INVESTIGATION: Why Nigeria should declare a State of Emergency on public primary education
On the 9th of April, 2019, the Tracka Nigeria, via its Twitter handle @TrackaNg, published pictures of a school named Community Primary school. It is located at a small town known as Ajegunle within the Ipokia local government area, Ogun state, Nigeria. The pictures show pupils sitting on bare floors or bricks to learn.
Few days after, the TOWN CRIER Team visited the said school for an on-ground inspection.
From the video report submitted by our team, the school has two buildings where teaching takes place. One of the building, which was commissioned in May, 2009, has 70% of its roof pulled off, and its classrooms were either without learning chairs and desks or damaged ones.
Meanwhile the second building can be safely mistaken for a place that has just been destroyed by an explosive attack. It is in a terribly deserted and dilapidated condition. It has no window. It has no learning chairs. It has no learning desks, and to make matters worse, instead of a roof, what were seen were palm fronds. The pupils learn either seated on bare floor or on broken bricks that littered around classroom.
Our Team reported that nothing suggests that the school has a toilet, let alone a recreational center.
However, on the same site, another building was seen. It carries an inscription that reads: “FGN/UBEC 2018 Community Project”. Although, it has a conducive ulterior, the state of its interior could not be documented, as the building was under lock and keys.
On anonymous ground, one of the teachers told TOWN CRIER that the building has been completed since 2018. But the authorities would rather have the pupils subjected to the dilapidated classrooms.
Meanwhile, it is important to state that the embarrassing state of the Ajegunle (Ipokia) Community Primary School is one out of the numerous that exist in most of the primary schools across Nigeria.
Although the Nigerian government officially claims basic education is free and compulsory and that a primary education with standard facilities to ensure that every Nigerian child receives qualitative education is its priority, investigation reveals contrary, as monies budgeted for educational projects/facilities are either embezzled or mismanaged.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) recently reported that about 10.5 million Nigerian children aged 5-14 years are not in school. Only 61 percent of 6-11 year-olds regularly attend primary school and only 35.6 percent of children aged 36-59 months receive early childhood education.
“In north-eastern Nigeria, 2.8 million children are in need of education-in-emergencies support in three conflict-affected States (Borno, Yobe, Adamawa). In these States, at least 802 schools remain closed and 497 classrooms are listed as destroyed, with another 1,392 damaged but repairable,” UNICEF went further.
Our Team spoke with Mrs Kabiru Adeola, a widow in her late thirties who said her fourteen-year-old daughter has never attended a school since her birth. During school hours, Mrs. Adeola and her daughter, Bolakale, hawk kerosene throughout the community. This has been Bolakale’s continued fate since she became seven years old.
Mrs Adeola told TOWN CRIER how her unfavorable economic conditions have made it impossible to fulfill her dream of making her daughter acquire formal education. She says the sales from her petty labour can only cater for their feeding.
The mother who spoke in yoruba and almost breaking down in tears, said:
“Who does not like schooling? I also want my child to be able to read and write and to also be able to walk confidently with her shoulders high. I want to be a proud mother too. But how can I achieve that with several fees leveled. I want her to go to school. But definitely not now. The money we currently make can only save us from the death of hunger.”
Although the governments in Nigeria, from the local, state and federal levels, have consistently said tuiton fees aren’t charged in any public schools. There are several charges which appear obnoxious.
For instance, in Oyo state, students are charged what is described as ‘Government Levy’. They call this money ‘Owo Ajimobi’ (Ajimobi’s money), which is amounted at three thousand every session. Students, who are supposed to be learning also pay the sum of three thousand naira for tax levy. Other fees they pay include, School fees, Exam fees, Test fees, among others.
These fees aren’t limited to Oyo state. In Delta state, the name Success Adegor, of Okotie-Eboh Primary School I, Sapele, should ring a bell. She was the seven-year old pupil whose visual rant went viral after she was sent home due to her parents’ inability to pay the sum of Eight Hundred Naira, meant for her examination fee.
While the cause of the 10.5 million Nigerian out-of-school children can be attributed to parental financial incapacitation via imposition of several fees on pupils (as the case of little Bolakale shows), socio-cultural norms and practices that discourage attendance in formal education, especially for girls (as predominant in the northern part), the most alarming factor is the negligence of the Nigerian government to prioritise public primary education and provide conducive learning conditions, as the case of the Ipokia Community Primary School shows.
In the light of the above, it is no gainsaying that there is an alarming need for the Nigerian government to urgently declare a State of Emergency in the public primary schools. Nation building is architectural, and as the foundational build-up of every structure is the most essential part of architecture, so also is the process of nation building. The quality of a nation’s indigenous data reporters, engineers, medical doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs et cetera largely rest upon the quality of its primary education.
As the Universal Basic Education programme promotes, primary education should be free and be TRULY FREE. Nigerian government should put an end to the hypocrisy of: basic education is free and compulsory, yet it charges several obnoxious levies. Education should be adequately funded and the funds should be religiously monitored so as to put an end to the unfortunate fate of the Bolakale’s, and the international embarrassment taken place at the Ipokia Community Primary School.