Special Reports

SPECIAL REPORT: Inside Ogun Schools Where Students Learn In Collapsed Classrooms (Part I)

Infrastructural decay is one of the reasons Ogun State has recorded high figures of out-of-school children. ADETUTU SOBOWALE who toured some parts of Ogun West, came across many schools that are decrepit.

The road to Kakanfo, a rural community in Yewa-North Local Government is rough and dusty. As I sighted the broken-roofed school, I asked myself whether it is possible to learn in a classroom without a cover.

Aside from broken roofs, the building has no doors or windows. The situation occasioned by the dilapidated school had so many times forced teachers to shut down school whenever it’s about to rain. PLATFORM TIMES gathered that some of the lazy students always pray for rain because they know once it’s about to rain, their teachers will announce the closure of the school for the day.

Parents and teachers in this community have a bitter tale of how much the situation of the school has made many of their children lose interest in education

Abiodun Micheal, a farmer, has lived in this community with his family for over a decade. In the month of September, as the school prepared to resume the first term academic session, two of his children lost interest in education. They said they are fed up of going to school.

His ten-year-old son and eight-year-old daughter woke up one morning and decided to forget about schooling. Later, they went straight to the farm and resumed farming activities.

“On that morning, both of them walked to where I was sitting under the tree and told me that they are not interested in going back to school, I thought it was one of their pranks but, I found out that they are fed up,” he said.

“They are not sound, they don’t know anything, not only them, almost all the students we have in that school cannot communicate in English, not that I understand English too but at least I know when someone is speaking English, our children here don’t speak something like that,” he added.

“You have checked the classrooms, I don’t need to start telling you again that teachers used to tell them to go home whenever it’s about to rain. When the sun is scorching, they manage like that. I cannot blame them for saying they are not interested in going back to school.”

As of October 2022, about 20 million children are out of school in Nigeria, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). This figure is a far-reaching increase from the 10.5 million recorded by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in 2020.

The World Bank said Nigeria is experiencing learning poverty in which 70 percent of 10-year-olds cannot understand a simple sentence or perform basic numeracy tasks.

According to the data, Ogun State housed 26 percent of the out-of-school children in Nigeria.

Former president, Olusegun Obasanjo had described the rising number of out-of-school children as a time bomb waiting to explode. The former president said children who found themselves in such a situation will transform into Boko Haram if the government fails to return them back to their classrooms.

Despite billions of naira claimed to have been spent by the present government and the previous governments on intervention on school projects, many schools within the state are still left in their dilapidated condition.

School without cover

With the claim of the state government on prioritizing education, this reporter proceeded to the Local Government Primary School, Kakanfo, a rural community in Yewa-North Local Government, expecting to be welcomed by the development but she came across a school with open roof, yet students are still learning in the classrooms.

Bolanle, a primary four pupil of the school said “We have been attending classes in this condition for a long time. We don’t have a choice, except if we don’t want to go to school again because this is is the only school here.”

The reporter also spoke with parents whose children attend the school, they lamented the situation of the school, urging the government to come to their aid.

Clay classrooms

Due to a lack of funds and support from the concerned authorities, the reconstruction of a public primary school has been difficult for almost a decade.

At, Yewa North Local Government Primary School, Gbokoto, a rural community in Ketu area of Yewa, students learn in clay molded classrooms.

The unlucky pupils began to experience learning in a bad situation after a heavy rain overpowered and wiped off their cemented-made three blocks of classrooms in 2012.

Rather than halting the pupils’ education, leaders in the community approached several government agencies for the reconstruction of their only school but all their efforts to get it renovated were unsuccessful despite writing several letters to the state ministry of education.

The development forced leaders of the community to start fund rasing among themselves for the reconstruction of their only school.

After they had raised funds, what they could only afford was three classrooms made with clay and without windows and doors.

P.T.A Chairman of the school, Fakonbi Paul told the reporter that several times, the school had sought the government’s intervention but nothing has been done to assist them in the community.

“The building was a UBEC project, it collapsed after a heavy rain last year. We wrote to the government but nothing was done, when we saw that the expectation wasn’t forthcoming, the community held a meeting and we decided to construct this mold classroom with the assistance of our Kabiyesi.”

UBEC intervention

The collapsed structure of Yewa North Local Government Primary School, Gbokoto is a project facilitated by Universal Basic Education (UBEC) in 2012.

The building was awarded to a private contractor whose identity has not been ascertained but sources said he resides in Lagos.

Though, details of the project will be reviewed in the next part of this story available documents showed that the construction was awarded with billions of naira.

Before it collapsed, the three blocks of classrooms were roofed with a green roof, showing that it was one of those projects facilitated during the administration of Ibikunle Amosun as governor of the state.

While authorities of the school blamed the contractor for using sub-standard materials for the construction, the contractor claimed he “managed those materials because the fund that was made available to him to execute the project was not enough”.

Pupils left

A teacher in the school who requested not to be named because of the fear of attack told the reporter that “many of the pupils have stopped coming to school.”

The teacher said only a few of the children in the community are attending classes because there “are no facilities to take care of their education.”

Ajoke Jimoh, a primary four pupil of the school who spoke with the reporter after closing hours also said her attention and that of her colleagues used to get diverted whenever they were in classrooms.

“Goats, hens, and dogs used to enter our classrooms whenever we were having lectures. It used to disturb us whenever we were having lessons,”

The ten-year-old girl said those who had dropped out of school might have left because they used to sweep the defecation of goats, hens, and dogs every morning whenever they got to school.

“Whenever we get to class every morning, we used to see the defecation of those animals, the first person to get to the school will be the person to sweep the feces, that was the instruction our teacher gave us. Maybe that is the reason why some have refused to come to school,” she added.

Students clustered in classrooms

Due to the lack of intervention from the government and concerned agencies, leaders of the community could not afford more than three classrooms despite that they used clay.

The school occupying almost a hundred students now lumped their students together in the only available three classrooms.

The primary four pupils said, primary two, three, and four pupils were clamped together in one classroom.

“Primary 2, 3 and 4 were clamped together in a single classroom, 5 and 6 were clamped in another single classroom and primary 1 are using a single classroom, They’re about 30 in their classroom,” she said.

The 10- year-old pupil hinted that pupils of different stages were clamped together because the school lacked enough space.

“We were told that the reason why they clamped us together was that there is no classroom again.”

Refugee

Sources within the community said most of their children preferred to attend schools in Benin Republic than in Nigeria because of their standards.

Gbokoto is a border community sharing a boundary with the neighboring Benin Republic.

A resident of the area who identified himself as Oloko said, he took his children from the school in Gbokoto and enrolled them in another school in Benin Republic because he wanted a better education for his children.

“I had to take them to Benin Republic to act as refugees so that they can go to good schools and learn better things,” Oloko said.

“It is not only my children that are there, they are many Nigerians going to refugee so that they can have education, you know education is affordable there and we are now enlightened that education is good. One of the things that affected us was that our parents did not give us education and we don’t want that for our own children.”

Read the next development in the Part II of this report.

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