Despite receiving N7 billion as grants from the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) recently, parents and residents have lamented the poor facilities at Sobi Community School in Kwara State. They urged immediate action on improving the condition of the school, reports ABDULWAHEED SOFIULLAHI (UDUS).
IT was an early morning English class at Sobi Community School in Ilorin South Local Government Area of Kwara State on November 9. About 25 pupils aged between 12 and 13 years were seated on rows of chairs in an open space on the premises. They listened with rapt attention to their teacher who stood in front of a blackboard to teach them.
But beyond the seriousness of the pupils were tell-tale signs of dehumanising learning environment in the three-year-old school. It was founded during the administration of former Governor Abdulfatai Ahmed. The school lacks adequate classrooms. Sadly, the school was founded in 2017 with only two classes, hence, most of the pupils have been receiving lessons under a makeshift shed.
Learning in tears
CAMPUSLIFE observed that some classes also hold on the corridor of the two classes which does not encourage ease of learning.
During one of the visits our correspondent made to the school, the poor pupils had to scamper into a nearby mosque as their learning session was halted by heavy rain.The two classes were being used for Primary 2 and 3 while other classes are organised under the shed and on the corridor.
When the rain stopped, pupils regrouped outside their classrooms to continue their lessons, wearing their face masks in strict compliance with the COVID-19 protocols and enduring the scorching sun that followed the rain.
The teachers declined comments in spite of promptings from our correspondent as they cited civil service regulations, which they said, forbade them from talking to the media.
“The situation is beyond us. There is nothing we can do about it. The Commissioner for Education visited the school in February and promised that government would construct more classes, but there has not been any fruitful response from the authorities,” a source in the school said, pleading anonymity.
One of the pupils, who spoke with our correspondent in confidence, expressed concern about their safety, saying that learning in the open had exposed them to unfriendly environmental condition and dangerous reptiles, particularly snakes, which sometimes slither onto the premises, especially on sunny days.
A pupil who didn’t disclose her name explained that some community leaders had shown concern about their plight. She said the situation had negatively affected their performance as students and the wellbeing of their teachers.
She said: “We can no longer concentrate because of the weather conditions. It may rain at any time while we are being taught in the open. Most times, we panic as the weather changes because our session would be halted until the rain subsides.
“The state authorities should help to rescue us from the hopeless situation that dilapidated structures and absence of good classrooms have foisted on us. On some days, prolonged rainfall would not even allow us to have any session with our teachers.
“The situation calls for urgent intervention to save our future and guarantee conducive learning environment.”
Government to intervene
Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq of Kwara State noted that his administration would revamp the education sector, in line with his campaign promises of improving the sector.
Speaking while inaugurating a block of two classrooms donated to Alaparo community in Moro Local Government Area, by the Ilorin Emirate Stakeholders Forum, as part of its 2018 /2019 intervention project, the governor said: “The school will serve as a prototype to be provided for other communities, we have directed the forum to identify 20 communities in need of such intervention that will be supported by the state government.”
However, the gesture promised by the governor has not been extended to Sobi Community School.
Residents also worried
A cross-section of parents and residents expressed their dissatisfaction with the infrastructural deficit in the school.
One of them, who identified herself simply as Madam Sadatu, said: “The condition of the school since its establishment has been worrisome. Most of our children, except those in the two available classrooms are taking their lessons outside.
“As you can see for yourself, our children sit in the open space to take lessons from their teachers and this has exposed them to unfriendly environment as they are disturbed by exposure to intense sunlight and rains.
“Although some elders of this community have made frantic efforts to call the attention of government to the terrible situation in the school, nothing has been done to remedy the problem.”
Our correspondent also gathered that, through collaborative efforts of community members, 200 blocks have been donated to the school.
Another resident, Ishaq Abiodun, noted that all appeals made by the community to the state government lately had yielded no result.
“Before now, we made appeals to the past administration in the state but the authorities apparently turned deaf ears to our cries,” he said.
Tobilola Oladeji, on his part, urged the governor to come to their aid without further delay.
“The residents have called the attention of government officials, but there hasn’t been changes. We plead with the current administration led by Mallam AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq to come to our aid,” he said.
Issa Babatunde, a parent, said: “My child always complains about headache whenever he comes back from that school. l had to withdraw him from there.
“The last time there was any government intervention in the school was about three years ago. Since then, no help has come from government to address the plight of the pupils who have since been sitting in the open to learn.
“We have lodged several complaints by way of letters to concerned authorities especially the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) all to no avail. They only promised to come to our aid but nothing has been done as we speak.”
Another parent, Fayomi Abiodun James, said: “We have gathered several times to discuss possible solutions with the school management, but nothing seems to be happening.We also sent several notifications to government.
“The last administration of Governor Abdulfatai Ahmed promised to support and build more classrooms for pupils,but nothing was done.”
Group urges government action
Elite Network For Sustainable Development (ENETSUD), through its Coordinator, Dr Alagbonsi Abdulateef, has called on the state government to prioritise funding of schools. The group described most public schools in the state as lacking requisite facilities.
“The deplorable conditions of the schools with dilapidated structures make them unhealthy for effective teaching and learning. This could have been one of the reasons for low patronage of public schools, thereby making private schools better alternatives for people who want quality education for their children and wards. Due to negligence, it is regrettable that the reputable schools in the past that produced virtually all the important personalities in Kwara State are now the options for only the poorest and most vulnerable in the state,” he said.
Kwara State Government has received N7,151,142,190 grant from the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), the first time since 2013 when the state was removed from the national scheme. The N7.1bn is a cumulative of UBEC grants that were not accessed between 2014 and 2019. The UBEC grants are meant for rehabilitation of dilapidated basic schools, construction of new ones, equipment of the schools with ICT tools, training of teachers, and project evaluation, among other purposes contained in the UBEC work plan.
Commissioner for Education and Human Capital Development Hajia Fatimah Bisola Ahmed, in a statement, said: “This money would be spent in phases over the next two years to fix up to 600 elementary schools out of the over 1400 decrepit basic education facilities across the state. The projects would be monitored by UBEC to ensure compliance with the work plan submitted by the government.
“This development has taken Kwara State out of the bottom position in the ranking of states with highest figures of outstanding UBEC grants. The pitiful state of basic education infrastructure in the state is a reflection of the failure to access UBEC funds and the near-zero investments in the sector over the past few years.”
The state government also organised a three-day workshop for local contractors and anyone interested in working with the Kwara State Universal Basic Education Board (KW-SUBEB). The workshop took place between November 9 and 11.