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Lagos schools where pupils sit on bare floors unearthed

Lagos schools where pupils sit on bare floors unearthed
The World Bank as the largest external financier of education in the developed world found a reason to partner with the Lagos State Government to develop education to the tune of $90m, an initiative called the Lagos Eko Project.

The body seems to recognise the fact that as the commercial nerve centre of Nigeria –the most populous black nation in the world – education in the state needs all the attention it can get.

But if the state of the furniture in public secondary schools in the state is anything to go by, this needed attention is lacking.

Investigation has revealed that the issue of bad furniture in the schools might be more common than expected in the state.

Public secondary schools visited in different parts of the Lagos mainland on Tuesday and Wednesday revealed that much.

When this correspondent visited Ewutuntun Grammar School in Mafoluku area of Oshodi, pupils were seen sitting on the bare floor in some classes while lessons were going on.

In one of the classes in the junior section of the school, a female teacher was speaking animatedly as she delivered her lesson, while the pupils, who sat in various fashion, listened with rapt attention. Some sat on their desks writing on books balanced on their hands.

But what was unusual about the classroom was the fact that some of the pupils who could not find chairs to sit on, sat on the bare floor in front of the class as they strained their necks upwards to gaze at the teacher.

In another junior class in the school, a couple of pupils sat at the back of the classroom, on the bare floor with their backs resting on the wall while they laid their books on their laps to write.

Perhaps, tired by her long sitting on the cold hard ground, one of the pupils on the floor simply lay down beside her friends and dozed off. No teacher was in the classroom at the time.

One of the pupils sitting on the floor said he found it more “comfortable” sitting on the floor than on the bad planks.

“The broken desks tear our uniforms when we try to manage them. Sometimes we put planks from the desks on the floor and sit on them but those who cannot find planks sit on the ground,” the pupil said.

It turned out that the problem of furniture is not peculiar to only the junior class as is the case in Ikeja Grammar School.

In one of the classrooms used by the senior section of Ewutuntun Grammar School, some of the pupils could be seen sitting on planks of broken desks as a lesson went on.

The pupils were about 40 in the class and most of them had a place to sit. But it did not seem likely that many of them were actually comfortable on what they were sitting on.

A couple of the pupils stood at the door looking in as a few stood beside the window inside as they looked on at the teacher in front of the classroom.

Senior class two was a mess of scattered chairs that were in poor state but which the pupils still had to make do with. The desks and wooden contraptions that make up their chairs, seemed impossible to be arranged in orderly rows. The class looked like jumble of broken chairs and desks.

At Iloro Grammar School in Agege area of Lagos, the story was the same.

A long perimeter fence, big compound and relatively good buildings of the school are facades that masquerade the dire condition of some of the classrooms in the lower classes.

The junior secondary school has just three classes – JSS 1A-1C but in each of these classes made up of about 45 pupils, the front row is dedicated to pupils who have to make do with sitting on the floor.

In one of the JSS1 classes, one pupil sat on her own legs folded under her, another used her school bag as seat on the bare floor while another simply stooped as a teacher laboured to explain a point before the class.

This correspondent moved to another class, Room 9, where no lecture was holding at the time and spoke with one of the pupils sitting on the floor.

When our correspondent asked a pupil how he felt sitting on the floor, the reply of the boy showed the pupils no longer see it as strange to sit on the floor in a pre-university institution.

“Those who don’t have chairs are the ones who sit on the ground. I sit on the ground too. Sometimes, when there is space with someone on a bench, I manage with the person. But when I don’t find it easy writing when three of us are sitting on a broken bench, most times I sit on the floor,” the boy said.

Asked whether they had been advised to bring chairs from home, he said no.

When this correspondent went undercover to investigate the state of furniture at Fagba Junior Grammar School, Iju Road, Lagos, the situation turned out to be as dire as it is in other schools visited.

This correspondent observed for more than 10 minutes a group of boys armed with stones and hammer as they worked in the front of JSS 1E/F class.

The centre of their interest was a couple of planks that had previously broken off from desks and chairs. The pupils hammered these planks together to make contraptions that could serve as seats for a couple of days.

These young ‘carpenters’ worked on the planks with enthusiasm as attendance of pupils inside the class was being taken by a teacher.

Fagba Junior Grammar School has three blocks. Each of these blocks has about six classrooms each. But each of these classrooms was very congested because of the number of pupils crammed in them.

The situation inside class 1E/1F looked scary. The congested classroom had about 60 pupils cramped into every space available in the room, safe for a small space left for the teacher to stand in the front of the blackboard.

One of the pupils doing carpentry work in the front of the class said the nail-ridden planks they were working on had broken many times, necessitating constant work to put them together so they could sit on them.

When our correspondent asked a group of pupils whether they thought they would do better in their subjects if they had better chairs to sit on, one of them answered, “I think so.”

Saturday Punch has not named the pupils spoken with in this report to prevent any attempt to identify them in the school as was the case in Ikeja Grammar School, published last Saturday.

In most of the schools visited, there were signs showing that they were part of the Lagos Eko Project, which was meant to improve education in the 639 public secondary schools in the state.

The website of the project indicated that there are 620,120 pupils in public secondary schools in the state as at April 2013.

The findings about the state of furniture in public schools in the state, have elicited more reactions from parents. Some of them said there was no excuse for the decay in infrastructure in these schools while others took the positive angle of saying the population in the state made it impossible to totally improve the schools.

One of such parents, a man who has a child in a secondary school in Oshodi, Mr. Aliu Ogundijo, said, “What happened to the billions of naira internally generated by Lagos State that we hear about everyday? If this kind of situation still exists in schools, my opinion is that it is hypocritical to undertake multi-billion-dollar projects such as the cable bridge and light rail because education should supersede all these things.”

John Kudere, whose child attends a public secondary school in Ikeja, said there were adequate chairs in the school his son attended but added that the findings showed that a lot of pupils were at a disadvantage in the state’s educational system.

He said, “What this means is that sending your child to a public school because you cannot afford a private school is like condemning such child to a low educational system that may have a negative impact on his life in future.

“Public schools are supposed to be as important to the government as any other issue in the state. They are not supposed to be given a fringe focus by the government.”

Mr. Lloyd Ebenezer, who also spoke with Saturday Punch however, opined that the rising population of the state makes it impossible to perfectly manage public schools in the state.

“I am not saying this is an excuse for government not to improve these schools. I believe a lot should be done but I think the high enrolment in schools contribute to the decay in facilities,” he said.

Several calls made to the Commissioner for Education, Mrs. Olayinka Oladunjoye, on Thursday, were not answered, but she later replied a text message seeking to know when the public should expect intervention in the schools.

“You may wish to liaise with the public relations officer of the ministry as I am presently not in. We work with the budget please,” she said.

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