INVESTIGATION: Learning In Tears: Inside The Massive Decay In Public Schools In Oil-Rich Akwa Ibom.
Three pupils between the ages of three and four lay fast asleep on bare floor inside a classroom. The doors and windows are wide open and the sleeping kids are not even covered with blanket, despite the cold wind.
It is such a pathetic sight. The kids are visibly shivering, teeth chattering, and bodies shaking. They coil themselves up ostensibly to conserve whatever heat remained in their bodies.
A few other kids sit idly on two desks. They aren’t looking cheerful at all. At a corner, in front of the classroom, sits a lonely woman – their teacher.
A teacher tells PREMIUM TIMES the pupils are part of the Early Education programme of the school. She says there is nothing teachers and the school authorities can do to help since the school lack even mats to spread on the floor for the poor kids.
Aside from this, the school has been in dire need of help, infrastructure wise. The two main classroom blocks are without roofs. The other remaining blocks are at various stages of decay, making them unsuitable and unsafe for pupils and their teachers.
Most pupils sit on bare floor to learn because of lack of chairs and desks. Inside the Primary Two classroom, for instance, 42 pupils are made to share only three desks.
The Early Education classroom has only two desks. There are no toys or learning materials for the kids.
The school, built around 1947 by the community before it was later handed over to the state government, has no staff room, so the teachers sit under a mango tree to hold meetings and prepare for the day’s lessons. They scamper into leaky classrooms when it rains.
Also, like most of the public primary schools in the state, it has no urinary, no toilet, and no source of drinking water.
“Whenever it rains, the pupils feel discouraged to come to school because the classrooms are flooded,” one of the teachers tells this reporter.
“We are suffering because we don’t have any godfather in government,” the Village Head of Ikot Iyire, James Akpan, says while showing this reporter round dilapidated buildings in the school.
“I have been a village head for more than 22 years now, we have not received any support for the school from any government official or any politician,” he says. “Sometimes I have to use my personal money to buy chalks for the school.”
Mr Akpan points at a minor concrete work in one of the classrooms, saying he used his personal funds to buy two bags of cement to execute the repairs.
“I have written several letters and forwarded several photos of the school to government, but there hasn’t been any response,” the village head says, adding that the school caters for the educational needs of more than seven villages around the area.
But as this PREMIUM TIMES reporter leaves the Ikot Uyire village head wondering why a government would allow its future leaders to learn in such a dehumanising situation, he soon happens on another school having what appeared a higher level of decay.
At Ediene II, about 20 minutes’ drive from Ikot Uyire, the only government primary school in the village is in ruins. One of the classroom blocks in the school is without roof, while tall weeds sprout from the broken parts of the cement floor inside the classroom.
At St. Ignatius Catholic Primary School, Ukana Iba, Essien Udim Local Government Area, it is a similar horrible sight – a pupil is seen sleeping on bare floor at the verandah of a classroom at 12:16 p.m. when he should be attending lessons. The main classroom block in the school is without roof, doors, and windows.
Our investigation, spanning more than one year and involving several schools in urban and rural communities, shows that only a handful of schools in this state can be considered reasonably conducive for learning. The rest are in terribly appalling situation. Some are not even good enough for raising animals, says Mbebe Albert, a lawyer based in the state.
Source : IWN Online Editor
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