From Sola Ojo, Kaduna
Controversy is currently brewing in Chikun Local Government area of Kaduna State over the construction of a secondary school that has become dilapidated shortly after its completion.
Many have faulted the award of the contract and the subsequent building of a block of four classrooms at the Government Junior Secondary School (GJSS), Television, in the local government. Several people are of the opinion that the project is a misplaced priority, noting that it was certainly not the immediate need of the school-age children in the benefiting communities.
Available information on the website of the Kaduna State Public Procurement Agency (KADPPA), detailed that the construction of a block of four classrooms at GJSS Television, Chikun (SUBEB 2017) was budgeted contracted to M/S Salma Global Ventures for N11.724 million.
Details of the contractor were not provided on the KADPPA website, neither was there any signpost at the project site about the contractor thereby making it practically impossible to reach the company for comments.
Also, the school does not have functional School-Based Management Committee (SBMC) while the Chairman, Parents Teachers Association (PTA), Mr Kabruk, could not be reached via his mobile phone as at the time of filing this report.
But a man, who is a member of the support staff in the school, told the reporter in confidence that the construction of the block of classrooms should not have been the priority at this time.
“There was no need for this new block of four classrooms when there were existing five classrooms that could be renovated and furnished with furniture. The 1,473 students and their 40 teachers need tables and chairs more than a new building,” the man said.
He continued: “There was no time anyone came to the school on fact-finding or need assessment. They only came and told us they would be building a block of four classrooms. They did not give us any document neither did they erect any signpost at the project site for us to know what the project was all about.
“You can see the sagging roof due to inferior wood. The terrazzo was poorly finished, the doors are bad and there was a general poor supervision on the part of the implementing agency,” he added.
Further investigations by the reporter revealed that all the newly built four classrooms started leaking, while some windows and doors were off the frames shortly after the project was delivered and a certificate of completion was issued by the implementing ministry or agency.
Indeed, since the declaration of a state of emergency on education by the state governor, Nasir El-Rufai on October 1, 2015, there has been a physical transformation of many public schools from their previous pathetic state. Many are of the view though that more ground needs to be covered.
For example, the controversial dismissal of scores of teachers tagged by the state unqualified’ and their subsequent replacement by perceived qualified others, including a few of the dismissed ones who wrote the aptitude test and scaled through the interviews, the renovation and upgrade of some schools as well as the erection of perimeter fence to protect the pupils are some of the steps taken by the authorities to reposition the education sector in the state.
When a team of procurement monitors visited some of the schools within Kaduna town, there were a lot of issues begging for urgent action. These include structures in various states of disrepair, scanty furniture, poorly equipped libraries and laboratories, poor staff offices and furniture, poorly executed new State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) projects, and the inability of mostly naïve citizens to demand accountability.
A registered quantity sßurveyor with Rutfa Quantz Consultants, Timothy Benjamin, who went round some of these schools with this correspondent, lamented the failure of the executing parties to make a copy of the Bill of Quantity (BoQ) available either to the school-based management committee or the School’ Principals and head teachers.
His words: “What I have observed and think the public need to know is that the works were all poorly executed. If we have had access to the BoQ, that would have guided us in relating the content with what we can see and touch.
“But, there are still some quick checks that we could see. For example, a block of four-classrooms at the GJSS showed lack of effective supervision, especially with the finishing. This is in addition to the general substandard material such as poor finishing.
“When you know you are building for children, you use something durable. Look at the quality of the doorframe. That is why some doors have already given way. Some windows too are off the frame. Look at the roof, sagging and leaking due to the use of substandard wood.
“Even when the job is done as designed, the contractor would still smile except if the same people implementing the project have gone behind the scene to use the left hand to collect the same money they have released for the work which determined the quality of the work that the contractor did at the end of the day.
“Sometimes too, the project implementers will deliberately side-line quantity surveyors for whatever reason. What happens in such a situation is that, the quacks take over instead of professionals, and that will reflect in the final output like what we just saw. Quacks may be civil engineers or architects doing a quantity surveyor’s work,” he said.
Reacting, Permanent Member, Project Management, State Universal Basic Education Board, Kaduna, Mubarak Mohammed stated: “I think the school you are referring to is under the Ministry of Education. I doubt if it is under SUBEB. However, talking of the issue of project quality, as a government, we understand that we need to achieve 100 per cent project excellence, which is part of the steps we are taking now to scrutinise the qualifications of our contractors.
“We need to ensure that we get the right people that are capable, both technically and financially. We have seen how so many of these projects were executed but within a short period, you are left with blown off roofs, damaged ceilings and all that. Then, some of these projects are being affected by human factors such as the challenge of school footballing. We also have issues of vandalism and theft.
“Having said that, we as a board, we intend to beef up our monitoring and supervision process. We have engaged a full set of consultants that will help us to supervise these projects. We have also reinforced our project team here to ensure we complement the efforts of the supervisors to greatly monitor all the projects across the state. We believe that with the right contractors and right supervision, we will get our projects implemented at the right specification.
“Duration of the projects is also an important factor and we will see to it that most of our contractors complete their jobs within the speculated time and at the right quality,” he assured.
Commissioner for Education in the state, Shehu Makarfi, while addressing some reporters at the secretariat of the Nigerian Union of Journalists in Kaduna recently, said the state government had earmarked about N1.5 billion to renovate public schools ahead of full resumption. It was not clear, however, whether GJSS, Television was included in that plan.
Some stakeholders have noted that Kaduna is the first state in Nigeria to subscribe to the global accountability platform called Open Government Partnership (OGP) ,which mandated all its ministry and agencies to be open to citizens in its contracting and procurement processes.