Public schools in Kogi State have been neglected by the government. In some of the schools, rain keeps students crowded in safe corners because the roofs have holes, report Emmanuel James and Omale Angela who visited some of the public schools in the state.
Students at Government Day Primary and Secondary School, Adankolo in Lokoja, Kogi State dread rain. Each time it rains, it ruins their classrooms. They huddle together in safe spaces to avoid drops of water from perforated roofs.
But rains are not their only worries. During Harmattan, dusty and dry winds trouble them from the windowless classrooms. On sunny and hot days, they gather under the giant trees in the school.
Despite being the only public school in the area, it has been neglected by the state and local governments. There are not enough desks for all the students and most of the desks are already in bad shape, swaying while the students keep their books on them.
Their teachers are not left out of the indignity. The only administrative office is within the classroom block. Most teachers end up sitting under trees when they do not have classes as the available small office is often occupied by the senior staff.
“It is not conducive,” chorused a group of SS3 students preparing for their final exam when they were asked how they studied in such an environment.
“Nobody has ever made any repairs since I entered the school,” said one of the SS3 students. “Desks are not enough. This is how the window was when we entered the class last year, no binders or louvres. This is how we have been managing it. When it rains, we shift to the other side of the class where the roofs do not leak until it stops leaking, then we sweep the class.”
The school management declined to talk about the inadequate facilities in the school and how the government has been irresponsible in providing the right learning environment.
"I cannot speak on the level of government intervention in the physical structures of this school," said Simon A.E, the vice-principal of administration. "But last Monday, we had a visit from the Kogi State Commissioner of Education and also from the Teachers Service Commission in the state.
"The commissioner promised to fumigate the school. Nothing has been done since that day. We are still waiting. However, before resumption, the school made provisions for a clinical thermometer, washing hand basins, sanitizers and mini water tanks."
Classroom inhabited by worshippers and vigilantes
At the primary school and the UBE Standard College Ganaja, both in the same place, a church has occupied one of the classrooms yet to be fully constructed after many years. Here, the banner of the church, Redeemers Encounter Prayer Ministries International A.K.A Tabernacle is displayed on the one-storey building of the school.
In addition to the classroom occupied by the church, two other classrooms in the schools have become a vigilante's office. There were neither staff nor students during a visit by one of the reporters. The classrooms were padlocked. People who live around the area, however, said the schools were still functional, and the students were at home due to the pandemic.
The school’s toilet has been converted to a dumpsite, comprising human faeces, water sachets, animal dung, grasses, broken school desks and other materials that formed a smelly heap.
The UBE Standard College, a secondary school, has a single classroom and newly erected signpost at the school’s entrance. To the left of the school is a mosque. In the middle of the school’s field, which separates the primary and the secondary school is a single goal post made from bamboo sticks.
During elections, the schools serve as a polling centre. The walls of the classroom buildings were covered with torn election posters, peeled paints and unkempt grasses within the premises.
Just along the road to Kabba, off Chari Maigumeri Barracks at Zango-daji Community in Lokoja, the signpost of one of the oldest primary schools in Kogi State bid visitors welcome. The rusty old school’s signpost stands with its original details barely visible at a glimpse. The details can only be read when examined closely. It stands in the middle of bush tickets, barely showing the name of the school in addition to other information. The school was founded in 1976.
The compound houses three blocks which serve as classrooms for the students. These classroom blocks have broken steps with the ceilings falling off. There are no signs of fencing activities around the perimeters of the school compound. LGEA P/S, Zango Daji Lokoja is one of the schools said to have been recently renovated by the Federal Government’s Universal Basic Education (UBEC) funding in collaboration with the Kogi State Universal Basic Education Board (KSUBEB).
“They only came around to paint the school and change part of the ceilings. You can see the quality of the work done, the renovation is only a year old and the ceilings are already falling off. There are leakages in the building,” Mrs Akpata, a teacher at the school, said.
The JSS 3 students of LGEA Primary and Secondary School, Zango Daji, Kogi State, have their lessons in classrooms with peeling walls. At the time of arrival, this reporter met students of JSS 3 in the school undergoing a math’s class with mathematical formulas written on a blackboard made of concrete and protruded from one part of the wall.
The ceilings of the classrooms were falling off with some parts detached and hanging. Others were stained with watermarks from rain. The students sat on wooden benches and desks that were dilapidated.
The chairs were barely enough. They sat in twos and threes, in a row, depending on the state of the bench and desk. Plastic chairs with broken desks were used as an alternative where there were no more school desks available. The classroom with less than 15 school benches and its alternatives caters for the needs of a total of 43 students.
"The buildings were dilapidated; there were no roofs, doors and were abandoned for years. People passing by thought the school wasn't functioning because of the structure, but through the intervention of SUBEB in 2019, the place was renovated, and the classrooms are now in use, " Mr Afolabi Samuel, the mathematics teacher of the students, said.
In 2019, a report was made by the school to KSUBEB on the state of classrooms in the school and renovation of two classrooms on Block B was done by UBEC/Kogi State SUBEB. The project was contracted to and executed by ADUASCO ALLIED SOLUTIONS. However, one year after renovation, the school has gradually deteriorated to its former state.
“We were always told to wear our masks and ensure social distancing of about two meters from each other. The school didn’t provide facemasks for us; everyone brought his own from home. We are not comfortable learning under such conditions, but we are managing,” said Kabiru Hidayat, a JSS 3 pupil of the school.
According to the school's staff, the school has 75 students. Most of the renovated classrooms are under lock and key at the time of filing this report as there were no desks available for students.
Poorly maintained school
Government Science Secondary School Lokoja is the biggest and one of the oldest government-owned secondary schools in Kogi State. It prides itself as the Alma-mater of many leading figures in the state's public and private sectors.
The school, which comprises about 11 blocks, including classrooms, labs and administrative offices, is home to a good percentage of secondary school students in the state capital, Lokoja. The present land occupied by the Federal University Lokoja used to be its original location for many years until it was relocated in 2011 when the Federal University Lokoja was established by the then President Goodluck Ebele Johnathan administration.
Government Science Secondary School, Lokoja is presently located in the outskirts of a town, a few meters away from the Lokoja Confluence Stadium. The road leading to this secluded environment, where the school is located, is riddled with large potholes and deep gullies filled with muddy waters when it rains. It is the same at the lone road leading to the school's entrance, which is ungraded and edgy.
Upon arrival at the location, this reporter observed that the school compound Is fenced and painted in the colours of the school's uniform.
The Vice Principal, academics whose office also serves as the school's record office, who declined to say his name lamented about the inadequate facilities in the school.
"The infrastructure of the school is nothing to write home about," he said. "Maybe you should revisit. JSS 3 students are in class now, but only a single SS3 student is present. She is the sole candidate for further mathematics in the school which is the paper being written today."
The school's principal declined to grant an interview.
"I know the nature of most online newspapers," he said. "I am still very young here, and I do not want to lose my job. We cannot grant you an interview or full access to the school unless you get approval from the state's ministry of education. Get approval and return."
Schools Reports is an initiative of the Civic Media Lab to check corruption in necessary education administration and demand accountability from the state and local governments.