We Need Functioning Schools Like Other Lagos Communities – Riverine Communities Demand

The Lagos State Government has invested over N150bn in the education sector of the state in the last three years according to www.yourbudgit.com. Combating annual increase in school enrollment, it is said that the state can only handle 40 percent of the pupils in the state despite the huge budget. Lagos State is among the leading states of the federation in education infrastructure and school enrollment figure keeps soaring. However, some residents have complained that schools in the developed areas get better attention than others in the suburbs. DAYO EMMANUEL moved round to feel the pulse of rural dwellers some of who complained that about 37 riverine communities in Ojoo Local Government Area have access to only one public secondary school. They want the government to review its spending and come to their aid. He reports.

It was a warm Thursday morning, school children were already settled in their class rooms at the Salvation Army School, Olomometa, Ojoo Local Government Area of Lagos State.

Whether adequate teaching and learning were talking place was another kettle of fish.

Olomometa is a beach community facing the Lagos Lagoon. It takes over 30 minutes journey by boat to access the community from mainland Ojoo via the popular Alaba market.

Most residents are from various Yoruba sub-tribes, Egun and others from parts of Nigeria and neighbouring Benin Republic.

Fishing is the major occupation and the women trade in coconuts and fishes brought by the men. There is no pipe borne water and other social amenities.

The oldest school in the community is the Salvation Army School established by the mission in 1940 which residents say it is now in the shadows of itself after the government took over mission schools in the late 1970s.

Meanwhile, Pastor Nnanna Wigwe is a missionary to some riverine communities in Lagos State. His missionary effort has extended beyond church work because he now runs a school and a clinic for children in his Olomometa beach community off Ojo, Lagos State.

“This area is known as Osolu Kingdom, it has 37 villages. It is located in Ojoo Local Government Area of Lagos State,” he explained.

He added that, “I arrived here Saturday 28th May 1994 and since then I have been preaching the Good News. The mission is called Life Compass Christian Assembly Incorporated. We operate a primary school known as Perissosland Nursery and Primary School since February 1999. Many children have graduated from here and we also have the St. Gilbert Christopher Medical Centre,” he said.

A public school building
*A public school building

Narrating further, Wigwe, a native of Ebonyi State said the community is at the mercy of Christian outfits that operate schools for the children.

“Children in the government owned Salvation Army School are not receiving the best attention and many have left the school because they mostly do not have qualified teachers.

“At first the government wanted to discourage us from having the mission schools in the community. The Redeemed Christian Church of God, Destiny Centre and our own Primary School operate in the village.

“We had challenges with the government whose own school is not functioning. But when they saw that we have all commenced registration of our schools with the government, they have now left us to operate,” he said.

Meanwhile, Wigwe may soon incorporate a secondary school into his operations as the Oba of the community has recently donated a piece of land due to his involvement in training the children.

“The Oba of this village, His Royal Majesty Abeedeen Adekanbi Durosinmi has given us a piece of land to build our school. Though we have a school before, but due to increasing number of children we cannot expand but with this favour now, we can expand,” he said.

“The only secondary school is located in Irewe village. The school serves 37 villages and children travel from all over the 37 villages by boat to attend classes,” he said.

When asked about the distance some of these children cover daily to school, one of the parents who spoke in Yoruba language and refused to mention his name said, “Our children travel as far as 25kilometres or more to the school each day which is like the distance between Ikeja and Ikorodu.

“You and I know it is just too much for young children and it is actually unfair. We are all citizens of Lagos State and it is not nice that when you go to the main town things are normal and children don’t travel 25 kilometres to get to school.

“What we want the government to do for us on these children is to help educate them because it is dangerous keeping illiterate population.

“We only see government during election. They know we are here because once it is election time they come here.

“Over 30 villages here use only one secondary school. If not for the missionaries, our children won’t even have the opportunity of basic primary school education.

“See the government school over there, it is not functioning like a normal school, a lot of the children there have not been able to write their names. Please tell the government we are still here,” he lamented.

Another parent in the community narrated how difficult it is to educate the children before the missionaries came around.

The parent who simply introduced himself as Aremu narrated that, “The Salvation Army School was the first school here. It was built by the missionaries in 1940.”

A recent study has revealed that the Lagos State government has invested over N180billion in its education sector since 2017.

Despite the whooping sum, some rural communities’ still lack adequate learning facilities in public schools as the population continues to swell.

Though, this sum has reflected a bit in the overall results of the secondary school students sitting for the West Africa Examination Council (WAEC), there is still room for improvement as some rural communities are yet to be touched.

Public schools in Lagos seem to be getting it right in terms of facility and personnel going by the outward look but this may just be an assumption limited to the highbrow communities.

Going through the Lagos metropolis, one may not necessarily notice any rot in the educational facilities but journeying into the hinterland may speak otherwise like the Olomometa situation.

No doubt the Lagos State government must have to cope with increasing school enrolment which overstretches educational facilities and personnel annually especially in the hinterland.

Tomia secondary school in Agbado area of the Lagos suburb houses three different public schools. Though teachers in public schools in Lagos do not have the privilege to speak to the media by way of principles, the media must involve extra effort to access information on what is behind the scene.

School pupils who are at the receiving end often speak up to express themselves on what the facilities look like.

The compound housing three different public schools is a large expanse of land accommodating hundreds of school students.

According to a student, each classroom accommodates scores of students and this may not enhance adequate learning. “I don’t know how many we are in my class but we are more than 40 students in my class and some classes are even more,” said Olowojoba Kabiru, a student of one of the schools in the compound.

Another student of the school relays that the school is one of the best in the area. “Our school is one of the best schools in this Local Government, we even won state award few years ago as you can see on that board,” student who simply introduced himself as Adaramola said, pointing to an inscription placed on one of the buildings to mark the award.

While teachers do not talk to the media, a student teacher who recently concluded her teaching practice at the Birch Freeman High School, Mushin, Lagos volunteered to talk.

Folu Olufemi who studied education at the Yaba College of Technology relayed her experience during the mandatory teaching practice.

“I had my teaching practice at the Birch Freeman High School was an eye opener and I had first hand information about the state of secondary education in Lagos,” she said.

Stating further, the student teacher said the population in each class cannot enhance learning in any way. “The number of students in each class is just too much. I would be teaching at the front and you’ll see students just strolling in and out of the class.

“Those at the back cannot hear anything and of course the serious ones would crowd themselves at the front while the unserious ones would be making noise at the back.

“I think the government would do well to build more schools in order to decongest the existing ones and increase the welfare of the teachers.

“Most times, the teachers are happy and relieved when student teachers or youth corps members are around because the workload is just too much. Can you imagine a teacher marking notebooks of over 60 pupils in just a class?” she asked.

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Another factor she noted during her teaching practice was the level of indiscipline. “When I was posted to the school, I learnt former Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babatunde Fashola was once a student of the school, I was happy because I expected the school to be one super place but I was disappointed.

“Fashola as governor was a serious person and very hardworking but a lot of students in this school have not emulated anything from him. There was even a day the police brought some boys in their school uniforms from a brothel during school hours, it was so shameful,” she said.

The indiscipline however is traceable to the student-teacher ratio. Therefore the government must do well in creating more secondary schools to decongest the existing ones so that the teachers can have access to fewer students in each class.

However, with over N170bn spent in three years on education in Lagos State, some of the schools still maintain the old Jakande classroom buildings.

The Jakande building was styled like a temporary or make-shift facility to house students during the Second Republic when there was a surge in school enrolment due to the free education championed by the defunct Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) government.

It is however surprising that the state government after the fall of the Second Republic has maintained these make-shift buildings in some of the schools under which students are not so shielded from the elements.

However, further in the Lagos hinterland especially in the Lagos West and East Senatorial Districts, schools may not enjoy so much attention as their counterparts in highbrow Lagos communities despite the crowd overstretching the facilities. This may necessitate the retention of the make-shift Jakande classrooms in Tomia and other schools.

Elsewhere in Makoko slums near Yaba area of the state, public schools are mere luxury.

Most children of school age may not have had access to western education if not for efforts of some civil society organisations operating in the area.

Adeola Ogunlade is the Director of Youth Advocate for Change (YAFC) who has championed the education of some children in the community. According to an online source, the Baale of Makoko in 2018 estimated that there are approximately 400,000 people living in the community, majority of who are children of school age.

A recent visit to the community shows the sorry state of a community in need of total overhauling.

According to Ogunlade, his non-profit organisation has assisted dozens of children to learn how to read and write.

“I came to this community for an event and I noticed a man trying to teach some girls how to read and write, I took interest and I moved closer to ask questions,” Ogunlade said.

Continuing, he narrated how he got involved in the education of children of school age especially tailoring apprentices’. “YAFC had to seek for help to hire teachers for these girls. We buy books and hired teachers to teach these children in evening classes. We have continued to raise awareness within the community about education and we thank God people are catching up.

“There are make-shift schools where children pay about N20 per day just to learn. You would be shocked this is happening in 21st century Lagos. Though the government cannot do it alone and that is why we are appealing to well meaning Nigerians to assist in any little way because it is more dangerous to keep an illiterate population.”

Another organisation working hard on educating the children in Makoko and Yaba area, is the Centre for Children’s Health Education Orientation and Protection (CEE-HOPE).

Executive Director of the organization, Betty Abah said the organisation champions the cause of vulnerable children, helping them to access basic education.

“We found that children cannot go to school because their parents lack ordinary transport fare and school fees,” Abah said.

“With the help of our funders and friends, we were able to build a boat to assist children free of charge. We also pay school fees of children in some of the communities. We know that this is an encouragement for them to learn and the society would be better for that,” she said.

However, a Counselor in one of the Wards in Ojodu Local Council Development Area, Honourable Gbenga Opebi is of the opinion that education is the best legacy the older generation can leave for the upcoming generation.

Opebi, who practiced as a journalist before getting into active politics sure knows the importance of education.

The erstwhile staff of the Sun and Daily Newswatch newspapers told National Wire that “The only way to uphold our democracy is to keep a literate and healthy population.”

Opebi who matches his words with action organises free health outreaches in his constituency in addition to quiz competition he organises for schools in the area.

“We know the importance of education and so we organise quiz competitions for schools in our Ward C,” he said, adding that, “The government of Lagos State has the responsibility of educating the children and it invests so much in the education sector.

“We can only accommodate about 13 schools at a time despite the fact that there are more schools that want to participate, so we must keep doing it gradually to be able to make it go round,” he said.

Talking about funding, he said he has been able to carry out the health and education campaigns which are integral part of his promises to his Ward from personal, family savings and support from friends.

“It is a personal thing, my family has been supportive and friends who believe in what we are doing are also helpful,” he said.

Broken down window in a public school
Broken down window in a public school

Elsewhere in Lagos East, the situation of the public schools is not as pathetic as their counterparts in the riverine Lagos West communities where the residents have cried out for help.

However, the Lagos State Universal Basic Education Board (LASUBEB) has called for collaboration to improve basic education in the state.

Chairman of LASUBEB Mr. Wahab Alawiye-King is soliciting for partnership of some important stakeholders in the education sector for improvement of education in the state.

He however noted that the state government is interested in collaboration that can aid teaching and learning.

“There are several plans in the pipeline for our primary schools by the present administration in the state.

“For instance our plan to digitise teaching and learning in our schools and also increase the number of teachers among others would have a far-reaching effect if we involve major stakeholders,” Alawiye-King explained.

Meanwhile, the LASUBEB’s plans must include the rural Lagos in order to make any meaningful impact because it must increase the capacity of teachers and learning facilities within the state to cope with modern day challenges.

According to a recent study as revealed by LASUBEB, about 60% of pupils in Lagos State attend private schools while the government school can only cater for 40%.

Meanwhile, educational facilities keep getting overstretched because of increasing number of births annually and in-flock of people from other states.

Chances are that if the government does not form adequate policy to combat population surge in Nigeria’s most populous state, the state may be totally overwhelmed while education infrastructure would collapse.

The government as a matter of urgency must note that the education need of the population may constitute an emergency in near future and it must stand to the task to making the several billions of Naira voted into the sector count by making realistic policies and seeing to the implementation of such policies.

Several calls were put across to the Lagos State Ministry of Education but none of the calls yielded any response.

Also, it was observed that the name of former Deputy Governor of the state who was supervising the ministry during her tenure as Deputy Governor to former Governor Akinwunmi Ambode is still on the website.

An e-mail of inquiry to clarify issues on the status of the Salvation Army School, Olomometa and other community schools, has been sent to the email address of the Ministry of Education – info@lasgmoed.com awaiting response.

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