Our correspondent who visited the school when staff of Fidelity Bank came to commission a renovated male hostel in the school, was told that the hostel was in a very bad state before the renovation.
The principal of the school, Mrs. Rose Baba, said the major challenge in the school is lack of adequate teachers. She observed that when it was established, it had the capacity for only 400 students, but now there are over 1,000 students in it.
“We need more teachers in the school but every other thing is going on well. The toilet that is looking dilapidated is because it is an old building, since the school was founded in 1979. If not for some of the renovation that the government, NGOs and other well-meaning individuals are doing, the school will have been in a worst state.
“We also need more chairs and tables because day in day out, the children keep on breaking them. But besides that, I think we are doing okay. We have about 50 teachers and I need about 20 more to run the school at its maximum level because in a class, ideally there are supposed to be only 10 children but now, because we don’t have enough teachers, we have about 50 students in a class which is not very productive because they are special children and they need special attention.
“The classes are there empty, we have no teachers to spread across them. We have 36 classrooms and we had about 1,099 students but now we have 1,000 because some have finished their Junior Secondary School (JSS), where the school ends and have to go to technical school for various technical skills and to complete their education. The blind are just 85 while the deaf are 915.
“The NGOs are doing great things for us here in this school, they come in here day in day out and ask us what our needs are and we usually tell them what we need and they normally come to our aid. Like Fidelity Bank, I thought they were joking but later when I saw them being serious I put my mind at rest.
“The promise they made to us is not even up to a year but look at what we are witnessing today. They have renovated a male hostel for us, provided 60 mattresses and a borehole and it came at a time when we really needed it, that is the rainy season.
“The children are increasing in number that is why we are having difficulty in keeping the school going like we used to. At the time the government planned it, they did not know that so many deaf and blind children will come and stay in the school. Instead of reducing, they are increasing,” she explained.
She attributed the increase in the number of deaf and blind children in the school to the awareness that is being created by parents who have benefited from the school and even the students, adding that, “when they go back home to their villages during the break, they bring their friends back and we on our own cannot reject them when they come.
“In the past, some parents used to be ashamed of bringing out their disabled children. Some knew about the school, but because they were shamed, they refused to bring out their children, we had to enlighten them that there is ability in disability before they brought out their wards and when they actually saw the improvement in their children they became interested.
“The government has made it a mandate to create awareness. By the end of this month, we are going out to interview all the disabled children in the 23 local governments of the state. The staff will go to interview them and bring them to the school,” she said.
Mrs. Rose Baba noted that the students are not only from Kaduna State but other parts of the country, saying that “people hear of the school through others that have benefited from it, so there are children from Plateau, the South-East and so on because the school is free, no school fees, so the parents are happy that they have somewhere to keep their special children.
Some students of the school who spoke with our correspondent said they are being taken care of very well in the school. Isuwa Shehu, 10 years old, in primary two said, “I am enjoying my stay in the school, we have good food and we have teachers who take lessons for us.”
Christiana Audu, 17-year-old in primary four pupil who comes from Ikara Local Government in Kaduna State said, “I am very comfortable in the school because here, I meet people that are blind like me and we can interact with one another freely without any discrimination from anyone or anybody.”
On her part, Rebecca Adama, a 14-year-old blind girl from Bassa Local Government in Plateau State said her parents brought her all the way from Jos after hearing about the school, to come and get an education and have a better life for herself.
Executive Director, North Directorate, Fidelity Bank, Mohammed Balarabe while handing over the newly built borehole and a renovated and furnished male hostel block, said as a bank, they believe that being socially responsible is the most effective way to bring about change in any society.
“Taking responsibility is the right way, indeed the only way that lives can be touched and enriched in Nigeria today; and if every citizen, be they corporate of individual can play their part, our nation will truly rise above its current challenges. It is this passion for our country that has motivated the staff driven initiative, which we fondly call Fidelity Helping Hands Programme (FHHP),” he said.
He said that they decided to come to the Kaduna Special School because members of staff in Kaduna believe that supporting government’s efforts in education and child care is a worthy investment to enhance the future of the state that has hosted the bank over the years.
Kaduna State Commissioner for Education, Malam Mohammed Usman, when contacted said the responsibility of educating children is not that of the government alone, but all bodies, corporate organizations and individuals within the community.
“The last time I came here, the principal mentioned the challenge and I directed the director in charge of personnel to find out from other schools because we have been made to understand that so many teachers don’t want to come and teach in the special school, so I said teachers who don’t want to teach in the school should be fished out from other schools and they should be transferred here.
“Two weeks ago, Governor Mukhtar Ramalan Yero approved that the Ministry of Education should go ahead and employ 1,802 teachers and these teachers will cut across various fields and various disciplines so I want to assure you that the issue of inadequate teachers has been tackled and will be addressed shortly.
“There are many challenges facing the education sector in the state which government alone cannot tackle, I have asked the Chairman of the Kaduna State Universal Education Board (SUBEB), to come and take a look at the school and see what more intervention can be done to improve further on the facilities,” he said.