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Worrisome Situation Of Public Schools In Akwa Ibom

THEWILL APP ADS 2

November 28, (THEWILL) –┬áThe administration of Architect Victor Attah in Akwa Ibom State tried a facelift in the education sector by building model public schools in the ten Federal Constituencies of the state, which had learning, recreational and boarding facilities within a school.

Similarly, the administration of Chief Godswill Akpabio introduced free and compulsory education, which saw every child of school age benefit from the scheme and basic learning materials like mathematics, English and basic science textbooks, exercise books and uniforms provided.

Apart from children of school age, adults, who did not have the opportunity of going to school embraced the opportunity of free and compulsory education and had formal education.

The gesture was graciously embraced by the present administration of Mr. Udom Emmanuel in 2015 but the condition of public schools in recent times is becoming worrisome and begs for attention.

Though the free education policy is intact, the state government still takes care of the West African Examination Council (WAEC) registration fees for final-year students in secondary schools, most public schools in Akwa Ibom State lack facilities to make the learning environment conducive for pupils and students.

THEWILL reports on good authorities that there is hardly a public primary or secondary school in the state that is complete with good writing desks, classrooms, administrative offices, staff rooms and good security conditions.

It appears that apart from paying teachers’ salaries at the end of the month, the state government has forgotten all about public schools. Such that school blocks are dilapidated, zincs fall off roofs, writing desks are either stolen by miscreants for lack of adequate security or most parents or guardians can’t afford school lockers for their wards.

A visit to some schools within the state by our correspondent in Uyo, reveals that in most schools, especially the primary schools, pupils sit on bare floors to receive lessons because, at that level, the Government is supposed to provide desks for them.

In worse cases of open-roof classrooms, this automatically means such children cannot go to school or study on rainy days or when the heat of the sun is overbearing.

In the case of secondary schools, it is included in the prospectus that each child should bring a study desk when reporting for studies at the beginning of a school year but over half of the students in some cases, still sit on the floor to study.

Tribune findings revealed that the neglect of public schools by the state government and by extension, parents and stakeholders in the education sector, led to the proliferation of private schools, which has made public schools be viewed as schools for the less privileged, who can’t afford school fees.

Some of the schools visited by our correspondent include Secondary Grammar School, Upenekang, Ibeno LGA; Primary School, Ikot Akpan Okop, Mkpat Enin LGA; St. Mary’s Practicing School, Ediene Abak, Abak LGA; Government Primary School, Ikot Anyan Itam, Itu LGA; PCN School, East Itam, Itu LGA; St. Athanasius Primary School, Nnung Oku, Ibesikpo Asutan LGA; Asutan Ekpe Comprehensive Secondary School, Okob Nrua Erong, Ibesikpo Asutan LGA; Itam Secondary school, Itam, Itu LGA; and Government Primary School, Aka 1, Obio Imo, Uyo, the state capital.

Asutan Ekpe Comprehensive Secondary School, Okob Nrua Erong, was in a sorry state when THEWILL visited. It shows an abandoned huge project, uncompleted classroom blocks, dilapidated teachers’ quarters and boarding accommodations inside a thick forest.

It also revealed very bad construction work with substandard building materials, such that some portions of the roofs, particularly the supposed library block, were totally caved in and on the floor. It would have been fatal if it had happened during school hours when students were around but it happened at night. A lady teacher, Emem, disclosed to our correspondent.

The situation with the school is seriously dangerous as even the two single-story buildings, which serve as classroom blocks are without rails on the staircases and unprotected verandas that are extremely dangerous to both the children and their teachers.

The school, which is less than 20 Kilometers from Uyo, the state capital and situated within the state capital territory, seems to lack Government attention totally. Security is porous, intruders from the host communities constantly harvest farm produce from the school farms within the school compound, cart away desks provided for external examination classes and other valuables.

The School Principal, Mrs. Veronica Ikpedighe Ekpo, who spoke to Tribune, though she expressed restraint for fear of possible penalties from her employers for speaking to the press, disclosed that Asutan Ekpe Comprehensive Secondary School, Okob Nrua Erong, was among the model secondary schools built by Architect Victor Attah’s administration in the 10 Federal Constituencies of the state, but it was given to wrong contractors, who used substandard building materials and later abandoned it.

“You can see those houses in the bush, they are supposed to be boarding houses for students but have no facilities, the staff quarters too but some teachers have taken it upon themselves to fix it and stay because of proximity to the school.

“I don’t want to be seen as castigating the state government but I only need the school to be brought to the standard that it was designed, we don’t have laboratory equipment, the few we have are locked and not displayed because we don’t have tables to display them.

“Security is another issue that we have, I had to employ two more security personnel when I took over last year. The one from the government is for the day while the one I employed works at night.

“We have had many visitors, inspections by government, individuals, organizations, etc. Even the old students association had promised to fix the railings on the staircase but we are still expecting.

“Another issue is overcrowded classrooms. We have over 150 students in each classroom and thought by one teacher at a time without public address system. It is not easy for us”. She lamented.

At St. Athanasius Primary School, along the popular Aka Road, within Uyo Metropolis, the situation can best be described as pathetic. The Pupils lack a good learning environment, the classrooms are not cemented, no writing desks or learning tools, no proper staffroom for teachers and of the four classroom blocks, only two are manageable for over 500 pupils.

The head teacher, Mrs. Beatrice Imo Nse, however, blames most of the inadequacies on activities of vandals and petty thieves, who intrude the school compound after school hours and at night, to cart away desks and other valuables whenever the state government deliver facilities to the school.

She disclosed that her office was even boggled and learning materials like books, packets of chalk, pen, pencils and even the school registers were carted. She added that being the host community to Champion Breweries Limited, the school is one of those that receive desks from the company on a yearly bases but all would be stolen within a very short time and pupils return to learning on a bare floor.

According to her, the main issue with the school, which is on the roadside and often visited by inspectors from the state ministry of education and officials of SUBEB, is the issue of security and perimeter fence.

“Security is our main problem, we do take delivery of desks and other learning materials but they will break in and steal all of them. Look at that opening on the ceiling, thieves broke into my office and stole everything including students’ registers. I don’t know what they want that for.

“Not that we don’t receive desks from ministry, we do, even Champion Breweries Limited use to give us desks, just last week they brought some but how do we protect them is the problem. We need security and flooring of the classrooms”. The head teacher pleaded.

Visits to schools in the course of this report have revealed that many public schools in Akwa Ibom State need urgent attention from the Government and relevant agencies. Problems range from dilapidated classroom blocks to overcrowded classrooms, which leads to suffocation in some instances.

Others include a lack of electricity and potable water. Some schools, especially those in the interior parts of the state lack adequate numbers of teachers to take all the classes.

Some stakeholders in the education sector are viewing the free and compulsory education system in the state as a course rather than a blessing, reasoning that any free thing is synonymous with poverty and that most people would run from it.

A teacher in one of the schools visited, who gave her name simply as Emem, confided in our reporter that the much propagated free and compulsory education is against the interest of the generality of the pupils, students and the schools.

“Before the Advent of free and compulsory education in the state, public schools were taken care of by the government to some extent because somehow, they saw it as a revenue source but now, the government is giving subvention to schools and it is expected that it should be used to cater for the needs of the schools; how much is the subvention?

“Again, schools have become a very lucrative business for those who can afford to build one. Private schools have taken over the space and parents who can afford it take their children to private schools.

“Public schools are now seen as schools for the poor, which are considered fit for domestic servants, forgetting that most qualified teachers are employed by the state government and they teach in public schools”. She explained.

Parents, who also spoke on the bad state of public schools and the effects on the system are of the view that something very affordable to be called school fees should be reintroduced in public schools in the state.

“We can leave the primary school out but secondary schools should pay a token, even N10,000. That can be used to take care of some of the school’s needs while the government would support it when serious need arises.

“Again, if a parent or guardian pays a token as school fee, he would be more interested in what the child is doing in school because money has been committed. The child too would take the studies more serious, Government on its part would always want to keep their schools fit to compete favourably with private schools.” A parent, Mrs One Nya said.

The Chairman, State Secondary Education Board, Dr. Ekaete Okon, in an interaction, reasoned that public school is not a Government affair solely but should be collaborated by all the stakeholders, which she said include: Government, teachers, parents, the students and others.

She, however, sees reasons for the possible reintroduction of affordable fees with whatever nomenclature, to serve as a sense of commitment to the parties involved.

Apart from the bad state of facilities, it is observed that schools in the city centre are overpopulated. Teachers are overstressed and some classrooms accommodate as many as 150 students struggling to learn.

Some schools also, especially those in rural communities, lack teachers. There are situations where a school would have only four teachers from primary one to six, including the head teacher.

Reacting to these, the Education Secretary, Uyo Local Education Authority, Mr. Imo Umoh, said that the government has not neglected public schools, adding that the poor state of facilities in some schools was a result of incessant attacks by vandals.

It is, however, noteworthy that some spirited private individuals, None Governmental Organizations and religious organizations are taking it up upon themselves to intervene and Rescue the system by donating learning facilities, classroom blocks etc. to some schools in the state.

The state commissioner of education, Mrs. Idongesit Etiebet, who sympathizes with the situation, directed headteachers of affected schools to write to the ministry and follow it up until they get a response from appropriate quarters, as the ministry has numerous issues to attend to.