New Telegraph

Poor Facilities, Lack Of Good Teachers, Teaching Aids Threat To Next Generation

I t was the renowned African American Scientist, George Washington Carver, who once told his audience that “education is the golden key that unlocks the golden door of freedom.” Education has also been said to be the best legacy that any parent can bequeath to his or her children. But a visit to Tokunbo Ali Primary School situated at John Olugbo Street, Ikeja, has put a question mark on these assertions.

The visit revealed a lot; the major stain being the steady decline of the infrastructure. It is obvious the school is living in the glory of its past. The decay, however, is most visible in the classrooms. Aside from the slim, rusty, and decaying wooden-planks atop the one storey building that houses many class- rooms, the school, which looks more like a medieval cage, has neither benches nor chairs for the children to sit for their school activities.

The interiors are moist just like the murky marches all around. The dingy corners provide excellent sanctuaries for swarming throng of mosquitoes. Through the parallel gaps that run across the cracked walls, the pupils are constantly faced with the sights and sounds of their amphibious neighbours, breeding and luxuriating in the stagnant waters behind the building.

And like other schools visited in the Lagos suburbs, the building stands in vulgar, wobbly pose, defiantly threatening to disintegrate any moment. Incidentally, parents, who could not afford the high cost of private schools but wanted standard, still manage to hang on to the noble ideas of the founding fathers of these public schools.

Tokunbo Ali Primary School was, according to one of the residents of the neighbourhood, established to provide among others, an all-round education at the foundation level like others in the state. “It was a sight to behold at the infancy phase. And its state-of-the-art teaching and learning materials, amenities as well as knowledgeable teachers made it the envy of parents and other schools at the time,” another residents said.

Today, however, it is a different story. Perhaps, this may be the reason another parent, who craves anonymity, lamented that “the school at present is everything but decent. The school only portrays the government’s inconsistency over the years. The parent said: “This is a state that prides itself as the Centre of Excellence where education is free, yet we pay more than those in private schools.

“The facilities in the school are in shambles and these young chaps are made to go through a very difficult time due to a systemic failure they did not cause. Government has to wake up to its responsibilities or own up t h a t it is incapable of redirecting the focus and putting up a standard infrastructure befitting such a school.

“The way it is now, an epidemic of great proportions would not be far in sight that is if God saves the building from total collapse.” At one of the Model Colleges in Lagos also, learning and a healthy environment are a luxury of sorts. The hostels are not just overcrowded, they are unkempt.

Besides, there are no standard bathrooms and toilets. The boys defecate in a makeshift latrine, which is covered with planks on the premises. Interestingly, that serves as a bathing place for the children; the offensive odour in and around the school compound leaves fear in the minds of not only the students but their parents, who fervently pray against epidemics. In the college, children sleep in their classrooms at siesta periods to evade heat and filthy hostels.

Night rest is not better either, as many struggle for the little spaces on the floor where they have to battle against mosquitoes and other vectors, including bedbugs and lice. Equally of concern to parents is the way food is cooked and served in the school. Aside from the quality and quantity the students have to contend with, the food does not come at the right time.

The kitchen personnel allegedly shortchange the pupils by serving breakfast in ridiculous measures. “I couldn’t recognise my daughter when I saw her. She was so skinny and looked malnourished,” said a parent. Another added in frustration: “When I was young, I attended a boarding school too, and I felt things were still good like I had in my days. That was why I brought my son here, but it is unfortunate that our children are treated as if they are prisoners.”

EdoBEST: The good, the ugly

In 2018, two years after the Edo State governor, Godwin Obaseki, took the oath of office in his first tenure, he started the Edo Basic Education Sector Transformation (EdoBEST) programme to stem the slide in the basic education sector in the state. Five years down the line, the programme is a mixed bag for different people.

For instance, the programme has been judged successful by organisations, mostly the international community. The World Bank during its 2023 Spring Meeting in Washington DC, United State, invited the governor to share his success story on the basic education transformation programme.

Edo was the only sub-national government invited for the World Bank programme. Obaseki, while sharing the success story of EdoBEST during the panel session with the theme; “The False Dichotomy between More & More Effective Public Spending on Education: Lessons from Country Experiences”, said Edo State has deployed significant resources to improve teaching and learning outcomes, providing insights on how strong institutional reforms contributed to ensuring that the resources were utilised effectively to meet set targets for improving Foundational Literacy and Numeracy.

According to him, “Edo State has become a reference on how a sub-national in Africa has been able to undertake massive transformation and significantly improve learning outcomes in the public school system.” However, the drumbeat at home is of a different sound, as Obaseki’s former Chief Press Secretary (CPS) and APC Chieftain, John Mayaki urged the World Bank to verify the claims by the governor on EdoBEST.

Mayaki warned the famous financial institution to beware of what he tagged audio achievements by Obaseki on his administration’s basic education programme. He said: “I warn the international community not to fall for the eloquent lies and well-packaged fiction of the governor through Powerpoint presentations which do not accurately reflect the state of affairs in the state.

“In the interest of the teachers and students of Edo State, I encourage the international institution to commit its local team to the important task of ascertaining the accuracy of the claims, including through unannounced visits to some of the listed schools.

“In reality, Edo State has suffered a massive decay in education infrastructure and loss of personnel as most schools, including those listed as beneficiaries of the Edo BEST programme, lack adequate staff strength. “In most basic schools across the state, the student teacher ratio is far below expected standards, causing a situation where a single teacher is mandated to teach various subjects to different classes of pupils, who may sometimes number above hundred.”

Mayaki further alleged: “The teachers are chronically fatigued and poorly motivated. The students are unable to concentrate and learn effectively because of the substandard state of the classrooms, many of which lack standard windows and doors, let alone advanced learning materials.”

A visit to Akugbe Primary School, Upper Sokponba in Ikpoba Okha Local Government Area shows that some blocks of classrooms among the dilapidated buildings before have been reconstructed, while others are still in the state of disrepair. The school has a shortage of teachers. For example, some classes have about 50 to 60 pupils, while in some classes two pupils share one chair.

One of the teachers, who craved anonymity, because she does not have the right to comment, said they have complained, but nothing was done by the government. She added that the government has also done a lot as the Obaseki’s administration was the one that fixed some of the dilapidated schools but “more needs to be done to bring the schools to what they should look like.”

Lamentations in Anambra over decrepit schools

In Anambra, students, pupils and teachers in most schools on the outskirts have been lamenting over the sorry state of primary and secondary schools in the areas. However, these people are not only lamenting but have also pleaded with Governor Chukwuma Charles Soludo to expedite actions in providing a good environment for teaching and learning in such schools to meet acceptable standard.

According to the Principal of Col. Mike Attah Secondary school, Mkpu Nando in Anambra East Local Government Area, Stephen Oduwa, the state of the schools is as a result of the wind- storm that shattered the area. This led to teaching and learning to taking place under trees while merging and making three classes to share one classroom. He said: “Some time ago there was this wind that blew off the roof of some of the classrooms and we tried to manage the situation.

It is the House of Representatives member, Chinedu Obidigwe, who helped to renovate some of the classrooms but there are others not touched. A lot needs to be done in that regard.” Also, at Fr. Joseph’s Memorial Grammar School where about three classroom blocks were destroyed, students no longer have laboratories for science classes, and the result is now more theory than practical.

It is the same case with other schools in the villages such as Umunze, Owere- zukalla and Ogbunka in Orumba South Local Government Area. According to a parent, who identified himself as Magnus Okoli, “The situation needs urgent attention, especially now that the heavy rains have come and we have made desperate arrangements to secure the teaching aids and instructional materials.”

The state Commissioner for Education, Prof. Ngozi Chuma Udeh, couldn’t be reached but the Press Secretary to the governor, Christian Aburime, told one of our reporters that one of the main focuses of the government is to provide quality education for the children. She added that good education guarantees a brighter future for the state.

“Government has not abandoned our schools because what we are doing currently is to take a head count of affected schools in the state and through the Ministry of Education we shall jumpstart the process of renovation and even constructing more classrooms. “We admit that our educational sector needs urgent attention and that we have started by employing 5,000 teachers to inject fresh impetus in the area of education,” he said.

Infrastructural deficits in Ogun public schools

Despite efforts of the Governor Dapo Abiodun administration at rehabilitating schools, many others are still begging for attention. Abiodun, upon assumption of office in 2019, had vowed to rehabilitate at least two primary and secondary schools from each of the 235 wards in the 20 local government areas of the state. But, this effort has not fully addressed the infrastructural decay in public schools, as many of the schools are still unattended to.

Schools without roofs, windows, doors, toilets and furniture are scattered all over the state. At St. Kizito School in Ogun Waterside Local Government Area, students sit on bare floor to study and to write examinations. A resident of Ipokia Local Government Area, Ogundipe Oladapo, berat- ed the government for the “rotten state” of infrastructure in public schools in the local government.

Ogundipe accused the succeeding governments of neglecting education in the state, despite several promises by them to reposition the sector. However, the State Commissioner for Education, Prof Abayomi Arigbabu, told one of our reporters that the government had already distributed over 14000 furniture to about 2000 schools across the state, with a pledge that it would be a continuous exercise.

According to him, “Ogun State has over 2000 schools, and we have been distributing chairs and tables and still doing so. Addressing the issue of St. Kizito School, I can tell you we have supplied a new set of chairs and tables immediately, the school has benefitted from the first set of furniture distributed earlier this year and we will not rest until our learners study in a better and conducive environment.”

Chairman, Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL), Debo Adeniran, is disturbed about the happenings in these schools. To him, the government is only paying lip service to the issue of education in Lagos State. This, he said, is giving private school proprietors a field day as they remain the only option for any parent that desires good education for their wards.

He said that the dwindling fortune of public schools has defeated the purpose for which they were established and further sank the education sector in deeper mud. He said: “Today, different private schools spring up under different names and standards. The government, which is supposed to be a check on the influx of these mushroom schools, is as guilty as those private individuals that are establishing them.

“A government that cannot provide a desk, with which students in government schools can write, lacks the moral justification to question the setting up of a sub-standard school in its state. This has been the situation all along, and it is sad.” Dr. Ignatius Nwanze Ezoem, Executive Assistant on Education Monitoring and former Provost, Federal College of Education (Technical) Asaba, blamed both the Federal and State governments for providing insufficient budgetary allocations and improper management of the education sector.

He also identified poverty as the main obstacle to development of education, even as he urged the government to prioritise the growth of the sector. A former acting secretary, Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), prof. Charles Onocha, said that specific interventions geared towards broadening access and ensuring functional learning for Nigerian citizens were being initiated to address the problems in the educational sector.

Meanwhile, former Minister of Education, Mrs. Oby Ezekwesili, insists that Nigeria has failed the children of the poor in the country. She stressed that the “dynasty of poverty” and high number of out-of-school students is unacceptable. “There are so many children of the poor that this nation has failed, and there is no reason this nation should fail them,” she said.

She stated that access to quality education was important in any society and that the nation was sitting on a time bomb if nothing was done to address the crisis. Additional reports by Francis Ogbuagu (Benin), Okey Maduforo (Awka) and Olufemi Adediran (Abeokuta)

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