Situation reports from Federal Government colleges, and what PTA and old students associations are doing to help
Students defecate anywhere they could find space
By Chika Abanobi
They say photographs do not lie. The photos you see here depict the situation of things, physical infrastructure-wise, in some of the Federal government colleges, otherwise known as Unity Schools. Together, they show the kind of environment in which our children learn, situation far from the ideal, and, definitely, a long cry from the one under which their parents or sponsors studied, in years gone by.
Take for instance, Federal Government College, Ilorin (FGCI), Kwara State. The co-educational institution said to have produced the likes of Donald Duke, former governor of Cross Rivers State, Alhaji Aminu Shehu Shagari, son of Alhaji Shehu Shagari, Nigeria’s ex-civilian President (1979-1983), and today, Member, House of Representatives, Hassan Bello of Nigeria Shippers Council, Steve Nwosu, Deputy Managing Director/Deputy Editor-in-Chief, The Sun Publishing Ltd, publishers of The Sun titles, Dr. Folashade Yemi-Esan, Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Education, not to talk of other movers and shakers of Nigerian society, is, today, nothing but a shadow of its former self, infrastructure-wise.
Please, do not believe anybody who tells you there are no good structures there. There are: such as the administrative and ICT blocks built by University Basic Education Commission (UBEC) and STEP-B Projects, and the ultra-modern mosques and chapel built, respectively, by the Muslim organization and Catholic Church, for students and staff use. Not to talk of the iron-reinforced beautiful painted school gate, which Layi Olawiyola, The Sun correspondent in Ilorin, confessed, is capable of making a first-time visitor mistake the school for an institution of higher learning.
Old versus new structures
But enter inside and you will find that the bad, dilapidated structures far outstrip the few good buildings standing on its vast landscape. To start with, the fence that used to separate the school from the surrounding community is gone making it possible for the school to virtually merge with the community. That puts the security of the kids at risk. In fact, on some days, you could see cattle grazing lazily on the grass field that has taken over the school compound, while their herdsmen watch. The field tracks of yesteryears that helped to put the school’s name on the state and sometimes national map of secondary schools sports competition, are, today, non-existent as the field has been taken over by weed while the mini stadium has fallen into serious disuse.
There are some buildings in which there are no toilets making some of the students to defecate anywhere they could find space including the common rooms. In some of the buildings, instead of water closet (WC) system, you find pit toilets, all messed up. And some of the classrooms and dormitories are nothing to write home about. In some of them you find scanty plastic chairs and beds. Some dormitories don’t have light fittings while in some you see naked wires sticking out from the sockets and posing mortal danger to careless or carefree students. And the laboratories lack scientific equipment.
A parent, Alhaji Saka Alaro, complained about the school fees being on the high side. Calling on the school authorities and government to address this important issue that has been a source of friction between the PTA and the school, he wondered aloud why parents should end up paying well over N120, 000 while the fees are officially pegged at N25, 500 for old students and N55, 5000 for new intakes.
A matter of utmost concern
This situation, The Sun Education understands, is giving sleepless nights to its old students who used to know the school when it was the school to be and to beat. “What we found on ground is not impressive at all,” Jummai Ndalugi, the current National President of the school’s Old Students Association (OSA) admitted. She and her new executives were sworn into office in February this year. “And, from what we’ve found out, it is not peculiar to our school.”
She is absolutely correct. The story is more or less, the same in virtually the 104 Federal Government colleges scattered across the country. Although some efforts are being made to redress the situation, by the Federal Government parastatals like UBEC, charged with such responsibilities, such efforts are turning out to be like a drop of water in a mighty ocean: they hardly make much impression to anybody who was a recipient of education under the Unity School system, in the days of its glory, because the decay has been allowed to fester over the years.
Paul Orude who visited Federal Government Girls College, Bauchi, reports that although the school seemed to be in good shape, when compared with others, its primary school arm presents a very ugly face. While its volleyball, basket courts appear to be in use, its football pitch and tracks fields have been completely taken over by grasses which are “as tall as an adult. When I drove round, the overgrown grasses almost swallowed up my car.”
But one of the teachers who confided in him said the problem of the school is not so much with facilities or infrastructure as with the condition of service of teachers. “It is terrible,” he said. “We are yet to get our promotion arrears of 2010, 2011 and 2013 while some of us have not been paid salary of July, August and September, 2013. When it comes to promotion the directorate cadre we are not considered. Recently about 600 of us went for promotion and only 43 were promoted. This can affect the morale of the teachers and staff and lead to low productivity.”
George Onyejiuwa, The Sun correspondent in Imo, who was at Government Secondary School, Owerri, lamented the state of physical infrastructures at the state-owned government school founded in 1932. “A visitor to premier government secondary school in the state will quickly notice that indeed most of the “ancient” school blocks need some upgrading. Although the state government has built additional five classroom blocks to ease off the pressure on the existing ones, one of the teachers who did not want his name in print pointed out that the school which now has a student population of about 4,300 is overpopulated and that the current facilities needs to be expanded.”
“He added that most of the senior’s science laboratories, especially the biological laboratory, is in bad shape and needs to be re-equipped for the students. He also disclosed that even the refectory needs urgent attention as the building was erected in the colonial times and that the school needs a better one. The building housing the dining and the kitchen has become very old and dilapidated, and it was observed that the students had to take their meals sitting on bare floor of the veranda of what is supposed to be the dining hall. An SS1 student who lives in one of the hostels said that their major problem is that the lavatories have no water and need to be changed.”
Science of sadness
At Federal Science and Technical College, Ilesa, Osun State, Clement Adeyi, our correspondent in Osogbo, reports that power supply is epileptic and there is no money to buy diesel to power the generators. Aladesu Michael, the PTA chairman of the school claimed that this started being the case following the slashing by Adamu Adamu, the Minister of Education, of the levy payable by Parents Teachers Association (PTA), from N7, 500 to N5, 000.
While commending the Federal Government for coming to the rescue of the students by its prompt response in posting the new principal to the school and ensuring rapid renovation of the dilapidated structures, he, however, called on the Federal Government to allow its members to contribute to the funding of the school by providing basic needs that could guarantee quality education for their children and wards.
Arguing that funding of education was no longer the exclusive business of government, especially in this time of economic recession, he stated it was through the N7, 500 being paid by each parent that the association was able to cater for the salaries and allowances of teachers engaged by the body. But now it is finding it difficult to do so since the minister ordered reduction of the levy to N5, 000.
“We need about N400 million to put things in order,” Ndalugi told The Sun Education concerning the appalling situation at FCGI. As at now, the body has chapters in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, etc. “Any class or sect that wants to donate should come through the national body. We have divided the work to be done at FCGI in seven phases; the first is the living condition, the dormitories, the toilets. The laboratories are something else; there are no apparatuses, no equipment to use. And people are coming up with different ideas.
“We are soliciting for funds but as we do so, my executives and I are all for total transparency. Old students are willing to help but they must see our transparency. We also have a chapter in the UK but people want to see that, ok, I am sending my money not for people to corner for their own personal use but for it to be used for what it was meant for. A lot of us in government parastatals and private establishments should come together, go back to our alma mater and see what we can do to help the situation.
“We can set the pace and be the trailblazers. We can give scholarships; some people can build up the dilapidated sports facilities; those of us that can do something to help with the nutrition aspect, the quality of food that the students eat, can do so. Of course, we will love to work with the Federal Government because we have some of us working in the Federal Ministry of Education.”