Three years after its idea was mooted, Borno State’s Mega Schools initiative has expanded from a 21 mega primary schools to the present 53 model mega primary and secondary schools with 24 of them completed and educating majority of the 50,000 children orphaned by Boko Haram, mainly for who it was initiated.
The mass population of children orphaned by the Boko Haram insurgency in Borno State stared the state government in the face as one of the most horrendous realities ever witnessed in the state.
Between 2015 and 2016, government records show that the insurgency killed over 20,000 people, thus orphaning over 50,000 children, while thousands more of such children have not been recorded due to their apparent entrapment in remote and inaccessible communities captured by the insurgents.
Among the thousands of people that have been killed are students and teachers when the insurgents pounced on schools at all levels and crumbled virtually all the structures in their “captured territories”.
The gravest implication of this situation was that the children that escaped the attacks were thrown out of school, which further implied that their abandonment in psychosocial trauma would breed them into a large army of future Boko Haram insurgents since they had been thrown out of western education.
The Borno State Government, therefore, fashioned out the Mega Schools project, initially for the education of the “Boko Haram orphans”, but later revised it to also accommodate other children, mainly due to the high level of impoverishment of the larger population of the state occasioned by the insurgency.
Under the initiative, 21 Mega Primary/Junior Secondary Schools were to be built, more in Maiduguri Metropolis and Jere local Government Area, and spread across the safe and secure locations of the state to facilitate the actualisation of the special system of education for the “abnormal” orphans and other children.
Three and a half years after, Borno State’s Mega Schooling initiative has expanded robustly to orchestrate the construction of not only 42 Mega Primary/Junior Secondary Schools, 21 more than the initially planned number, but 13 more educational structures in the Mega Schooling concept, which adds up to 53.
The Special Assistant to the Governor and Supervisor of the Mega Schools, Barr. Yusuf Shettima, said, “It is difficult to mention the exact amount of money spent on the Mega Schools because it is handled at separate levels by the state Ministries of Education, Local Government and the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB).”
The 2019 state budget has, however, allocated N2bn for the Mega Schools alone.
Out of the 42 Mega Primary/Junior Secondary Schools, 24 have been constructed in Maiduguri Metropolis and Jere Local Government Area, while the remaining 20 have been constructed, one each in Bama, Gubio, Nganzai, Monguno, Kwaya Kusar, Hawul, Biu, Shani, Magumeri, Gwoza and other relatively secure communities.
The Mega Schools in Maiduguri and Jere are Ngomari I and II, having 48 classrooms and 1,920 pupils; Ibrahim Mai Suga Mega School with 30 classrooms and 1,200 pupils; Deribe Hospital Mega School with 60 classrooms and 2,400 pupils; Kanuri Motors Mega School with 57 classrooms and 2,280 pupils; and Yerwa Government Girls College with 30 classrooms and 1,200 pupils.
Others are Government College Maiduguri with 30 classrooms and 1,200 pupils; Government Girls College with 30 classrooms and 1,200 pupils; CBN Quarters Mega School with 24 classrooms and 960 pupils; Fulani Mega School with 24 classrooms and 960 pupils; 202/303 Mega School with 40 classrooms and 1600 pupils; Dangote Bilingual Mega School with 10 classrooms and 800 pupils; Dikwa Road Mega School with 60 classrooms and 2,400 pupils; and Galadima Area Mega School with 100 classrooms and 4,000 pupils.
There are also Old Prison Mega School with 30 classrooms and 1,200 pupils; Fato Sandi Mega School with 60 classrooms and 2,400 pupils; REB Mega School with 60 classrooms and 2,400 pupils; Jajeri Mega School with 30 classrooms and 1,200 pupils; Bypass Mega School with 60 classrooms and 2,400 pupils; Maimalari Mega School with 24 classrooms and 960 pupils; Bulabulin Mega School with 18 classrooms and 720 pupils; Bulumkutu Primary School with 18 classrooms and 720 pupils; Ngomari Primary School with 18 classrooms and 720 pupils; Zanna Mustapha Legacy Garden with 10 classrooms and 400 pupils; and Gongulong Boarding School with 13 classrooms and 510 pupils.
Presenting the 2019 state budget to the House of Assembly on Monday, December 24, 2018, Gov. Kashim Shettima announced that the 24 schools would be commissioned in February, 2019, each with “modern technology and educational resources that include computer tablets and interactive whiteboards that aim to move Borno’s basic learning to a whole new level.”
The concentration of the larger number of these ultra-modern mega schools in Maiduguri and Jere is, according to Gov. Shettima, “because these orphans have no parents or relatives. They are unaccompanied. I, Gov. Kashim Shettima, is the father and mother of all the 50,000 orphans until May 29, 2019, insha Allah. Since they are my children, I prefer them to be located not far from where I live in order for me to cater for them.
Daily Trust Saturday findings show that about 40 of these schools have been completed and are due for commissioning, while the remaining 13 will be completed before May 29, according to Barr. Shettima.
He said 2,000 graduate teachers had already been interviewed to teach in the Mega Schools.
Daily Trust Saturday observed that all the completed schools in Maiduguri and Jere have been equipped with computerised teaching aides; and, although yet to be commissioned, have for long been in session, with the pupils provided with free uniforms, learning aids and free feeding.
“The governor’s policy of equipping the schools with state-of-the-art teaching and learning aids aims at making primary schools very attractive with the best quality of learning so as to lay solid foundation for the pupils to prosper in future educational attainments,” the special assistant said.
Gov. Shettima announced during the 2019 budget presentation that the state government intended to establish the Borno State Mega Schools Management Board to, among others, “set standard, design and operate a credible and result-oriented sustainability framework through the creation of a formidable and effective system of monitoring and evaluation, introduce an efficient management and administrative framework which can guarantee the sustained functionality of the schools.”
When Daily Trust went round some of the Mega Schools, the pupils/students were on holidays. However, the principals of Government College, Maiduguri, and Yerwa Government Girls Secondary School were available for the assessment of the Mega Schools project.
The Principal of Government College Maiduguri, which hosts nine secondary schools, Alhaji Abba Gana Jugudum, said, “The Mega Schooling idea was born here in this school. The governor came here soon after the 2015 elections and noticed the massive overcrowding of the classrooms, with each having no fewer than 100 students; so we gave him the idea of expanding the structures and he bought the idea.
“Subsequently, it developed to a programme for more conducive blocks for primary and junior and senior secondary schools.
“The computerised teaching and learning aids and the air-conditioned classrooms, I must be frank with you, have facilitated easy learning for the students.”
Hajja Bintu Abba Kura, the Principal of Yerwa Government Girls Secondary School, said, “The mega schooling initiative has tremendously gingered the students, and, whether at the mega primary schools or with us here with mega classrooms facilities, schooling has become a pleasure for the pupils who find learning easy with the solar-powered computer teaching and learning aids; and now every classroom has only 40 pupils instead of the over 100 that hitherto obtained.”
Also spectacular in motivating pupils to attend school is the improved quality of the three square meals for them.
The Mega Schools initiative holds mega promises for a state craving to emerge clean and clear out of the rubble of the Boko Haram insurgency and stride into the future as a proud part of a prosperous Nigeria.
This will, however, depend on the mega commitment to continuity by future administrations in the state, using such instruments as the Borno State Mega Schools Management Board.