While President Muhammadu Buhari is still in the process of choosing his ministers for his new term in office, the education sector might be one that needs to be critically chosen.
This is as a recent investigation shows the deteriorating state of public secondary schools in many states across the country
Some of those states including Edo, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Ogun, Cross River, Osun, Enugu, Lagos and Sokoto had dilapidated infrastructure, which was not only suitable for learning but could be a breeding ground for social vices.
Findings have revealed that some of the schools had become dens of hoodlums.
This is coming about a month after The Senate addressed the deplorable situation of hospitals across the country.
The Nigeria Union of Teachers confirmed the findings of The Punch, saying it was aware of the existence of brothels and pubs close to schools.
The National Publicity Secretary of the NUT, Mr Audu Amba, in an interview with the Punch attributed the problem to lack of planning and monitoring.
He stated, “When a school is in an area, any building that is going to be built in that area should be carefully examined to make sure that it conforms with the standards to ensure that the school environment remains serene and conducive to learning.
“But you find that the government is not concerned about regulating what is built near schools and you see people building hotels and pubs around schools. This is not the best because children are easily influenced by what they see.”
Amba also blamed parents’ negligence for rising cultism in schools, as he called for a partnership involving parents, teachers and the government to end the menace.
Public Schools In Enugu State
During a visit to various secondary schools in Enugu state, pupils decried lack of functional libraries.
The schools include Ugwuoba Girls’ Secondary School in the Oji River Local Government Area, Umuhu Community Secondary School, Eha-Amufu; Urban Girls Secondary School and City College both in the Enugu metropolis.
At City College, one of the pupils said, “We lack libraries and laboratories. Our classrooms are leaking. When it rains, our classes are flooded.”
At Ugwuoba, pupils decried the danger miscreants posed to them. A pupil, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said, “The school was not fenced. There are no security personnel and this is a female school. Our pupils are raped often.
“Go to some classrooms, you will see where the ‘bad boys’ hide to smoke hemp. We want the school to be fenced,” she said.
When the former Commissioner for Education, Professor Uche Eze, was contacted on the telephone, he said he could not speak on the matter on an official capacity as a commissioner.
The state Chairman of the State Universal Basic Education Board, Chief Ikeje Asogwam, in a text message, told news men that the government had some challenges accessing matching grants, which he said had been fixed. “We were faced with a few challenges which included 92 abandoned projects that have now been completed,” the chairman said.
Cross-river state Secondary Schools
In Cross River State secondary schools, Teachers lamented a shortage of classrooms in the schools.
The Principal, West African People’s Institute, along the Murtala Mohammed Highway, Calabar, Mrs Mercy Etim, said hoodlums had been entering the school.
She stated, “The challenge we have, which is a very serious and fundamental one, is erosion. Our school was built on sloppy land and so water flows freely here. The biggest problem is the part of the fence beside the highway. We had to open that part for water to pass, but hoodlums expanded the opening and came into the school compound.
“That leads to the second challenge which is theft. They once entered this office and succeeded in breaking the handle of our safe, but could not break the safe.”
Similarly, at Big Qua Girls Secondary, Calabar, the Principal, Mrs Glory Ekpo Bassey, said the school lacked adequate accommodation
“ Erosion is threatening the school . The classrooms are not plastered yet. A school of this magnitude does not have a library. We need a better equipped science laboratory. We have written to the government and I believe it will do something about it.”
Teachers, pupils do shifts – C River NUT chair
Reacting to the complaints, the Cross River State Chairman of the Nigeria Union of Teachers, Eyo Nsa-Itam, said, “We have been communicating with the government over these issues and we have written several letters. Government is trying. The most pathetic one is erosion. In a school like the Pinn Margaret Secondary School in Calabar, teachers and pupils do shifts because of the accommodation problem.”
There was no official response to the complaints by the school principals as government officials, who were contacted in the absence of officially appointed spokespersons for the government, said they were civil servants and were not authorized to speak to the media.
On a Visit to Government Secondary School, Abua, Abua/Odual Local Government Area of Rivers State, which was founded in 1972, pupils were seen sitting on the floor.
It was also observed that most classrooms were without chairs, while the classroom roofs and ceilings were in bad condition.
Some of the pupils explained that their classrooms were usually flooded from leaks through the roof whenever it rained, adding that the situation disrupted classes.
It was also observed that there was no perimeter fence and gates in the school, leaving the premises porous for people of the nearby community to access even during school hours.
A teacher at the GSS, Abua, who did not want his name mentioned, told the correspondent that each time teachers or pupils wanted to defecate, they went into the bush.
He noted that because of the school’s porous environment, criminals accessed the premises, even during school hours.
The teacher further stated, “There was a time unknown persons bearing guns and machetes entered the school. Cultism is on the increase in our school. There was an instance when a pupil contravened a school rule and a teacher punished him. That pupil ran into the community and fetched his relatives to beat up that teacher.
“Although the pupil was expelled, the incident sent a message to all the teachers,” the teacher said.
The Chairman of the NUT in the state, Lucky Nkpogono, decried the conditions of teachers and public schools in the state.
When contacted to comment on the infrastructural decay noticed in some secondary schools, the Permanent Secretary in the state Ministry of Education, Dagogo Hart, said he was not authorised to comment on the issues.
In Akwa Ibom State, many classrooms were dilapidated and in some cases, pupils sat on the bare floor.
At the Community Secondary Commercial School, Ibiaku Itam in the Itu Local Government Area of the state, a teacher, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said, “We buy the chalk ourselves and that indicates that the education policy of the government is not really free. Inspectors from the state ministry of education come here regularly. They come to ask questions and take notes of basic things we lack, but nothing has changed.”
He added that the fencing of the school had not been completed. “As a result, hoodlums break into classrooms after school hours to vandalise property.”
On his part, a senior secondary school pupil of the school, said, “We bring our tables and stools and if anybody doesn’t have, he has to manage with a friend who has.”
Speaking on the rot, immediate past Commissioner of Information and Strategy,Charles Udoh, said out of the 2000 public schools inherited by the Governor Udom Emmanuel administration in 2015, 90 percent of them were dilapidated.
He added that the state government took proactive steps to renovate the schools, adding that about 70 per cent of the schools had already being renovated.
Hoodlums Turn Edo School Into Their Meeting Place
On getting to Edo State it was found that many of the secondary schools founded long time ago had dilapidated structures.
The PUNCH correspondent, who visited the schools, observed that many of them were without perimeter fences.
It was learnt that ‘area boys’ (miscreants) had turned some of the schools to their abodes, where they smoked hemp at night.
Examples of such are the Uselu Secondary School, Uselu and New Era College (renamed Samuel Ogbemudia College), both in Benin City.
A resident of an area, Uselu Grammar School, who did not want his name mentioned, said passing through the school at night, especially when there was a power outage, was dangerous.
According to him, many girls have been reportedly raped inside the classrooms and other people dispossessed of their property by hoodlums who have turned the school to their den.
It was also learned that the situation was similar at the Oghede Secondary School, Oghede, Ovia North-East Local Government Area.
When asked to comment on the state of the schools, the state Chairperson of the Association of Secondary School Teachers, Dr Brigitte Asemota, said, “The present government is doing well. You can see a lot of structures in most of the schools.”
The state Commissioner for Education, Emmanuel Agbale, did not respond to calls to his mobile telephone neither did he respond to text messages sent to him.
Sokoto school gate turned to waste dump
At Sultan Attahiru Ahmadu Secondary School, Sokoto, one of the oldest secondary schools in Sokoto State, although there are no dilapidated buildings, the environment is worrisome.
The Punch gathered that a waste dump directly opposite it. A teacher and some pupils, who spoke to The PUNCH, on condition of anonymity, complained about the school environment.
“The stench from the waste dump is nauseating. Even the smoke we inhale whenever the place is set on fire is injurious to our health,” the teacher stated.
Miscreants scale Sokoto school fence, defecate and smoke hemp
One of the pupils said, “Scavengers and miscreants who come to the waste dump, scale fence and come to the school compound to defecate and smoke marijuana.”
A source at the ministry of education, however, said that the ministry had written the ministry of environment on the danger of the waste dump.
Osun State Secondary Schools
In Osun State, it was observed that schools renovated by the immediate past Governor of the state, Mr. Rauf Aregbesola, were in a good condition.
It was, however, observed that many other schools were in a deplorable condition. For example the Kosile Memorial Middle/High School, Itagunmodi was an eyesore.
The laboratory of the school, it was gathered, was attacked by robbers late last term and many items carted away.
A pupil, Olabisi, in an interview with news men said, “We don’t have good toilets. Our library does not have relevant books. Our laboratory was attacked sometimes in March, and many things were stolen.”
At the Timi Agbale High School, Ede, it was observed that there were new structures, but the school had many dilapidated buildings.
The President, Timi Agbale Grammar School Old Pupils’ Association, Adebola Adewara, said the old structures, especially those that were built in the 1960s, when the school was established, should be renovated and preserved. They (government) should rather fortify them”, Adewara said.
Structures in Osun rural schools not good –Union
The Chairman of the state chapter of the Academic Staff Union of Secondary Schools, Adediran Olusegun, said, “We have some good structures, but how many mega schools do we have? In Osun today, if you go to rural areas, many structures in our schools are not good.
“We should have about 30 to 35 per cent good schools. The former administration built many mega schools, but they are not enough.
He, however, said a committe[e set up by Governor Gboyega Oyetola was meeting all stakeholders to address the problems.
The supervisor for education in the state, Mr. Kola Omotunde-Young, could not be reached through his mobile line. A text message sent to him had not been replied as of the time of sending this report.
Ogun State Secondary SChools
Findings revealed that some schools in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, had been renovated by the immediate past government.
However, the situation is not the same in many public secondary schools in other places, especially rural areas of the state.
The PUNCH correspondent observed that public secondary schools in rural areas such as Odeda, Ewekoro , Ogun Waterside, Ifo , Ado-Odo-Ota and Ipokia were in a terrible state.
The schools visited included the Iyesi High School, Ota; Pakoto High school, Ifo ; Itori Comprehensive High School, Agun, Ewekoro and Awowo Comprehensive High School in Obada/Ewekoro.
Rails pass through the premises of Itori Comprehensive High School compound, a situation the pupils described as dangerous.
When contacted, the state NUT chairman, Mr Titi Arebanjo, confirmed some of the challenges facing both pupils and teachers in the public schools .
“The present Governor of Ogun State, Prince Dapo Abiodun, has directed that all round renovation of the schools be done immediately,” he added.
In Gombe State, a pupil of Orji Secondary School, in Orji Estate, Gombe, said, “ We lack laboratory in our school. Whenever we have Practical Physics and Chemistry, each of us contributes N200.”
A former pupil Sakiparapo Grammar School, Saki in the Oke Ogun area of Oyo State, Alhaji Khalid Ajibade, lamented government’s neglect of the school for over 40 years.
“Due to government’s neglect and community leaders’ indifference, the school structures became dilapidated with enrolment nosediving on yearly basis,” Ajibade said.
Findings at the Ikeja Junior College, Bolade, Oshodi, Lagos State showed that a portion of the premises was being used as a store by a construction company.
The PUNCH correspondent observed that although there was a perimeter fence, there was no security personnel.
At the Ewutuntun Junior Grammar School in the Ewutuntun area of Oshodi of Lagos State, The PUNCH observed that there was a perimeter fence.
A teacher in the school said, “There are at least five blocks here with several classrooms, most of them are storey buildings. There is no overpopulation here.”
It was, however, noticed that there were two buildings in poor condition with ceilings hanging loose. while the doors and window covers in the buildings had been damaged.