Public schools in throes of poor infrastructure, learning facilities
Education infrastructure is an important factor in determining the quality of learning and graduates being churned out, however, most public schools lack basic infrastructure, such as laboratory, library, electricity and quality learning environment.
While existing infrastructures in some public schools are in deplorable condition, others are below acceptable standards and in few cases, nonexistent. In some of these schools, there is lack of functional public sanitary facilities; hence, the ‘bush’ serves that purpose in such schools.
For instance, learning and boarding facilities at the Government Science College, Kagara, where some school children were kidnapped recently are dilapidated and in dire need of renovation.
The hostels revealed the dire state of neglect of the school, which is a reflection of most public schools in the country. Worried by the deplorable infrastructural facilities across public schools, a non-governmental organisation, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has asked President Muhammadu Buhari to probe billions allegedly missing from Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) and State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), including N3.2bn for Safe School Initiative.
SERAP noted that the allegations of corruption in UBEC and SUBEBs violate the right to education of Nigerian children who continue to face unsuitable learning conditions, as shown by poor learning and boarding facilities at Government Science College, Kagara, where some school children and teachers were abducted.
Minister of State for Education, Emeka Nwajiuba, however, defended the government, saying almost all the schools in the country, including private and public, are mostly all fenced, except for some state schools.
In this report, Lawrence Njoku (Enugu), Anietie Akpan (Calabar) Oluwaseun Akingboye (Akure), Ahmed Idris (Birnin Kebbi), Rotimi Agboluaje (Ibadan), Charles Ogugbuaja (Owerri) and Monday Osayande (Asaba) reviewed the state of infrastructural facilities in states and why government should do more to make teaching and learning conducive.
DESPITE the reported infrastructural development across public schools in Ondo State, some schools, especially in the riverine areas, do not receive sufficient attention from government and other critical stakeholders.
Since Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu’s first term, most of the public schools, both primary and secondary, wear new looks with state-of-the-art facilities.
However, some schools in Ilaje and Ese-Odo, are still wallowing in neglect and decadence, occasioned by recurring sea surge regardless of huge budgetary allocation to education annually.
In the 2021 Budget of Hope in Ondo State, 19.19 per cent was allocated to education, totalling N33.5b of total budget; while N26.5b was earmarked for recurrent and N7b for capital expenditure.
The Youth Leader of Ayetoro Community in Ilaje Council, Emmanuel Aralu, lamented that the only public schools on the island, Community Primary School and Happy City College, have suffered years of neglect.
Apart from poor infrastructure, Aralu lamented that the schools, like many others along the coastline communities, are exposed to perennial flooding problems and sea incursions. He said most of the classrooms have been submerged by water.
He disclosed that the state government built a primary school, but the community had wait for weeks, expecting furniture and other equipment from government, to no avail.
According to him, the school authorities had to move into the new structure less than a month ago without any state-of-art facilities, unlike what obtains in new public schools in urban areas.
For about eight years before Akeredolu assumed office, the state was unable to raise N3.9b counterpart fund to access UBEC fund, meant to help improve the state’s educational infrastructure and enhance quality learning.
But when the present administration came on board, the state paid the long overdue N3.9b counterpart fund to access the money that had lied fallow over the years.
According to the immediate past Chairman of SUBEB, Oladunni Odu, work took place in construction and renovation work took place in 733 out of 1,233 public primary schools across the 18 councils.
Odu, who was a former Commissioner for Education and two-time SUBEB Chairman, said sums were expended on contract for the renovation of 500 public primary schools and construction of over 200 new ones.
Aside from infrastructural development, the schools now have perimeter fencing to ensure safety of pupils and to ward off external attacks.
To complement teaching and learning, the schools now have facilities for extra-curricular activities of pupils, with modern boreholes, solar installations and ICT rooms, among others.
Following securities challenges in the country, the Kebbi State government said it has engaged local vigilante to secure the state’s public schools. Commissioner for Basic Education, Alhaji Muhammad Magawatta Aliero said the idea is to protect students in their respective schools, including day schools.
The commissioner said the 300 schools in the state, with 70 boarding, 123 senior and 107 junior schools, have all been provided with security.
Aliero, urged parents and communities to complement government’s effort at promoting education. He said investment in teaching and learning should not be left alone for government.
Despite earmarking N21b for the sector, including the Ministry of Higher education and SUBEB, the commissioner said the state alone couldn’t sustain all the schools across the state.
However, a retired teacher, Alhaji Usman Hassan, said government should stop playing with children’s lives and properly fund the schools, adding that if they cannot do it alone, they should get parents and communities to support.
SOME months after assuming office, Governor Seyi Makinde reviewed the budgetary allocation to education in the state’s 2019 budget from three to 10 per cent. Also, 22 per cent was allocated to education in the 2020 budget while 21 per cent was proposed for 2021.
Moving round the state capital, most of the schools are fully or partially fenced.
However, Awotan Secondary School, Apete, in Ido Council, is in a sorry state.
On safety, a security scholar and educationist at the University of Ibadan (UI), Prof. Oyesoji Aremu, said there is a need to understand that insecurity could extend to any state, and enjoined government not to assume that students are totally safe in the state.
Prof. Aremu said: “We just have to understand one fact that Oyo State is just one of the states in Nigeria and given what is happening in the North West and even at Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ogun State recently, where two students were kidnapped, I think we should not say students are totally safe in Oyo State. We need to be very proactive about it and get our schools secured.”
THE history of dilapidation of schools in the 647 communities of Imo State dates back to 1999, this period witnessed deterioration in schools infrastructure despite various sums of money earmarked for renovation and maintenance. Within the same period, most pupils have reportedly studied under trees.
This situation continued till May 29, 2011 when former governor Rochas Okorocha came on board and introduced “cast cement one-storey structure” in each of the 305 wards.
City School, Wethedral Road, and City Primary School, old Fire Service, Wethedral Road, both in Owerri, enjoyed outstanding structures under the initiative. Unfortunately, hoodlums have started stealing some of the installed facilities, including aluminum windows.
Despite repeated assurances to teachers and students that the structures are strong, they have stayed away. They alleged that the structures were hurriedly constructed and could collapse on them. This has left the structures unused till date.
The Guardian’s trip to most of the communities in Obile, Obiti, Assa, Agwa among others revealed that most schools are in pitiable condition. The situation has led to the intervention of Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), in its N1.3 billion communities’ cluster development board (CDB) initiative, where schools and other needs chosen by the communities are provided under a five- year global memorandum of understanding. So far, the oil company said it has spent N342 million in those communities for the purpose.
ONE area that the Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi administration in Enugu State has paid attention to since assuming office is construction and rehabilitation of schools across the three geo-Political zones. Last year alone, the government constructed, re-constructed and renovated 339 classrooms and toilets. It provided 33,621 lockers, desks and chairs for pupils and teachers as well as distributed 54,545 books and instructional materials to all primary and secondary schools in the state.
The government said it reconstructed 122 classroom blocks across six education zones as well as 1,400 bed capacity hostels, while four schools received solar powered boreholes to tackle water challenge. This was made possible by the over N107 million allocated to the education sector that year.
In 2019, government budgeted about one billion naira for primary and post-primary sector, as part of plans to rehabilitate and equip schools in the state. These were also part of efforts to restore confidence in public schools, government said.
This year, government has budgeted about N292 million to the Ministry of Education. Government said its intentions are to purchase mobile science laboratory equipment, set up e-learning platforms at the basic and post-basic levels, purchase android television to support e-learning, renovate 104 dilapidated classrooms, drill boreholes for primary and junior secondary schools, construct dormitories in two senatorial zones as well as solar powered boreholes.
Investigations by The Guardian revealed that though government had tried to improve facilities at some public primary and secondary schools, a good number of schools still lack requisite learning facilities.
Apart from few schools located in the urban centres that have walls and gates, majority of the schools, especially in the rural areas are not fenced. While some cannot boast of electricity supplies in them, many don’t have at all. There are some have their electrical fittings removed by hoodlums.
At the Girls Secondary School, Akpasha, although the previous administration purchased a school bus for the school, which is still in use, the thick forest surrounding the school environment leaves one wondering how female students manage to study there. There are no fences, some of the roofs have been blown away by wind, yet, it is the school that produced the state’s best teacher in Maltina competition last year.
The road to the school is almost a pathway and except the buildings, a visitor might find it difficult to trace the school even as the football field is overgrown.
A student of the school, who gave her name as Mary, told The Guardian that though the school is located inside the heart of the community, “we entertain fears each time we are walking into this place because the road is too lonely and the entire place is open. Anybody can walk in from anywhere and do anything he or she likes and goes scot-free. “
It was gathered that the school has never employed security men before and that on few occasions; the classrooms were broken into with some educational materials removed.
At the Practicing School, Emene, the story is almost similar. Aside from the fact that the school is located near a busy road, there are no fences and gates, as everywhere has become a thoroughfare. The development has continued to impact on the facilities, which are broken into from time to time.
A student of the school, Okechukwu Igwe, said apart from nearby residents who walk in and out of the surroundings at will, the noise coming from outside is enough distraction.
A female teacher of the school, who identified herself as Chioma, said they have appealed to parents to help in fencing the school like others around them.
She stated: “Students enter the classrooms from anywhere. They go out from anywhere. You cannot say they are protected against untoward circumstances, which we don’t pray for. There are other basic things we lack here like water, among others.”
Asked how they have been regulating movement of their students especially with increasing rate of abductions in schools, she said: ”We are grateful to God that we don’t have such incidents here. But when they are on break, we warn them not to go beyond the school environment. Teachers are also asked to be vigilant along with students each time they are here”
Chairman of Enugu State Universal Basic Education Commission (ENSUBEB), Chief Ikeje Asogwa, who agreed that most schools in the state are without fences, lamented that lack of funds had hindered development of school facilities in the state.
“Our major challenge is funding. We already have enough challenge on our hands dealing with renovations and equipping the schools. Some of these schools were in bad shape when we took over. We don’t have funds to go into fencing at the moment. But I agree with you that providing fences around the school environment will not only enhance learning but give assurance to the students,” Asogwa stated.
The SUBEB chief said the state government, had in the last five years, renovated 1209 school projects and targeting 190 schools this year.
THE state’s Commissioner for Basic and Secondary Schools, Mr. Patrick Ukah, said measures have been put in place to ensure that no external forces attack schools to abduct anyone.
Ukah, who spoke through his Media Assistant, Mr. Sam Ijeh, said government is ready at all times to safeguard life and property.
The commissioner advised school authorities, and indeed, Deltans, not to entertain any fear about external invasion. On perimeter fencing of schools, Ukah said that is not government’s priority, because such money will be channelled towards building more institutions in the state.
But, the Head Teacher of Special School, Asaba, Omeleze Ngozi Nkechi disagreed with government on school security, saying Nigerians, and indeed Deltans, are living in fear as government had failed in it duties to guarantee the safety of all.
Omeleze, who is also the 2nd Vice Chairman, NUT, Oshimili South Council, lamented to The Guardian about the porous state of schools in the area.
To safeguard lives and protect students, Omeleze enjoined government to focus on the area of fencing to prevent hoodlums from infiltrating into schools.
“The reason for this is that the terrain is so bad that hoodlums are found on the premises smoking India hemp.”
Provost, Federal College of Education, Technical, Asaba, Dr. Josephine Anene Okakwa, said although there are security challenges in the school, they are doing their best to prevent unwanted persons from sneaking into the premises to vandalise cables and other valuables.
“Security is a challenge, but everybody is working hard to see that life and property are safe after all,” the Provost said.
Despite efforts by the Cross River State government to improve facilities in schools to boost learning, some schools are still battling poor infrastructure.
Some are even surrounded with bushes and not well kept.
For instance, Ekuri Migrant School, Ekuri in Akamkpa Local Government Area of the state has been operating in mud and thatch roof structure and one half-wall block classroom demarcated to accommodate the children.
The Vice Principal, Mr. Victor Enya said it is a difficult situation but they are trying to ensure that learning continues despite the poor learning facilities.
An SS1 student of the school, Godswill Ogar Njah said, “I am not happy that my school is like this because the environment is not okay. We don’t have a library, even where we can write our JS3 examination. I am appealing to government to adequately furnish our school and make it conducive for learning.”
At Government Secondary School Akai Efa, Calabar Municipal, the students, like most other schools, do not have desks as some were seen squatting with others to get little space to write.
Chairman, Secondary School Education Board, Mr Ebe Idagu said their greatest challenge is infrastructure.
“Most schools in the rural areas are in terrible state. Students do not have chairs to sit or desks to write and there are no good classrooms. Even in urban areas, things are the same. Government Secondary School Akai Efa for instance, is the only surviving government school and there are no classrooms.
At old Ekuri, there is Government Migrant School but no teachers, the situation is very pathetic. They pay school fees into government coffers, yet no teachers for them”.
On what should be done to improve the system in terms of infrastructure, Idagu said instructional materials should be provided in schools. “Students need to be properly equipped to enable them meet up with current trends. Most of the schools do not have libraries, if government can provide functional libraries and laboratories for students across all secondary schools, it would go a long way to restore the system.