Failure of inspectorate service in checking structure collapse in schools
To raise education standard and sustain development in the sector, supervision and monitoring of schools is key. This is why the National Policy on education has supervision as one of its objectives to ensure quality control through regular inspection of schools.
This policy led to creation of inspectorate units in federal and state ministries of education to inspect teaching environments, monitor performance of school staff and promote effective teaching that would lead to improved learning and performance.
The Federal Inspectorate Service was established in 1973 for the ministry to provide leadership and formulate national policy for the purpose of planning and quality assurance nationwide.
Among other things, inspectors are responsible for checking school environment, teaching methods and ensuring that standards of instruction are not compromised.
From these units, trained inspectors are dispatched to various schools across the country to ensure compliance. But despite establishment and operation of the inspectorate, standard of education in the country has been on the decline.
Given the critical role inspectors play in enforcing compliance and maintaining standard, stakeholders have expressed concern over poor outputs from schools.
They noted that most schools do not have facilities to provide quality education to students, while basic amenities are lacking in some schools. Across the country, there have been reported cases of injuries and fatalities due to cases of collapsed building in schools.
In December 2011, three students were injured when part of the fence of Saint Paul Anglican Primary School, Igbo-Orosun community area of Badagry, collapsed.
In December 2012, a building at Layeni Primary School, Ajegunle, caved-in and injured 13 pupils. In September 2015, four pupils lost their lives, while 24 others sustained injuries after a building at Abu Naima Islamic School collapsed near Jos.
In 2016, one person was killed, while others were injured when a private primary school building collapsed on Ajose Street, Amukoko, Lagos. On March 13, 2019, 20 persons reportedly died when a four-storey building comprising residential apartments, shopping complex and nursery and primary school in Ita-Faji, Lagos, collapsed.
On February 8, this year, the fence of a building housing Greater Academy in Orhuwhorun, Delta State, collapsed, killing six-year-old KG-3 pupil of the school.
A month later, tragedy struck at Ikang community, Cross River State, when a building housing Diamond Grammar College, Ikang, collapsed killing four students in the process.
In April, a poorly constructed fence erected at Anglican Primary School 1, Ayetoro-Ajegunle, Lagos, by the state Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) collapsed on one Ogochukwu Nzerem, a pupil.
Similarly, last month, two children lost their lives when the fence of a school, Covenant Point Academy, collapsed on them at Ajose Street in Amukoko area of Lagos. A lecturer and Pastor in charge of RCCG, Resurrection and Life, Lagos, Nero Bodam, said inspectors are still showing up in schools from the Ministry of Education.
He said unfortunately, like others in ministries and parastatals at the federal, state or local government, their interest is no longer in putting things in order, but how much money they can make from each trip or inspection.
“They collect bribes from school owners and write good reports, even when schools fail to meet set standards and patterns.
“In the past, inspectors were so effective that schools feared their presence because they knew their worth. But these days, they are no longer effective. Bodam lamented that many schools have undergone sharp decline in standard due to neglect from monitoring agencies.
“Many schools were approved by government to carry out the business of education. Did those schools still maintain required standard years after commencing operations? The answer is no, except for very few. Most schools that started years ago have parked up, while new ones are emerging everyday. If there is proper supervision, some of these schools would not have closed down or run below standard.”
He listed some of the problems arising from these schools to include recruitments of unqualified staff, poor remuneration, operating self-styled school devoid of government standards, graduating underage pupils and registering students in final year classes such as primary six, which is wrong. Bodam, however, believes that if the right things are put in place, these inspectors can actually rise to expectation. He said in this regard, the government must take the lead in providing right facilities in schools for learning.
“How can inspectors go to schools that lack amenities such as portable water, sickbay, restrooms, electricity, good roads, library and laboratories and still allow such schools to operate? What yardstick will he use to determine the outcome of learning? If government-owned schools lack these facilities, can they condemn private schools for not having them? The answer is no. Instead, such inspectors would just gloss over the ills in such schools since his employer (government) is guilty of the same sin,” Bodam said.
Bodam identified factors such as lack of equipment to work with, inadequate training, bribery and corruption, insecurity as well as lack of commitment from the supervisors as some of the challenges hindering effective discharge of their duties.
According to him, the ministry can correct these ills by ensuring good remuneration for inspectors. Bodam also recommended sanctions for supervisors involved in unprofessional conducts, while schools that fall short of standards should be sanctioned or closed down. He added that there should be quarterly review of supervisors’ activities and the need to swap them from time to time.
And to make their presence felt better in schools, Bodam tasked government on the need to recruit more inspectors to cover all zones, while schools should be trained on how to maintain standards for effective learning.
In addition, he said stiff penalties should be imposed on defaulters when caught, while there should be consistent and regular checks on schools all the time. He urged government to ensure provision of necessary logistics for effective monitoring and training of supervisors on the job.
“Awareness should be created on the need for proper supervision of schools. Defaulting supervisors and schools should be penalised. Government on the other hand, should lead by example by providing necessary infrastructures to aid learning.
“Supervisors should be promoted as at when due and recognised as integral part of the system, while rewards in form of taxes, rebates, teacher training and prizes should be given to schools that maintain standards,” Bodam advised.
Early Learning Coordinator, Oyindamola Nursery and Primary School, Agege, Maria Emmanuel, lamented that standards have dropped drastically in most schools due to lack of supervision. She said if there is little or no supervision, the necessary things that schools are expected to do like fumigation are overlooked.
To ensure parity between public and private schools, Emmanuel said more people should be employed into the inspectorate. Education consultant, Mahfuz Alabidun, said most inspectors visiting schools, do not do thorough jobs as expected. He called on education ministries to use inspectors to identify schools that are substandard to address the rot in the sector, while appealing to government to remunerate inspectors well to fight bribery and corruption.
Alabidun pointed out that inspection should be unannounced, while unscheduled visits should be made to schools to capture the true state of things. He said: “Ministries should hire a pool of mature, experienced, passionate quality assurance experts to take over the school inspection project. Teachers and inspectors should be mandated to attend regular trainings, workshops and conferences to improve their supervision skills,” Alabidun said.