, which is depriving the community of their fundamental right to a proper basic education, has persisted for over five years. This is despite the claims made by the current Gombe state government of declaring a state of emergency in the education sector upon assuming power in 2019 and allocating substantial funds, including N22.8 billion in 2020, N6.33 billion in three quarters of 2022, and N5.96 billion out of N11.37bn was specifically allocated to investment in the education sector in 2023. Nevertheless, Komi Primary School remains in a state of disrepair, showing the stark neglect of the village’s educational needs.
A community’s unwavering determination for education
Out of the four classrooms originally available, only two remain partially functional, with the other two rendered inaccessible due to extensive disrepair. Consequently, the school’s management is forced to merge all six primary classes, ranging from primary one to six.
Mr Musa described the school’s teaching approach: “We combine two classes into one, with primary one and two sharing a single classroom, three and four in another, while the remaining five and six learn in the open spaces or wait for their turn after other classes finish their lessons.”
Despite the dilapidated state of the school, teachers and children from the community remain steadfast in their pursuit of knowledge, continuing their studies beneath the sun on the sandy, grassy floors of their makeshift classrooms.
As Hamza Musa, a dedicated volunteer teacher at Komi Primary School, explains, “Our elders learned here, and we did too. We’re determined to pass the light of knowledge to our children. We’ll continue teaching them in these open spaces until the school is repaired.”
However, even their unwavering determination faces a challenge when the rains arrive. During rainfall, the school is forced to close, temporarily halting learning activities. Mr. Musa explains, “We can’t keep teaching when it rains; we have to stop, as our books and everyone else would get wet.”
Komi community fights for educational progress amidst neglect
Amidst their prolonged struggle, the community’s youth established the Komi Community Development Association, KOCDA, to address some of their essential communal needs. The association has actively communicated the community’s educational needs to the authorities, but their hopes have yet to be realized.
Musa Abdulhamid, the deputy chairman of the association, voiced their efforts, saying, “In 2021, we submitted letters to the State Universal Basic Education Board, SUBEB, and the Local Education Authority, LEA, to highlight the dire state of our school and request government intervention, but we have not received a positive response.”
The association has also engaged volunteer teachers from the community who have received higher education. The association established a timetable, assigning Komi graduates to teach, and they are making commendable efforts.
Lamenting on the poor condition of the school, the village head, Jibir Ado stated that Komi people have a deep love for knowledge, and they are eager to learn, but the deplorable state of the school is affecting their spirits. He believes that if the school is made fully functional, there will be a significant increase in enrollment.
Mr Ado also pointed out that development is intrinsically linked to education, and neglecting the school is similar to denying them the chance to progress. He added that if the state governor witnessed the conditions in which their children learn, he would be moved to shed tears out of compassion.
Komi residents vulnerable to preventable health issues due to PHC neglect
Komi’s primary healthcare facility, like its school, is also suffering from neglect, leaving the community vulnerable to preventable health issues. The health facility itself, lacking doors and sufficient windows, has become a breeding ground for harmful insects which crawl freely, buzzing around patients and staff alike. The night shift is a nightmare, as the insects party in the hospital rooms and staff have to clean up the mess every morning, but it’s a never-ending battle.
Kauna Abdullahi, the officer-in-charge of the clinic, explained, “It wasn’t until the eve of the 2023 general election that a roof was put on the clinic, but we still lack doors and windows.”
Beyond the physical structure, the clinic is in dire need of various essential and supportive facilities. “We lack adequate beds and mattresses, as well as essential equipment. We don’t even have kits for testing typhoid, which is becoming prevalent due to the water people consume. There’s also no residence for the in-charge, and as a female, I’m forced to sleep in someone’s house near the clinic, which is both unethical and risky,” she added.
The routine immunization officer of the facility, Abubakar Muhammad Isa, drew a connection between common diseases affecting the community and the absence of adequate treatment facilities, as well as the consumption of murky water.
He pointed out that during rainy season before the clinic was properly roofed, rainfall often disrupted the immunization sessions, causing mothers to disperse and some not to return promptly, if at all. He stated, “Children who missed their immunizations are now at risk of hepatitis, measles, tuberculosis, and other childhood diseases. Those who received proper immunizations remain healthy.”
Mr Isa continued, “Recently, we have identified six cases of tuberculosis, including five males and one female. This contagious disease spread remains uncertain. We’ve submitted phlegm and saliva samples for further testing and confirmation. All of these are preventable if the clinic is well-equipped. We hope that the authorities will extend their compassion to the people.”
Residents also raised concerns about the clinic’s inadequate staffing, adding that one midwife cannot adequately cater to all the pregnant women in the community. A resident, Kabiru Muhammad said: “With just one midwife, when she’s absent or on break, there’s no one to attend to expectant mothers. They have to be transported to distant hospitals, which poses a threat to the well-being of mothers and their babies in certain cases.”
Komi’s perennial struggle for water
Upon entering Komi village, one cannot miss the constant procession of villagers carrying jerrycans, embarking on the vital mission of securing water. The people form a line, converging upon the local wells and ponds, recognizing the urgency to fetch water for domestic use before it runs dry.
Even during the rainy season, the sight of villagers carrying jerrycans and gathering at the local ponds and wells to obtain water, albeit murky, remains a common occurrence.
Mr Muhammad, a resident, laments the quality of the water, saying, “Anyone who sees the water we drink would pity us. It’s not safe, and even the unsafe water runs out by December. We’re now in October, and our wells have already begun to dry up.”
The borehole project in Komi Primary School awarded by the state government in 2018 and 2019, is yet to be completed. The heart of Komi’s water resilience lies in a pond, created by the village people who depend on it for survival. The pond, carved out through collective efforts, stands as a symbol of the unwavering determination of Komi’s residents to secure water for their daily existence.
Muhammad Iliyasu, a resident of Komi said: “The water from this pond is not just a source of hydration; it sustains us, both in quenching our thirst and in preparing our daily meals. In times of scarcity, this pond becomes our refuge, a literal lifesaver. Yet, when its waters eventually recede, a stark reality sets in, and with it, the onset of a familiar challenge. We are compelled to embark on arduous journeys to remote places, all in pursuit of drinking water.”
In the face of unyielding water scarcity, Mr Iliyasu said Komi residents decided to take matters into their own hands by digging more than 30 wells, hoping for a breakthrough in their water crisis. However, these efforts proved to be in vain due to the topography of the area.
Ibrahim, a community resident, expressed the collective frustration of residents of the community, saying, “After enduring endless suffering, we resolved to dig over 30 wells, believing this would finally provide a solution to our water crisis. Regrettably, these additional wells, born of sheer desperation, have not alleviated our ongoing struggle for access to this essential resource.”
Komi’s sandy road to progress
Komi village is connected by a sandy road that resembles more of a challenging labyrinth than a straightforward passageway. The villagers have been promised a new road in the 2018 and 2019 state budgets, but it remains undone.
Komi villagers are hopeful that the construction of a new road will bring about a transformation in their community. The sandy road that currently connects the village to the main road is a major obstacle, making it difficult to transport goods and people, especially in the rainy season when flooding is a problem.
A resident, Muhammad Atiku Shuaibu, elaborated on the positive impact of road construction on the community.
He said: “Firstly, it would provide easy access to the main road, significantly reducing the hurdles faced when patients require referrals to clinics or hospitals. Secondly, it would create a straightforward pathway for the delivery of goods to markets, thus enhancing economic opportunities. Finally, the road construction could help alleviate the longstanding problem of flooding during the rainy season, enhancing the overall safety and well-being of the community.”
Reacting to findings of this report, Muhammad Alfa, the deputy information officer of Funakaye LGA, initially claimed that all public schools in the local government had been renovated by the state government. However, when presented with undeniable evidence of Komi Primary School’s condition, he retracted his statement, saying he was not aware of the dilapidation at Komi Primary School.
Regarding the letter submitted by the Komi Community Development Association to LEA and SUBEB, Mr Alfa explained that SUBEB frequently collaborates with local governments on projects, and for the state government to undertake a project, the local government is often required to provide partial funding. Thus, local governments can only execute minor projects.
Concerning the poor state of Komi PHC, Mr Alfa again asserted that the facility is in good shape, complete with an accommodation for the officer-in-charge of the facility. He, however, retracted his statement when this reporter showed him evidence of the poor state of the health facility.
Mr Alfa admitted that the PHC is still undergoing renovations, but no workers have been seen at the site when Daily Nigerian visited in October, 2023. When asked about the timeline for completing the renovation, Mr. Alfa said that he could not specify when work would resume or conclude.
Addressing the issue of water scarcity in Komi, Mr Alfa highlighted that the problem of water scarcity in Komi extends to other areas due to natural water scarcity. He explained that boreholes of considerable depth dry up quickly.
Regarding the Komi-Wawa Road and Komi Primary School water projects, Mr Alfa stated that the contracts for the two projects, which were included in Gombe State budgets for 2018 and 2019 have not been awarded by the state government. He said that if the contracts had been awarded, the local government would have ensured they were completed.
On a positive note, Mr Alfa mentioned that the Budget and Planning Unit of the Local Government has been in contact with village heads to include the pressing needs of their communities in the local government budget.
Responding to the situation, Usman Gurama, a lecturer at the Federal College of Education (Technical), Gombe, emphasized that the learning conditions at Komi Primary School are not in line with organized educational processes.
He said: “In the formal learning process, the environment must be conducive. Two essential factors are at play here. Firstly, there should be well-equipped classrooms with proper seating arrangements and all necessary learning materials. Secondly, qualified and competent teachers are essential to facilitate effective teaching. Without a suitable learning environment and well-trained instructors, effective learning cannot take place.”
Addressing the poor state of classrooms at Komi Primary School, Mr Gurama outlined the ideal classroom conditions, saying, “For effective learning, classrooms should accommodate the number of students comfortably, with appropriate seating arrangements. They should be well-ventilated, and in cases of power outages, have sizable windows to allow natural lighting. Consideration should also be given to providing air conditioning for a more comfortable learning environment.”
He also highlighted the issue of merging students from different classes into a single classroom, stating that: “This practice is educationally unsound, as it hinders attention, control, and proper learning.”
Mr Gurama urged the government to assume responsibility for providing adequate teaching and learning facilities, emphasizing, “While politicians may not always prioritize conducive learning environments, it is their responsibility to ensure that proper and conducive learning environments are available for continuous effective education. They should assess schools facing such challenges and take the necessary actions.”
Dr. Sani Yakubu Gombe, a lecturer at the Federal College of Education (Technical), Gombe, shared his expertise on the educational situation at Komi Primary School, emphasizing the critical role of the school environment in the learning process. He stated: “The quality of learning and the speed at which learners acquire knowledge are heavily influenced by the school environment.”
Regarding the issue of overcrowding students in the same class, Mr Gombe highlighted the adverse impact on learning outcomes, explaining, “In a standard classroom, the ideal number of students should be 25, or at most 35. When this number exceeds the limit, it leads to problems such as bullying, lack of attention, and obstructed visibility, which hinders effective learning.”
He added, “In an overcrowded class, learning can only occur at a rate of 25 per cent, while the expected rate during each learning period should ideally be between 85 to 90 per cent.”
While suggesting solutions, Mr Gombe emphasized the importance of government officials patronizing public schools, stating, “In the realm of education, two distinct worlds have emerged – one for the affluent and another for the underprivileged.
“To improve public schools, it is crucial that government officials, particularly those in higher positions, are compelled to enroll their children in public schools. Public schools cannot progress if the children of the Commissioner of Education, SUBEB chairman, principal, and headmaster are not attending these institutions.”
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