• A sad tale of two Nigeria’s poorest schools
• itel: ‘Many of the students don’t have books, school bags or biros to write with,
so they go begging in class’
•Parent: ‘It is because our children are desirous of education we plead with them to bear with a situation we know too well is not comfortable for them’
By Moshood Adebayo and Jet Stanley-Madu
They are, unarguably, Nigeria’s poorest schools. And, if they are not, then they are something close. While one of them, Local Government Nursery and Primary School, Jagunna, Ewekoro Local Government Area, Ogun State is located within a poultry farmhouse built, some years ago, by the local government council, to rear layers and broilers to augment the local council’s internally generated revenue, the other, ABQ Nursery and Primary School, Awodiora, Olodi, Apapa, Lagos is built in a squalor of a such a dirty environment that nobody in their right senses would want to send their wards there to learn. But for now, that’s the best the poor area can afford.
The Ewekoro-based school is said to have been built through the effort of former local government chairman of the area, one Mr. Soluade, to take in student population overflow from its parent school somewhere and to make sure that school-age children there have a place they could call their own to go to school. But during rainy reason, every year the more than 500 pupils schooling there are forced to go on vacation because of leaking roofs and walls.
Mr. Mufutau Oseni, one of the parents, confessed they had to beg their children to endure the ignonimous situation because of their desire for education.
Doing something concerning the situation
They pleaded with the state government and its education authorities to do something concerning the situation but nobody seemed to listen until Oando Foundation, led by its Head, Mrs. Adekanola Adegoke, came to the rescue of the poor parents and their children by building for them and handing over for their use, a befitting block of six classrooms that costs millions of naira. “At Oando Foundation, we believe that every child has a right to quality education,” she told The Sun Education during the handover ceremony. Another block of two classrooms are said to be under construction by Hon. Ibrahim Isiaka, representing the Ewekoro Federal Constituency at the House of Representatives.
If the days of schooling and suffering are over for pupils of Local Government Nursery and Primary School, Jagunna, Ewekoro, thanks to the visionary adopt-a-school policy of Oando Foundation, not so for pupils of ABQ Nursery and Primary School, Awodiora, Olodi, Apapa, who have to continue to endure the stench around them from the unhygienic environment in which it is located, although itel Mobile Care Initiative School Support set up as part of the company’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programmes, visited the school recently to donate school bags to the pupils. For once, the poor students had something to rejoice about in the visit made possible by the intervention of its ex-student, Ikenna Asomba, formerly, an online correspondent with Vanguard newspapers but now Managing Director/Chief Executive (MD/CEO), Heritage Media Consults, a start-up social media promotional company based in Victoria Island, Lagos.
He, it was, who not only put the photos of the dilapidated state of buildings and other poor infrastructures of the school on social media but also practically compelled officials of itel Mobile Care Initiative to visit the school to see things for themselves.
But adopting a school is different from supporting it. Even though ABQ is privately owned, it needs urgent help, if not from government then from any public-spirited individual. This is the view of not only the proprietor, Mr. Abdul Quadri Qasim, who complained of lack of funds to put in place some befitting physical structures in the school located in a dirty environment, that is, by all standards, an eyesore, but the opinion also of Asomba, and of Digital Marketing Supervisor, Mr. Oke Umurhohwo, and the Marketing Manager, Mr. Abel Huo, of itel Mobile Care.
Why things change, yet remain the same
Mr. Quasim who revealed that there was nothing like any citadel of learning, at whatever level, anywhere around the area before they got there, noted that it is like they are doing a charitable work among the people as they charged about N2, 000 as school fees, before it was recently raised to something close to about N4, 000 because of the economy. This is the reason, he said, he is not able to raise enough capital to put up befitting structures there.
“Most of the teachers are not even living around here,” he said. “When they come to work, the first thing I tell them is that this is a very low level area. Be prepared to take it the way it is. But, I tell you, they are not even working for the money. They are just passionate. They are committed. They’re being paid just a token, according to the token we collect as school fees.”
“Many of the students do not have basic school accessories,” says Umurhohwo. “Many don’t have books. Some don’t even have school bags or biros to write with and so go begging in class. So, we said, let’s give back to the society by going to the key sector. If you want to help develop Nigeria, it should be on the education sector because education is key to the development of any country. This is why we decided to develop our CSR policy in that direction, to help the education sector in any way we can.”
“We are doing this not merely as a brand business,” Huo added. “We feel obligated to do something. So, we want to give back to the society and our target audience is lower-income class people, to make life better for them.” He appealed to “more people and organizations to join us and show love and care.”
Truly, the school needs it. The entire stretch of road leading to its premises does not show an environment safe for human habitation, let alone a place for grooming the nation’s future leaders. In the first instance, the road/street is paved with refuse consisting of cellophanes (nylon) bags and other decomposing wastes.
Virtually, every house has its makeshift toilet and bath on the street, bordering the carnal and peoples’ homes. The conveniences are constructed with corrugated roofing sheets. The combination of the foul smell oozing from the toilets and baths with stench coming from the carnal is not only offensive but detrimental to health.
In spite of the unpleasant smell, you could see children dashing from one end of the street to the other while their parents who were busy plying their trades, mostly sale of local gin, sit idly by and watch them playing.
Getting the true picture
The school is built on half plot of land, fenced with used woodplanks and rusted zincs. Stench from its toilet which adjoins the fence, wafts through to a visitor’s nostrils. While some parts of the school are made with bricks, sizeable portion of the L-shaped structure classroom is built with plywood.
Wood chalkboards are used to partition the classrooms. Chairs are an aberration. What could pass for seats consist of two sets of dilapidated benches. While the pupils sit on the lower ones, they place their exercise books and write on the higher. Within the school compound, stench from refuse dumps intermingle with the smell emanating from a dirty gutter close by to make the atmosphere in the school premises uncomfortable.
These are the unhealthy conditions Asomba who rates his alma mater very high in terms of teaching and learning, had vowed to use his power as a journalist to get the state government led by Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode to change.He added that it was when he passed through there that he knew that he, a genius in his former school, a public school, didn’t know anything,
“Rather than only taxing the hell out of private schools, it’s my hope that governments across all levels can initiate the giving of intervention funds to private schools,” he said. “This would most definitely aid the advancement of the country. You know what? An educated people make a better country.”