Teachers’ Day: Miss Zainab, Zahra, and the Yobe Education Emergency


By Ali Tijjani Hassan

I can patently remember that there was a time when I pressed my father to enroll me in primary school. Because all the children in our compound were enrolled, surely it pained me to see my accomplices going to school with the same clothes and a few coins in their palms. Due to the unprecedented love that my father showed me, he unhesitatingly agreed, despite the fact that he wasn’t in harmony with western education at all.
After I went into the school, I realized that being a pupil went beyond wearing a neat uniform and holding a food flask. Following my understanding of what being in school was, I started to think of not-going-to-school. Intuitively, I got the idea of hiding my school uniform beside my wardrobe, under my bed, and beneath my box. My old idea worked cleverly and clearly—I used to deliberately hide my uniform so that my mother would be searching for it through our rooms. While she was searching, the clock should have automatically gone against us. Even if she found it, it might be too late to go to school. My mother hid all these from my father because he would leave home to work very early, some days even before the sunrise.
Our class’s form mistress (Malama Zainab) understood my unreported absence in class. She had to come to our home to ask my whereabouts. Why was I having a repetitive absence?
One evening, Malama Zainab decided to come to our home. Luckily, my father was sitting at the entrance of our house. They both exchanged greetings, as Hausas do first when they meet. “Why is your son Ali, not attending school?” Malama Zainab asked. At the peak of amusement, my father replied to her, “Is he not going?”
Following a bit of discussion, she showed him the attendance register of our class, where my name fell among the poorly attended. With this unexpected prove to her allegations, Baba thanked her for this rigorous consideration and assured her that I would be attending school regularly as my colleagues were doing, and she granted her permission to send my fellow students to come and take me to school by fire or by force.
Following her departure, it was already sunset. After we returned from the mosque for Maghreb prayer, Baba pulled out his koboko, which I had been running from my entire childhood, and beat me thoroughly. I’ve been beaten with it for the first time—I was afraid of it because I heard from sisters how painful it was! The following day, after the business-like warning that my mother received from him, Mama sent me early to the school, where I went unsure and fearful. A few days later, I came up with another idea, which was much more tactical and effective than the former. ever since I realized that my maternal grandmother’s house was very near to our school. Therefore, I seized this opportunity and went to her home whenever I was sent to school. I would be sitting, playing, wallowing and sleeping there. As a week passed, Malama Zainab noticed I was absent from her class. She decided to go to our house and ask about me for the second time. This time she didn’t go to my father but to my mother instead, since her first complaint seemed ineffective. After she met Mama and told her that I was a week thoroughly absent in class, Mama was a bit startled and assured Miss Zainab that she was sending me to school every day as my father directed. Maybe I was waffles somewhere!
“Now that he is developing this bad habit, the matter must be addressed differently.” Don’t beat him up or send him to school. ” “Miss Zainab said to my mother, I would come and take him to school by myself.” For one good year, Miss Zainab came to take me and ride me to school on her back. Whenever she came to take me to school, I would be spewing curses and bad luck upon her, but this great educationist didn’t beat or punish me for that; instead she might purchased a biscuit or chocolate for me in return. While taking me from home, when I was crying before my mother, Miss Zainab would be saying ‘Mama ki yi haƙuri Ali zai yi karatu’, meaning please Mama endure this Ali must read. I was in primary two when Miss Zainab fell down the stairs with breast cancer. The following year (primary three), when I was going to school passionately and regularly, I received the sad news of Miss Zainab’s return to her maker. May Jannatul-Firdaus be her final abode.
I wish to have a reception with her in heaven.
I wish she had lived longer to see me read, as she insisted I do!

The Death of Little Zahra:
Zahra Ahmed Ibrahim, a 17-year-old student at Government Girls Science and Technical College (GGST) Potiskum, felt ill on September 27th and went to the school clinic for medication. Following school treatment that went to no avail. Zahra went to their dispenser and briefed him on her deteriorating sickness and asked for a medical pass to go home and let her parents do the rest. Unfortunately for her, the merciless and inexperienced dispenser denied her request and forced her to remain in school by continuing to administer irrelevant drugs for an unconfirmed illness. By the afternoon of Saturday, Zahra’s heart stopped beating in the school’s clinic. Amid this weird experience, the dispenser called for a school bus and took the lifeless Zahra to Specialist Hospital Potiskum. Upon their arrival at the Accident and Emergency Unit, he narrated the alpha and omega of her health and drug history. The doctor gave him a very good slap! The doctor’s reaction shows that there was an unprofessional factor that contributed to Zahra’s death.

Emergency State of Education in Yobe State:
On the 12th of March, 2019, while taking the oath of assumption of office, the Executive Governor of Yobe State, His Excellency Mai Mala Buni, declared an emergency on education in Yobe State, as he opined the sector had been in ramshackle for decades. which is quite true.

In spite of Governor Buni’s emergency declaration, I will take you on a tour of some public schools in Yobe State to see whether it’s paying off.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) literacy index, Yobe is one of the least literate provinces, with only 7.26% of literate citizens. Ponder to Arikime Primary School in Potiskum. It’s one of the largest primary schools in Africa. We can take it as a subject matter.
The Arikime Primary School has about nineteen thousand pupils and only 36 government-employed staff. Our report finds that not everyone among the 36 staff is in regular attendance while they’re receiving and enjoying their monthly salaries.
Using Arikeme Primary School as an example, we discover that the major factors influencing setbacks in our educational sector are primarily a lack of instructional materials; a conducive learning environment; infrastructural materials; and frequent staff training.
Our report revealed that Arikime Primary School has seventy classrooms, so each classroom can accommodate 250+ pupils. In spite of the introduction of the state of emergency in education by His Excellency the Governor of Yobe State, Hon. Mai Mala Buni, the educational sector in the state is trotting and swinging between the diameter of underdevelopment. The capital and effort that were injected into the sector are fading to no avail.
A conducive learning environment can never be achieved when over 250 pupils are learning in a single classroom, regardless of their cognitive responses and understanding.
Instructional learning materials such as textbooks and manuals are sufficient, while audio, video, audiovisual, and computers are not counted as necessities of learning. If the instructional materials weren’t achieved, no one could extend his sight beyond instructional materials to infrastructural development.
On human resources, our investigation finds that each of the 36 staff members of Arikime primary school has to control over 530 pupils per day, which is equivalent to the total number of pupils in other developed cities.
On training and retraining One source that pleaded anonymity assured us that it’s now been ten years since they were last trained by the state government. As a result of their stagnant minds and knowledge, they are becoming rotten and outdated teachers.

These aforementioned parables conjured the shamble state of education in Yobe state. In line with the workers’ remuneration that was reduced since last year, today, as I’m writing this piece, is October 11th, 2022. Teachers in the state are yet to receive their September salary. Many families are starving, while some have medical bills that they can’t pay.
To sum it up, education in Yobe State in the olden days, as seen in the life of Malama Zainab, was more of a dedication emancipated from the passion of the teaching profession by the teachers. Perhaps a lack of passion and dedication, combined with inadequate staff remuneration, has contributed significantly to the state’s educational sector’s deterioration. The earlier stakeholders in the sector wake up from their slumber, the better for them.

May our educational sector be restored!

Ali Tijjani Hassan, writes from Potiskum. Can be reached via: