CHRISTIAN OKEKE, in this report, presents sordid accounts of some basic schools being attended by pupils in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and the factor that emboldens the owners to continue to operate.
The sight of some schools which many pupils in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) attend is not only pathetic but also touching. Many outside the territory may never believe that such schools exist in Abuja, not to talk of believing that parents, after seeing the nature of the schools, agree to send their wards there.
Efforts had been made in the past to shut these sub-standard schools yet there still exists about 600 of such illegal schools operating across the territory. Some re-opened after they were shut as the Development Control Department of FCT administration did not follow up with the demolition of the structures.
Director, Department of Quality Assurance of FCT Education Secretariat, Ayuba Didam, recently undertook an unscheduled tour of some of the sub-standard schools.
Some of the schools visited included Divinely Favoured International School, Powerline, Zone 3, Dutse Alhaji; Dignity Nursery and Primary School Kago, Bwari and People’s Choice Basic Nursery and Primary school, Bwari.
The tour was, however, with some drama. At Dignity Nursery and Primary School Kago, Bwari, a teacher seen teaching a class and who gave his name as Stephen Matthew said he was awaiting his West African Examination Council (WAEC) result. Matthew said that he received N14, 000 as monthly salary and had seven pupils in Primary 3 which was his main class.
Beside the school was another one: an extremely old structure with tiny windows and a door. Nigerian Tribune only managed to peep in and saw unorganised pupils sitting on bare floor, cramped in the poorly-ventilated structure. One of the school’s teachers sensing that the team was around on an inspection, quickly locked the door and the window, with the pupils all inside. Throughout the period the team was in the neighbourhood, the pupils remained locked up.
The visit to People’s Choice Basic Nursery and Primary School, Bwari, was not also without its own drama. The school with 110 pupils operated a make-shift and in a totally unhygienic environment.
A visit was also made to Raphil Nursery and Primary School Kado Life Camp with about 25-30 pupils cramped inside a poorly-ventilated classroom. The story was not different at Destiny Nursery and Primary School located at Ireke Junction, as well as Fountain of Peace School where primary one to primary five pupils were put in one classroom. Proprietor of Destiny school, Mr. Ebere Sunday, when asked to show the team the school’s toilet said, “we are planning to build the toilet in another two weeks.”
At some schools in Lugbe, it was observed that same structures serve as both worship centre and a school. While they were used for service at weekends, the same were made ready to house pupils during week days.
One of such schools was Signs and Wonders Academy located at Tudun Wada. It was observed that a portion of the church auditorium was being used as classroom for primaries one and two. At Winners School and the Goodness Nursery and Primary Academy in same Tudun Wada, it did not bother the owners that their strictures were sitting on flood-prone areas.
Some of the schools visited were built on sceptic tanks while one of them even shared same compound with a goats’ pen. Toilet facilities there were nothing to write home about. It was observed that the structures are poorly ventilated, even as one of the schools was a mere uncompleted structure built partly with mud and zinc, and without toilets.
Speaking on general findings, Didam said that his department could not see anything as per development in psychomotor and affective domains of pupils in the schools visited. “Development of cognitive, affective and psychomotor domains of children can’t be done in the schools we visited because of the tight environment,” he said.
The director said his department was not closing down the illegal schools immediately so as not to shut out the pupils mid-way into the term. He said doing so would disorganise the pupils and their parents and would end up being counter-productive.
“We are working in close collaboration with the National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools in fighting this battle and I believe when we make announcements in the media, people will now see the needfulness of what we are doing. We don’t have the power to demolish schools. Ours is to close them down if they don’t meet up with standards. Demolition is in the purview of development control department, not quality assurance department,” he said.
Also speaking, the Deputy Director, Registration and Accreditation, Department of Quality Assurance, Hajya Hadiza Mamman, cautioned operators of the affected schools to stop running the schools or face the wrath of the government. She said that it took a long time for officials at the zonal offices within the area councils to uncover the illegal schools.
She said that the message to parents within the FCT is that most of these schools were not only unregistered, but lack standard educational facilities. According to her, “the problem we have is that these schools are established in remote places without our knowledge; this makes it difficult for monitoring and inspection that can lead to closure of such schools before they commence.”
While commenting on the sub-standard school, the FCT Minister, Musa Bello, confirmed to the Nigerian Tribune that some of the schools operated in deplorable conditions that were simply not conducive for learning.
He said, “We are trying to close so many schools because most of them are not schools. There was an area where a school was located within the premises of a brothel. You could see children studying and just by the side, you could see people moving half-dressed.”
Also reacting to the cases of illegal schools, Anglican Bishop of Kubwa Diocese, Right Reverend Duke Akamisoko who has been in the fore-front against the schools said he could not understand why a flat built for residential purpose would be converted to a school. The cleric accused the department of quality assurance of complicity as according to him, the same documents given to him which forbade certain standards for schools were also given to those who operated the sub-standard schools yet such schools were yet to be shut down by the authorities.
He stated that he had already written a protest letter seeking probe of the officials of the department over their lackadaisical attitude to their responsibility. According to him, the growing number of illegal schools in Abuja remained a shame and source of worry.
Asked why she sent her children to a sub-standard school, a parent who simply gave her name as Felicia said her family could not afford the high school fees charged by standard schools. She said that feeding was a problem for her family and said the children would have to remain at home if such schools that charged lesser fees were not allowed to operate.