The reality of ‘’rural neglect ‘’, stared us in the face recently when the Federal Capital Territory, FCT branch of the Public Complaint Commission, under the commanding leadership of the commissioner, Honorable Obumike Ohaegbu,took a selected group of journalists on a tour of selected primary and secondary schools in the Federal Capital Territory. According to the commissioner, the exercise was not meant to witchunt anybody, but designed to draw pathetic attention of those concerned to the declining state of the quality of education in the rural areas.
Commissioner Ohaegbu’s concern which is driven by patriotism, hinges on the fact that those assigned with the responsibility of handling education and indeed the provision of social infrastructure in this country should live up to expectation.
Junior secondary school and LEA primary school Guto in Bwari Area Council of the FCT were classical examples of public schools in the territory that were suffering from serious neglect and underfunding. Even though construction work is ongoing in the junior secondary school section, which had temporarily occupied part of the primary school, the existing condition for learning in the two schools, is still far from meeting the take off requirements for a stable learning environment.
At the two schools in Guto, images of decay and neglect were pervasive. Weeds are already growing on the rooftop, the roofing and the ceiling tiles are about collapsing on the pupils, basic infrastructures like desks; tables and chairs were lacking as the pupils had to either sit on the floor or crowd themselves on available benches [see pictures attached].
Mrs. miriamu kure, the Headmistress of LEA Primary School Guto, captured the pathetic situation in her school when she lamented that there were ‘’no staff room for teachers, the school is not fenced, no functional toilet, even the dual purpose pit latrine that serves both the primary and secondary schools, had collapsed long ago has been over-taken by weeds, forcing the children to patronise nearby bushes even at the risk of their safety’’.
At the Early Child Nursery Care Centre, which serve as a feeder to the primary school the pupil were seen crowded on the bare floor to take their lessons .The Headmistress complained that the school authorities had to virtually plead with parents to contribute stipends for buying biscuits and sundry learning kits.
Mrs. Kure’s statement was further corroborated by Mallam Awalu Dahiru, the Assistant Headmaster, who bemoaned the absence of a functional Parents Teachers Association and School Board Management Committee. According to the assistant headmaster, the absence of these associations is a big minus for the school.
Other major challenges facing the school include poor funding resulting into lack of imprest to the running of the school .She added further that the government and other relevant agencies have never made any grant or approval for the day to day administration of the school, except that she usually surcharges the parents on a voluntary payment of stipends for the upkeep of the nursery pupils.
The junior secondary school that is co- habiting the same environment with the primary school did not fare better. According to the principal of the school, there is glaring absence of basic infrastructure for learning. Some of them include; lack of qualified and sufficient number of teachers, no laboratory and library, no staffroom and several other needs.
Unlike his primary school counterpart, the principal said that he was sometimes promised imprest of one hundred thousand naira in February this year but that the school is yet to receive it. The principal complained that repeated efforts were made towards getting the responses to all the requests presented to relevant authorities, but it all proved abortive. The principal said that the school had to combine the two classes into one for lack of furniture and space.
Even the only bore hole that supplies water to Guto village, is not functioning regularly, as it only runs three times in seven days. Abubakar Malam, a native of the village, described the situation as most disturbing as the village has no alternative source of portable drinking water.
The contrasting qualities of schools in urban and rural areas in the Federal Capital Territory, was more pronounced when the media team in the company of the commissioner of the Public Complain Commission visited Junior secondary school and LEA primary school all located in Down Town, Peyi near Bwari, where government attention was not found wanting thanks to the location of the schools in the urban areas.
Mrs. Isari Bwari, the principal of the school who enjoys an exotic office was grinning from ear to ear in full appreciation of the attention the school have been receiving, admitted that the school does not have any major problem of infrastructure except the flooding of the school fence and landscaping challenges.
She further complained about the disturbing presence of the police post in the school premises, as well as unavailability of an Assembly Hall for student meetings and examinations. She announced that the school’s student population is three hundred with teaching staff strength of 30 plus two non teaching staff.
Mrs. Elizabeth john, the Headmistress of nearby LEA Primary School, on her part complained that the school needed additional four blocks of classroom, as well as a functional borehole. She added that the school had to patronise the water vendors on a daily bases for their water supply.
The population of pupils in the school is 895, while the teaching population is 28, with 11 non teaching staff.
Addressing newsmen later, the Commissioner for public Complaints, Mr. Obumike Ohaegbu, said that the commission embarked on the tour ‘’to find out why public schools are not doing well despite increased budgetary allocations .we are not witchunting anybody or trying to indict anyone but to work with relevant agencies to fix education in the federal capital territory’’