Public schools in Kwara State are in terrible condition. The dusty classrooms have broken floors. Some of them have no chairs. The schools lack laboratories to teach science. In some schools, teachers hold meetings under the shade of trees. Aladire Shukurat Saka, who visited some public schools in the state, reports on the frustration.
On the day that the West Africa Examination Council held a practical exam for chemistry, candidates at Ogele Community Secondary School in Asa Local Government Area of Kwara State took the exam in their classroom.
The school does not have a laboratory which the students were required to use. They wrote the exam without performing the usual experiments that accompany chemistry practical.
The school is one of the most popular secondary schools in Ogele-Afon axis, catering for no fewer than nine communities in the area. Yet the school lacks necessary facilities, such as a library, science laboratory, toilets, and classroom chairs.
"When it is noon, and it's sunny, our classroom is always hot. When it rains, due to leaking roof, rain pours into our class which usually makes it hard for us to concentrate," said a student who preferred not to be named.
Their teachers, too, are not left out of the deplorable learning environment. They usually hold their meetings under the tree as the school has only a small office for the principal.
"Not less than six classrooms have been in bad condition for over five years.Letters were written several times to the government. The community stepped in, doing all the renovations since we didn't hear anything from the government," said the vice-principal of Ogele Community Secondary School.
He said the appalling condition of the school had not received an intervention since 2006 that the government took over the school, except one block of two classrooms in 2018 which was a constituency project by former Senate President Bukola Saraki and his late father, who built six classrooms for the school.
Over the years, the school has been maintained by the communities except in some instances where philanthropic organisations like Voluntary Service Overseas assisted in renovating some classrooms.
According to the vice principal, the government sent representatives from the ministry of education and local government to check the state of the school at different times, but they always made promises which were not fulfilled.
Ismail Usman, a parent and also community secretary, said, "The money realized from the school fees of senior students and what is being realized during parents and teachers association meetings and the ones contributed by the people in the community is what the school uses in maintaining, building and renovating the school."
He said the school fees of the students in the junior section is remitted to the government since 2016.
Students in the area do not have other better public schools to go to as their nearest public school is in Ilorin, which is about an hour drive from the community.
Learning in dilapidated buildings
Ansarul Islam Secondary School is located at the centre of Ilorin South Local Government Area of Kwara State with more than ten communities surrounding it. It is among the oldest schools in Ilorin, having been in existence for more than 40 years.
The classrooms in the school have been built since its inception. There has been no renovation or building of new classrooms by the government. Most of the classrooms in the school are obsolete. Stakeholders say the school needs to be demolished and rebuilt.
The junior section of the school has just 15 classrooms to cater for more than 1200 students, which amounts to about 100 students per classroom.
"The school has long been forgotten by the government," said Usman Abdulsalam, the vice principal of the school.
AbdulSalam says the school needs chairs and desks for the students as most students sit on the floor. He added that letters had been written to the government on many occasions without response.
"We have a shortage of classrooms, chairs, and tables," he said, pointing out that crowded classrooms without necessary facilities had made teaching and learning very difficult.
Students and teachers cry out for help
Apart from a block of two classrooms that were built in 2018/2019 as part of constituency projects, all other classrooms need to be demolished and rebuilt due to their condition, said Habeebat Musa, the principal of Burhanudeen Junior Secondary School, Ilorin.
"When they intended to build this block, they had to demolish the one here before,” the principal said.
The school, which is located in Ilorin East Local Government Area of Kwara State, has been in existence since 2006. The school started as a primary school but it has not had a new structure since its establishment.
A student, who did not want to be identified, narrated how they cope in the school. "We used to contribute money in the class if anything got damaged in the school, especially for this new building," he said
"When it rained, we used to stop our lesson due to the leaking of the roof because the sound of rain won't allow us to hear what the teacher is saying. When it's sunny, the class is always hot, making learning difficult."
Burhanudeen is worse off than other schools in the area. It lacks a library, laboratory, toilets, and even staff rooms for the teachers. Both the junior and secondary sections use the same staff room. Most of their classes do not have doors, windows, ceiling and good floor. All the furniture in the school is packed inside one classroom that has a door. This is locked to prevent theft.
A part of the school fence has also been damaged by rain, giving easy access to intruders. "The only secure place is the new building. Only the JSS3 students use it because we believe they are more mature than their juniors and they would take proper care of the classes," the principal said.
She said several letters had been written to the government to intervene but no favourable response.
"We hope our school will be among the 31 schools the governor promised to renovate and build more classrooms and learning facilities," she said.
Another neglected school
Mandate Junior Secondary, located at Apalara, was established in 2006. The school had a total of 10 classrooms when it was established for the junior section. The senior section was added three years later with an additional nine classrooms. But the junior section alone has more than one thousand students.
While the school is within the Government High School which has been selected by the government for a complete renovation, the people had expected that the same renovation would be extended to Mandate Junior Secondary. According to the Secretary of the PTA of the school, parents levy themselves to do some renovations in the school.
"Before the inception of this new government, we used our money for renovation since the government refused to help even after several letters, but since this government has been sworn in, we were asked to stop collecting any form of the levy because they want basic education to be free and they promised to do it all," said a teacher who did not want to be named.
Another teacher in the school said, "We are managing what we have since we don't have an option. We lack the facility for most of the subjects we take here.
"Most of my lessons are supposed to be taught in the lab because they are mostly practical, but since we do not have the materials needed, we have to change it to theory and show only that part," the teacher continued.
"All the classrooms in the school, including the staff rooms and vice-principal office in the school are in shabby condition. Some classes do not have ceilings and those that have are in bad state. Most chairs and tables being used by the student can injure them if care is not taken."
Same story at Oja-gboro
Government Day Secondary School Oja-gboro was established in 1997 to ensure access to quality education among the people of Gambari, Oja-gboro, Isale Koko, Ipata, Okesuna, Isale-maliki and other communities in the axis.
The school was strategically located to cater for the teeming population. At inception, the school had over 400 students; however, years after the school was established, essential learning infrastructures have collapsed.
Almost all classrooms are in appalling conditions and need urgent renovation and rebuilding. Bushes surround the school premises probably due to the break caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
A senior staff of the school said that they had been using PTA levies to maintain the school. The source, however, said the government had asked them to stop collecting any money from students for renovation.
"Since I arrived at this school four years ago, there has been no renovation except the two new classrooms constructed in 2017 as part of the constituency project. For all other buildings, the little we get from the PTA levies was what we use to renovate them," a teacher in the school said.
Another teacher said that when the junior secondary section of the school was to be established, no new buildings were constructed as the management had to hand over some existing classrooms to the junior secondary school.
Most of the classrooms do not have ceilings, windows, and doors.
Schools Report is an initiative of the Civic Media Lab to check corruption in necessary education administration and demand accountability from the state and local governments.