The enthusiastic pupils of Community Basic School in Saki-West Local Government Area (LGA) of Oyo State, Southwest Nigeria, are probably unaware of their predicament. Crammed in one classroom, they happily announce “we are in primary one, primary two, primary three, primary four…”
One of the youngest, Moriam Ayanlade, 3, was dressed in pink chiffon. Her feet were dusty and dry, a clear sign of the biting December harmattan.
Orita is a village of about 7,000 people in Saki, the economic nerve center of the Oke-Ogun region of Oyo. It is about five minutes drive to Okerete, the community where the proposed International Border Market is to be located.
Despite this community’s proximity to a growing economic destination, it still grapples with the lack of basic educational infrastructure. There are no classrooms to enrol more pupils into primary school as the only school has just the one functional classroom shared by all.
No classrooms for 24 years
Established in 1997, the only teacher employed by the government at the Community Basic School is Halidu Aworinde, an NCE holder who has worked there since January 2016.
So far, he has not witnessed any form of government intervention or attempt to renovate the school. Although the school has four classrooms, they are in such terrible conditions that they have had to abandon them and use only one which he said, “does not make teaching effective.”
He revealed that the school’s furniture was provided by the elderly members of the community.
“The classroom has also become very uninhabitable for both pupils and teachers.”
The ceilings and roof are in a terrible condition. In bad weather, there is no certainty that they won’t fall off, thereby posing a danger to the pupils. To make matters worse, there are also no doors or windows.
“During the rainy season, we would pack ourselves with the pupils to one side of the only class,” he said.
“As a result of the leaking roofs, when you get to the office now, you would see there are no records of the pupils. We keep all the pupils’ documents where we live.
“The school’s enrollment is low as the lack of facilities discourages parents from sending their children and wards to the school. At the moment, there are only 40 pupils in the school,” Aworinde added.
According to the Education Profile Indicators (2018) published by the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), only about 87 per cent of primary school entrants complete primary school. The percentage is lower for Early Childhood Care Development and Education (ECCDE) and junior secondary education.
Pupils lack water
“We don’t have boreholes around. This is the reason our pupils travel that far to get water. When they return, they are too exhausted to learn,” Abdulqudus Ayanlade, another teacher and father of little Moriam explained. A Senior School Certificate holder, he was employed by the Parents-Teachers’ Association to support Aworinde.
Ayanlade pointed out that this further distracts the pupils from their daily lessons, especially during the dry season when they need water more.
“They leave during school hours, most times in the middle of ongoing lessons, to fetch water from the central borehole that serves the entire community,” he told HumAngle.
Community to the rescue
HumAngle observed that there are a number of new pieces of furniture in the abandoned classrooms.
Tajudeen Are, a community member, explained that the village yearns for quality education for their children and wards and, as a result, they squeeze out the little earnings from their meager income from subsistence farming to equip the school.
“We have only three classes and the pupils learn from primary one to primary six. Many of them do not continue afterwards because of the several challenges they face here,” he said.
The community leader, Khalidu Muritala, who is a farmer and artisan registered his displeasure at the state of the school and called for more amenities.
“Our children are really suffering. We don’t expect the government to provide everything for us, but the little we provide is not just enough,” he said sadly.
Abdulrazak Ismail, 11, has had several encounters with boys who attempt to steal the school furniture. Next to being bitten by snakes, his greatest fear is the prospect of losing his chair and table when he gets to class each day.
Abdulrazak Ismail is always afraid of losing his table and chair to thieves. Photo credit: Omolola Afolabi/HumAngle
“We keep our furniture in the main office because they steal our chairs,” he said, adding that sometimes the thieves return their furniture, but many times they don’t.
The school environment remains bushy even though the pupils regularly attempt to cut it down. It is also not fenced, Aworinde pointed out.
“I have seen several herdsmen who have hidden in the bush and whenever I confront them, they go away. But we can’t guarantee them not coming back.
“I spoke to the Baale and he has promised to do something about this. This wouldn’t have been much of a problem if the school had proper fencing,” he said.
Two billion in 14 months
According to the state government’s 2019 financial statement, Saki-West LGA’s approved budget was N1.6 billion, including money from statutory allocation, tax, and other sources.
But despite the huge amount of funds accrued to the local government, basic education infrastructure is still lacking in the community.
The incumbent local government chairman, Sarafadeen Omirinde, told this reporter in a telephone conversation that as bad as the Community Basic School, Orita, is, it is over 70 per cent better than the other schools in Saki West LGA.
“Yes, I’m aware that the school has only two teachers. That is one of the problems we face in rural communities that are hard to reach,” he admitted. “Teachers that are employed by SUBEB are mostly from the big cities. When they come to the village, many of them don’t stay there for up to four months before they start seeking transfer.
“I have written up to four letters to make this request and the board has promised to employ more teachers.”
Omirinde also told HumAngle that the local government works with a very slim purse. “Even with the small money that comes into the local government purse, we focus on the other priority areas that come first, like the areas in town, not the ones in the villages.”
He further explained that he had only been chairman of the local government for six months and that the former chairman, Alhaji Kazeem Adegoke, had died about a year ago.
According to Omirinde, new building projects are being undertaken but the Primary Health Centres are the only ones being renovated.
Although he claimed that renovation is ongoing in Isale-Ifi Maternity Center, this reporter’s visit to the facility revealed otherwise. Omirinde had said the Caretaker Chairman was the only one overseeing the affairs of the LGA before he came in.
All efforts to contact the chairman of SUBEB, Dr Nureni Adegoke, proved abortive as his official line was not reachable.
This story was produced in partnership with Civic Media Lab under the Grassroots News Project