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Dayo's Standpoint

Whither Education in Nigeria - 1

Whither Education in Nigeria - 1

 

By Dayo Balogun

Three years ago, April 2010 to be precise, National Examination Council (NECO) released the results of the November/ December 2009 NECO GCE examinations. The news that 98 per cent out of 238,682 candidates that sat the examination failed filled me with trepidation.

Yes, 98 per cent was reported to have failed to achieve 5 Credits including English and Mathematics! As if the result announced was not bad enough, the Registrar of NECO announced 236,613 cases of examination malpractices were discovered during the examinations. Only 12,197 which represented about 5.2 per cent of those that sat for the examination achieved five credits and above irrespective of subjects. Only a meagre 4,223 got five credits which included English and Mathematics.

 

I was shaken. I wondered what the causes of such woeful examination results were. Don’t get me wrong, I knew there were problems with Nigeria`s educational sector at all levels but I did not know it had got that bad. I sat similar examinations less than two decades ago and results were not that horrifying.

Photo: Classroom Sample School One

Early this year, one of my friends planning a to set up an education charity specifically focusing on providing material help to primary and secondary schools traveled to Lagos Nigeria to assess the situation on the ground and select primary schools he will be starting with. While in Nigeria, he visited over 24 public primary schools, spoke to some of the teachers, head-teachers and took over 120 photographs. In his words, what he saw on the ground was by far heart-rending than what he had bargained for. He said that he had to struggle hard to hold back tears from becoming visible to those who accompanied him on the trip.

 

Having seen his report and photographs taken while visiting the public state funded primary schools, I can tell you that I wept for the children attending the supposed public primary schools he visited. I am now beginning to understand factors that must have caused the results of NECO GCE examinations earlier highlighted.

 

Knowing Nigeria to be what it is today, I might not have been dumfounded if the primary schools he visited are in far remote villages and hamlets. What brought tears to my eyes was the fact that these schools are in the middle of metropolitan Lagos. I am not saying that it is acceptable for schools in far remote areas of the country to be in the state of total decay, infrastructural and material breakdown but the fact that these schools are in the middle of an urban mega city like Lagos saddens me.

Photo: School building

I have selected a few of the photographs taken by my friend to show the extent of deterioration of infrastructures and material resources in the schools he visited. Classrooms with pot holes, without doors, windows or adequate furniture and leaking roof which lead to flooded classrooms anytime it rains. None of the schools he visited is connected to electricity or clean pipe borne water. The toilets as you can see in two of the photos are totally broken down.

 

In all the over 24 primary schools visited, there was either no staff room or the designated room for staff has been abandoned due to state of disrepair, there are no libraries, not enough desks and chairs for the school pupils and some of them have to sit on the floor “to learn!” These photographs remind me of the similarly appalling state of disrepair at the National Police College, Ikeja, Lagos State as reported by Channels Television.

 

Due to the lack of doors, windows or any form of security, the classrooms are said to be turned into haven for thugs and drug dealers at night time. These undesirable elements not only use the classrooms as hideouts at night, they leave behind human excrement that the children have to first cleanup upon their arrival in their supposed school first thing every morning. In addition, serious shortage of appropriately trained qualified teachers was noted.

Photo: Classrooms with pot holes, without doors, windows or adequate furniture and leaking roof which lead to flooded classrooms anytime it rains.

Some of the head teachers that were interviewed who asked for anonymity said that they have made repeated reports to local government and the state education authorities to no avail. In fact, my friend was advised that there are no rooms to keep any books or facilities donated to the schools until the infrastructures are improved. They said that concerned parents have been withdrawing their children at an unprecedented rate. Who could blame them? Animals should not be kept in the buildings of these primary schools not to talk of human beings and most especially our children who are leaders of tomorrow!. To be honest, I don’t know it has gotten this bad. This definitely isn’t the legacy pioneered by the Late Chief Obafemi Awolowo.

 

If any public primary school in Lagos State that claims to be 'centre of excellence' is in this state of disrepair, I wonder what is going on in other public primary schools in far remote areas of other states in Nigeria. The number or percentage of public primary and secondary schools in disrepair in Lagos state or the whole of Nigeria is not known but I hope you will agree with me that even one school is this state of disrepair, is one too many and renovating them should be a number one priority for any serious government. Foundation of sound education is laid in the primary school. If this findings represent any significant percentage of the state of Nigeria`s public primary schools, the major reason for record failures by the time these children sit for examinations such as NECO GCE is crystal clear.

Photo: School bathroom facility to handle students toilet needs?

But the real concern is how we get to this state of affairs in public schools while billions of naira continues to be budgeted for education every financial year by the state and federal government. As a matter of fact, Lagos state under the “performing” governor Fashola increased recurrent expenditures on education from N28.4 Billion in 2011 to N35.4Billion in 2012 out of a total state budget of N491.827Billion. It is anything but extraordinary that the same state budgeted N96.4Billion as the overhead cost for the State Assembly Service Commission and spent between N5.33Billion and N6Billion to host National Sports Festival last year. That doesn’t appear to me to be sensible constituents of budget from a sound government that we are all led to believe. In a budget presented by the state governor for the 2013 fiscal year, the state has budgeted another N64.343Billion for education. It doesn’t add up that all the billions been budgeted and spent on education year in year out in Lagos State has not got to these dilapidated public primary schools!

 

Even if I don’t know all the factors responsible for how these schools end up in these state of disrepair, one thing I am very sure of is that children of local councilors, chairmen and chairwomen of local councils, commissioners, heads of service and the governors are most definitely not attending these affected schools. Perhaps if their children are attending these schools, urgent steps would have been taken to address these problems before now. Provision of a conducive learning environment whereby these school buildings are immediately repaired, equipped and secured does not automatically translate into good education but at the very least, doing that means a start.

 

These children deserve better from a country with land flowing with milk and honey. I am very sure elected politicians and other public servants understand the importance of good education because they send their children to the best well equipped public and private schools in Nigeria or educate their children overseas. The fact that there are different calibres of such private schools at various levels of education in Nigeria is a discourse for another day. How come the same politicians elected by people whose children attend these run-down schools and put in charge of affairs do not act with immediate alacrity to make public schools in this state of abject disrepair a thing of the past? At least, what is good for the goose is good for the gander.

 

I do understand that the decay of public educational infrastructures didn’t happen overnight. Yes, I sincerely get that. However, I do not and cannot understand why any public school in Lagos State remains in dire state of disrepair after fourteen years and counting of civilian rule under ACN party of ex-governor Bola Tinubu and present governor Raji Fashola in Lagos State! All I am hoping for is immediate and urgent attention to be paid to these public schools. Immediate strategy should be drawn up and their implementation should start without any further delay, to renovate all public schools at all levels. I hope doing that for the electorates, common men and women is not asking for too much? I would argue that is part and parcel of the dividends of democracy.

   

I have focused this article on Lagos state in view of the fact that all the affected public primary schools I am referring to and whose photos are featured are under the direct auspices of the state government. Federal government`s focus and attention on education sector is even worse. In 2012, N400.15Billion, 8.43 per cent of the total national budget was allocated to education with N345.091Billion (82%) for recurrent expenditure and diminutive N55.056Billion (18%) for capital expenditure. Nigeria spends less that 9 per cent of her annual budget on education and is yet to achieve UNESCO recommendation that at least 26% of a country`s budget should be allocated to education. For instance South Africa spends 25.8%; Ghana - 31%; Cote d`Ivoire - 30%; Uganda - 27%; Morocco - 17.7% and Lesotho - 17% on education.

 

Watch out for part 2

 

You can reach Dayo by e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or follow him on twitter @OneDeryor