Confusion as mechanics, pupils battle for space in Enugu crumbling school - HorlarMedia.Com


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Monday, March 2, 2020

Confusion as mechanics, pupils battle for space in Enugu crumbling school

Decay infrastructure, dearth of teachers, lack of toilet facilities and encroachment by auto mechanics have combined to make teaching and learning difficult for pupils of the Emene Practicing Schools 1, 2, 3 and 4 in the Enugu East Local Government Area of Enugu State, RAPAEL EDE writes

Ugwu Sochima is a primary four pupil of the Practicing Primary School, 4, Emene in the Enugu-East Local Government Area of Enugu State. His school is located along Airport-Emene-Eke-Obianagu road by old Abakaliki road opposite the famous St. Patrick Secondary School, Emene.

Sochima, a 10-year-old boy, is desirous of a prosperous tomorrow, which quality education can give.  That is why he has not forgot his father’s admonition to get education by all means.

However, this dream of his may not become a reality due to poor infrastructure in his school.

In an interview with The PUNCH, he said, “My father told me that he did not go to school because his parents did not know the value of education then. He said they taught him how to farm. ‘I am sending you to school to acquire education so you will not suffer like me and your mother.’

“But I regret to say that since I started school we are only learning under a leaky roof. We don’t know what is called a school toilet, no water, no perimeter fence, no security, no library, and no chairs. We sit on bare floor.”

When our correspondent visited the school complex last week Monday, most of Sochima’s claims were confirmed. The dilapidated complex housing four schools, with a population of over 1,350 pupils, is the only public primary school complex servicing the densely populated Emene town.

The pupils and teachers race to the surrounding bush to answer the call of nature any time they are pressed.

Our correspondent’s visit also confirmed the worst fears because the school compound had been turned into a mechanic workshop while the field had become a training ground for intending drivers. Pupils stay and learn in noisy environment.

One of the senior teachers, who pleaded anonymity for fear of possible persecution, told The PUNCH that all the head teachers had written several letters to the Ministry of Education to draw the government attention to the institution’s state of disrepair but nothing had been done.

“There is nothing like toilet or urinal facilities in the school. We have four schools in this complex. There is no water in the entire complex; when the state Universal Basic Education Board renovated one of the classroom blocks, I felt they would use the opportunity to build toilet facilities for the four schools but that did not happen.

“So I liaised with the other teachers so that we can use the old zinc they removed from the building to construct a urinal facility and we agreed to contribute N5,000 each to build the toilet but that has not been done because the teachers say don’t  have money… We are not happy that our pupils go to the bush to defecate while the little ones defecate in the open field.

“The school complex is not fenced. People use the classrooms as chalet because there is no security. We always thank God that nothing untoward has happened to any of our children as a result of the porous nature of our school. We are not pleased with such situation but what can we do?,” the head teacher lamented.

A female teacher in one of the schools told our correspondent that though supervisors from the state education board knew about its porous nature and poor infrastructure, nothing had been done about it.

She said, “A child will come to school but you do not know when he or she will leave the school premises. We don’t have teachers. In short, I teach nursery 1, 2, and 3. They are over 120 pupils combined and only me is teaching them.

“Those children we are cheating today will in 20 years time come to terrorise us. We are sending our children overseas and private schools to study, they will surely come back to meet those children their fathers have cheated to steal and destroy everything they have laboured for.

“They will terrorise you that you will have no peace. We are cheating ourselves thinking that we are cheating the children of the poor because the popular thinking is that those children in public schools are children of the poor.”

The teacher noted that because of lack of basic infrastructure in the school and poor hygiene, pupils are often infected with diseases which keep them out of school for days.

“It is so bad that when a child defecates in my class I will have to go to my house nearby to get water to clean the child and the class. When visitors come to the school and he or she is pressed they will come and call me to open my house for the visitor to defecate,” she added.

Sochima, however, appealed to the state government to come to his school’s aid.

He said, “We need toilet and water facilities in our school. We need good chairs in our classrooms. We need our school to be fenced so that we can be protected. We need security in our school. We want all the leaky roofs to be renovated. We need a library. The government should please come and help us”

But investigations  by our correspondent showed that about 50 per cent of primary schools in Enugu State are without toilet facilities, over 50 per cent of the existing structures were in deplorable conditions; leaky roof, lack of water and school desk, inadequate teachers are the hallmarks of these schools.

But is it that the state lacks the financial wherewithal to take care of its schools?  Finding from the Universal Basic Education Commission, shows that as at July 22, 2019 Enugu State has yet to access  the UBEC matching grant for the year 2011-2012; 2015-2016; 2017; 2018; and 2019 totalling N3,464,873,598.26.

This fund is lying there waiting for the government to access and use it to improve the standard of education in the state primary and post-primary schools.

But why has the state government not been able to access the UBEC fund, the state Commissioner for Education, Prof. Uche Eze, did not respond to enquiries The PUNCH sent to his mobile phone. He also did not answer several calls to his phone as it rang out.

But the Chairman of the State Universal Basic Education, Chief Ikeje Asogwa, responded. But he only said, “The issues are about being addressed. We have some challenges. Thanks for your concern.”

Meanwhile, the state has allocated the N1bn out of its N169.56bn budget for 2020 for the construction of public conveniences in the state.

The state Commissioner for Budget and Planning, David Ugwunta, while addressing newsmen during the 2020 budget breakdown said the decision to construct conveniences was in keeping with the resolve of the Federal Government to end open defecation by 2025.

He did not however said whether public schools including Sochima’s would benefit from the projector or not.

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