In spite of Lagos State Government?s efforts towards rehabilitation and construction of more schools, Kemi Obasola reports that many pupils are still exposed to inhuman condition in these schools while the rate of development seems slow It was first at the inauguration of the Lagos State ?Support Our School Initiative? on August 5, 2008 that pupils in primary and secondary schools across the state had the chance to appeal to members of the public to come to the aid of public schools across the state.
From Majidun Senior Secondary School in Ikorodu to Community Primary School in Mushin, Araromi Primary School in Gbagada and Ewutuntun Grammar School in Mafoluku, Oshodi, the pupils gave vivid accounts of how they managed to study in dilapidated structures, empty libraries and laboratories.
At Araromi Primary School where the school meal programme was first inaugurated by a member of the public, our correspondent saw just three blocks of classrooms and observed that the furniture was insufficient with pupils squeezing themselves into small classrooms.
At the inauguration of the ?Support Our School Initiative,? a pupil of Community Primary School, Oluwajuwon Olusoga, said the rehabilitation taking place in his school was long overdue while his mates in other schools in Mushin complained about lack of toilets and water.
On her part, a pupil of Ewutuntun Grammar School, Mafoluku, Oshodi, who spoke at the event, Adejoke Ore, said, ?My school has a population of about 1,000 pupils and we have just 10 classrooms. In a class, there are more than 80 students, we perch five on a seat and some do not have seats, the roof is destroyed and the buildings are dilapidated, no toilets, no laboratory equipment, we use a shed as a school hall and our classrooms are always hot.?
Before the inauguration of the Support Our School Initiative, the previous democratic administration of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, had inaugurated the Special Committee for Rehabilitation of Public Schools; a committee that saw to the construction of over 2000 new classroom blocks for public schools in the state between 2004 and 2007.
However, despite this and the construction of millennium structures in selected public schools across the state, most of the schools still have classrooms that were built by the Governor Lateef Jakande Administration between 1979 and 1983.
Our correspondent gathered that these structures were supposed to be temporary ones marked down for gradual replacement in the next 10 to 15 years. But, more than 20 years after, the schools still remain the same way.
Therefore, apart from the overpopulated classrooms, many pupils have to learn under inhuman school condition. The children are exposed to sun during the dry season, and rain and cold during the rainy season.
Most schools are also bereft of learning resources, tools and instruments. This was corroborated by a pupil of Majidun Senior Grammar School, Ikorodu, Nwabueze Akpobi, who said, ?Since I have been a student of this secondary school, I have never seen a laboratory. When we are doing practicals, we imagine it in our minds and our teachers show us the pictures. We call this method the Assumed Virtual Reality Process. In this process, we imagine things happening but not seeing physically. Our science teachers teach us with illustrations, drawings and charts.?
In an interview with our correspondent, the state Deputy-Governor, Mrs. Sarah Sosan, who also oversees the education ministry, said, ?We are vigorously working on the construction of more schools in areas like Alimosho, Ikorodu and Ojo. We have also adopted a new policy, ?21 classrooms? which will be replicated in every local government council. Apart from that, we are providing more furniture while most of our secondary schools are under repairs.
?From next session, we will give every child in our schools free textbooks from nursery level to senior secondary three level. It is a pity that most pupils fail in school because they do not have books. The governor has been magnanimous enough to increase the education budget to N14bn and at the same time put other strategies in place so that we can build more schools and provide books for every pupil. Overpopulation is also rife in some schools because parents insist that their children must attend certain schools, probably because that school is their alma mater or because they have got certain sentiments attached to such a school. Thus, facilities are overstretched; we will not tolerate that anymore.
She added, ?We have taken statistics from our schools in order to ensure that facilities go round. Henceforth, no school will be allowed to accommodate more pupils than its facilities can cater for. The closure of illegal private schools also led to population explosion in the state schools. But we are trying to provide accessible schools in every community; mushroom schools will still not be tolerated. The pressure is much on our junior secondary schools, but we will ensure that our secondary schools do not have more than a population of 1500 pupils at any given time. It is a challenge to us and we are facing it squarely.?
However, the state governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, said the challenge of overhauling the public schools in the state was so daunting that he was seeking private sector partnership.
Fashola agreed that in spite of government?s efforts, there was still much to be done to permanently reverse the neglect and decay of the past. This, he said was why the Support Our Schools Initiative was inaugurated.
He said, ?No contribution from the private sector is too small to turn our schools around. Your widow?s mite can make a difference. We should all do something today.?
But, even as the state continues to seek help from the private sector and disburses its N14bn budget allocated to the education sector, the pupils continue to suffer, the supposedly free education they are enjoying is not qualitative, their teachers are also aggrieved over the yet to be implemented Teachers Salary Scale Structure while mushroom private schools continue to thrive and make brisk business.
In an interview, the Executive Director of Child Help in Legal Defence of Rights to Education, Mr. Debo Adeniran, said government at all levels should see the education of children as top priority.
He said, ?The plight of the Nigerian child is a pitiful one because successive governments do not see investment in children as a venture that will yield immediate material profit. Therefore children welfare programmes are in jeopardy with their future at stake. The ruling elite believe that the welfare of the child has no immediate relevance to their existence and therefore do not prioritise it.
?All children have the right to be educated, but if they have no access to qualitative education, they are worse than the living dead because there is no hope for them. The future of our children is not guaranteed because they do not have access to qualitative education.
?Our public schools are under-funded; therefore the curriculum is under-implemented. The schools churn out under-developed minds which leads to the crippling of the science and technology sector.?