Today, Nigerian children will join their counterparts across the world to celebrate this year’s Children’s Day. But while their mates in other climes are learning with ease with good facilities, public primary school pupils in the country are learning under very terrible condition in schools that are in state of disrepair.
Investigations carried out by The PUNCH revealed that many of these pupils are learning with difficulty in dilapidated structures and environments that are not suitable for learning.
The PUNCH correspondents who visited schools in states including Bauchi, Benue, Cross River, Gombe, Ekiti, Imo, Plateau, Enugu and Osun noticed that pupils in many of the institutions were sitting on bare floors using their laps as tables. Some extremely unlucky ones learn under the trees subjected to the vicissitudes of inclement weather.
Teachers, who spoke with The PUNCH on condition of anonymity for fear of persecution by intolerant government officials, said besides leaky roofs in the institutions, the schools lacked functional toilets, potable water, libraries and sick bays.
Except in a few public schools in rural areas, classrooms in most public primary schools in urban cities visited by our correspondents were overcrowded.
They blamed the state governments for the decrepit state of basic public education in the country.
NUT blames state govts for rot in public primary schools – NUT
The National Public Relations Officer of the Nigeria Union of Teachers, Mr Emmanuel Hwande, who agreed with the findings of The PUNCH, blamed the state governments for the decay in public primary schools.
He said, “UBEC was created in 1994 to address the state of disrepair in public primary schools and payment of teachers among other things. State governments are supposed to provide the matching grant to access the UBEC fund. Unfortunately, they are not bringing their matching grant. If the state governments are not playing this crucial role, then the issue of decay as it affects public primary schools will never be addressed.
“Until state governments see the reason to put greater commitment to getting matching grant to get funds from UBEC and consider our demand that 27 per cent of the budget should be deployed into education, the issue of decay will continue.
“We have also been calling for teachers in public primary schools to get their salaries from the first line charge. Abia, Benue, among others owe our members many months of salary arrears. It goes further to show that the government’s commitment to the sector is not there. These are clear indices.”
Pupils learn under trees in Bauchi school
At the Gudum Hausawa Primary School in the Gudum Hausawa in Bauchi metropolis of Bauchi State, it was observed that pupils in Primary Two to Primary Five were receiving lessons under the four locust bean trees in the school.
The PUNCH correspondent, who visited the school on Thursday, noticed that Primary One and Primary Six pupils, who had classrooms, sat on bare floors.
A teacher, who spoke on condition of anonymity, lamented the lack of toilets in the school, adding that due to this, female teachers usually made use of toilets in houses near the school.
She said, “We have no toilets. Can you imagine what our pupils go through? We always feel very uncomfortable and embarrassed going to people’s houses to beg them to allow us use their toilets.”
Lamenting a shortage of classrooms, she said, “Our pupils sit under the trees to learn and when it starts raining, we are always worried. When the weather is cloudy, the pupils run home even without our permission and there is nothing we can do to them.”
When one of our correspondents visited the Jahun Primary School in the Bauchi metropolis, a huge hill of waste was seen in front of the school gate. It was learnt that the site had become the rubbish dump for the people of Jahun community.
Although there are four blocks of classrooms in the school, majority of the pupils sat on bare floor when one of our correspondents visited the institution on Thursday. The school also lack toilets for both the teachers and the pupils.
Reacting, the Chairman of the Bauchi State Universal Basic Education Board, Prof Yahaya Yero, admitted that some public primary schools in the state were in a bad state.
Yero, who spoke to one of our correspondents in an in an interview on Friday, however, said the state government had done a lot in renovating some of the dilapidated schools.
He said he was aware that the Gudum Hausawa Primary and Jahun Primary schools were in a state of disrepair.
“Yes, it is true, it is not only at Gudum that you have these scenarios, there are other places, even in the state capital,” Yero added.
Public schools in Benue rural areas worst – Teachers
In Benue State, it was gathered that the state of primary education in the state was worsened by the burning of 52 primary schools by herdsmen in 2018.
One of our correspondents observed that at the LGEA Central Primary School, Makurdi, the state capital, three of the four classroom blocks in the school were dilapidated.
A female teacher in the school, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said she was always praying that if the buildings would collapse, it should be on a day that nobody would be in school.
A teacher at the LGEA School, Adaka along Naka Road in Makurdi told The PUNCH that the condition of public primary schools in the rural areas was disturbing.
The teacher stated, “If you go to rural areas, you will be sorry for the state of primary schools, some school buildings have collapsed.”
However, the Information Officer of the Benue SUBEB, Mrs Edo Sar, when contacted, said, “It is actually not possible to replace the old blocks of classrooms in the 2,748 public primary schools in the state at a time.
“But the government is trying to replace the old blocks of classrooms across the state but what we do is to distribute the construction of new classroom blocks to all parts of the state equally.”
Also, the State Commissioner for Education, Prof Dennis Ityavyah, said the state government had started addressing the problems.
In C’River, no facilities, classes merged to create space for pupils
In Cross River State, some public primary schools did not have basic facilities such as water, enough classrooms and sick bays.
It was also observed by one of our correspondents that pupils sat on bare floor in some of the schools due to inadequate benches.
The Headteacher of the Government Primary School, Atu Street, Calabar South, Mrs Okang Eta, in an interview with The PUNCH, bemoaned the challenges the school was grappling with.
She said, “We don’t have enough classrooms. In some cases, we have up to two or three classes in one room. Like in my nursery class, I have two classes there.
“The class is rowdy when teachers are teaching. It is the same situation in Primary Two. We have two classes in one room. In Primary Three, we have three classes in one room. It is the same thing with primary four and five where classes are merged. We really need accommodation.”
Eta added that the school needed a sick bay and a library.
On her part, the Headteacher, Redeemer Lutheran Primary School, Nelson Mandela Street, Calabar South, Mrs Bassey Nkoyo Edet, said the school needed toilet facilities in addition to desks and tables.
She added, “It is a latrine (pit toilet) we use here because of lack of water. We have about six latrines. We also need desks. If you go into the classrooms, you will see the children sitting on bare floor. We have written to the government about all these challenges, especially lack of benches in classrooms, and actions are being taken on the letter.”
It is true that children sit on the floor – C’River NUT
Corroborating the teachers, the state Chairman of the NUT, Eyo-Nsa Itam, confirmed the problems public primary schools in the state were facing.
Itam, “It is true that children sit on bare floor to learn while teachers teach under the trees in some schools. Government’s intervention is one-sided and at times taken to areas where there isn’t much need for the intervention because of political consideration and at the end of the day, you will see many classrooms empty, while there are some areas that need such interventions but are neglected.
“If you go to some rural areas, you will see 10 blocks of classrooms and at the end of the day, only two blocks will be used.”
But the Chairman of SUBEB in the state, Dr Steve Odey, said the board was doing its best to address the challenges in primary schools..
However, the state Commissioner for Education, Gertrude Oduka, said the state government had invested billions of naira in improving standard of education in the state, adding that the government had built 305 primary school buildings in the 27 local government areas of the state.
Sokoto records high enrolment rate but facilities lacking
In Sokoto State, it was learnt that there had been an increase in enrolment in public primary schools, but the infrastructure could not cope with the increment.
The PUNCH learnt that in the Rimawa Primary School in Goronyo Local Government Area of the state, there was an upsurge in enrolment. The headteacher, Mallam Yusuf Abdullahi, confirmed this.
But further investigations showed that infrastructure could no longer cope with the increased enrolment as classrooms were becoming dilapidated and overcrowded.
At the Rimawa Primary School, Goronyo, the buildings were dilapidated and its roofs were damaged. It was observed that many pupils sat on bare floor during classes when one of our correspondents visited the school.
When contacted, the state Commissioner for Basic and Secondary Education, Prof Aisha Madawaki, declined comment, saying she could not provide answers to inquiries on the phone.
In Gombe State, at the Local Education Authority Primary School, Kaltungo, one of our correspondents observed that the roofs of some classrooms had been blown off by wind.
The Secretary to the SUBEB in the state, Hajiya Zulaihatu Madugu, said the roofs were blown off recently by thunderstorms, adding that an assessment had been done to ascertain the level of damage.
Ekiti teachers, pupils contend with cow dung, human faeces
In Ekiti State, it was learnt that the absence of fence was affecting many primary schools in the state.
It was gathered that while teachers and pupils at the Muslim Nursery/Primary School, Iworoko Ekiti, contended with cow dung and human faeces every morning, those at the Community Nursery/Primary School, Obada, Ise Ekiti had their school farms grazed by cows.
A resident of Obada, Ise Ekiti, who identified himself simply as Emma, said, “The pupils are young. I pity seeing them cut the grass. Their teachers join them in cutting the grass, if not, the story would have been different.”
But the Commissioner for Education, Foluso Daramola, blamed the situation in the primary schools on alleged neglect for four years by the immediate-past government.
No toilets in some Enugu schools
One of our correspondents, who visited some public primary schools in Enugu State, said most of the institutions had no toilet facilities. He observed that where there were toilets, the buildings were dilapidated.
The schools visited included the Construction Primary School, Asata, inside St. Michael Catholic Church, Asata and Carter Primary School, Ogui. Others were the Practising Primary Schools 1, 2, 3 and 4, Emene, Opposite St. Patrick’s Secondary School.
It was gathered that Practising Primary Schools 1, 2, 3 and 4 had no toilet facilities and water.
It was also observed that the structures were dilapidated.
A teacher at the Practising Primary Schools, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said, “Here in this complex, we are four schools– 1, 2, 3 and 4. In this school three, we have closed to 300 pupils. We don’t have toilet facilities and water at all in the schools.”
When contacted, the Commissioner for Education, Prof Uche Eze, said, “In Enugu State, we have done so much in terms of school infrastructure and this government is still out planning on how to do more. I know before 2023 you would not recognise schools in Enugu State again.”
Schools in Osun rural areas need attention
In Osun State, visits by one of our correspondents to schools in some rural areas revealed that pupils were learning under terrible conditions.
The schools visited included the Saint Paul’s Elementary School, Ilase Ijesa, in Obokun Local Government Area; Local Authority Elementary/Middle School, Dagbolu in Ifelodun Local Government and the Christ Apostolic Church Elementary/Middle School, Idi Ogungun, Boripe Local Government Area of the state.
At the Saint Paul’s Elementary School, Ilase Ijesa, The PUNCH observed that although some classrooms were still relatively conducive for learning, many buildings there were dilapidated.
Reacting, the Supervisor, Osun State Ministry of Education, Mr Kola Omotunde-Young, though did not dismiss The PUNCH’s findings, listed many schools in the rural areas that the immediate past administration and the present one had rehabilitated across the state.
In Lagos State, one of our correspondents on Friday observed that at the Alakoto Nursery and Primary School in Olodi Apapa, the classrooms were in a poultry-like shed.
A teacher, who confided in The PUNCH, said the school, which is not far from a market, had no sick bay, library and playground.
Also, the correspondent noticed that new buildings at the Oremeji Primary School in Tolu Complex and Ibafon Nursery and Primary School on Jones Waribi Street, were built by various organisations.
It was observed that although the school at Oremeji had a government-constructed building, only the top floor was in use. The bottom floor was uninhabited.
When contacted on the state of disrepair of public primary schools, the SUBEB chairman in the state, Ganiu Sopeyin, said he would not comment until after the Children’s Day celebration.
Also, the SUBEB Public Relations Officer, Ademuyiwa Akitoye, said he did not have enough information to speak on the matter.