Sagnerigu: Fear-gripped pupils, teachers stay outside classroom after broken eggs, corn & kola nuts found

Teaching and learning is yet to commence at the Choggu Yapalsi M/A Basic School following a temporary closure of the school on Thursday, June 8, 2017 by school authorities.

A visit to the school by TV3‘s Northern Regional Correspondent Zubaida Ismail saw pupils busily engaged in various forms of fun including football in the early hours of Thursday, June 8 while their classrooms remained locked.

Some pupils confirmed the absenteeism attitude by teachers since Thursday, June 8, a day after teachers arrived in school in the morning to find some items in the Basic 6 “B” classroom. The classroom was locked the previous day, though.

The items consisting of broken eggs, grains of rice and maize and kola nut suggested some form of ritual activities known in the local parlance as “sara” had gone on in the classroom while teachers and pupils were away.

The situation which according to a teacher (name withheld) began on March 8, has since become an almost weekly event after threats to kill teachers by some parents.

Some pupils who spoke to TV3 revealed they were sent home before the normal closing time 14:00 GMT on that fateful Thursday by their teachers but the teachers failed to communicate the closure of the school to them hence pupils showing up at school since Friday, June 9 but waste the entire day outside the doors of the school without a single teacher showing up.

Mma Rubabatu Abdul-Razak, a food vendor in the school, confirmed the claim by the pupils.

“The teachers returned from a meeting on Thursday and sent the pupils home. They have not come to school since then but we and the pupils have been coming since Friday till today and all the pupils do is play as their classrooms remained closed.”

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Asked if she is aware of what could be the reason for that attitude from teachers, Mma Rubabatu stated, “Teachers complained of coming to meet ritual items in one of the classroom. We thought if anything at all, they would have closed that classroom down but not the entire school. It took the efforts of we the food vendors to convince parents to allow their pupils to come to school hoping teachers will come but they have not”.

Pupils loiter about during school hours

Coincidentally, the first teacher arrived at the school at half past 7am but did not open the gates.

One by one the teachers began arriving.

The Headmistress, Madam Zelia, also reported. None of the teachers who had arrived earlier made any effort to open the doors for pupils to enter until such a period they noticed the presence of the news team then instructing pupils to go for class to begin.

Headmistress Madam Zelia directed the news team to the office of the Sagnerigu Education Service when TV3 sought answers to what has become a worry to some parents.

She confirmed the daily encounter of the items especially in the Basic 6 “B” classroom but said the development had been reported at the head office.

However, TV3 gathered that the teachers did not teach on the Tuesday as confirmed by a teacher earlier who claimed some teachers have been coming to school but do not teach.

“Though some of us have been coming to school since Friday, we stay in the nursery block and leave after 10:00am,” a contrary message to what both the pupils and food vendors have said.

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Niendow Yahaya , the Assembly member for the Gurugu Electoral Area, the jurisdiction the school falls, was hearing the closure of the school for the first time from the news team but confirmed reports from both parents and teachers of some P.T.A financial misappropriation, which he said had been reported to the Sagnerigu District Education Service and not the ritual items.

“I have received reports from parents calling for the transfer of the headmistress who they say is a signatory to the P.T.A account which should not be so but issues of ritual items found in classrooms and teachers not showing up to teach are yet to be reported to me”.

Comments by some staff involved in mediation at the Sagnerigu Education Service suggest an impending impasse between parents and teachers but will not tell what the exact problem is as they are not permitted to speak.

TV3 was told the director is away for a conference outside his jurisdiction.

TV3 can also confirm a full return of teachers to school on Wednesday as all ten teachers including teacher trainees undergoing teaching practice have reported but as usual, were seen sitting idle at the entrance to their various classrooms.

As it stands, one does not know how soon the mediating committee set up by the Sagnerigu Education Service to “investigate” the issue of ritual items and alleged “financial misappropriation” will conclude.

But one thing is for sure and that is, pupils are those suffering the brunt of either pretexts.