By Zainab Sanni, The Sight News
OYO: For students of Community Primary Ayekale Araromi Community School, learning in a class without roof is not strange—Leaking, blown off roofs and dilapidated buildings was their reality for a long time.
Olutade Iyanu is a primary six pupil of the school, struggling to communicate in English and close to tears, she paints a vivid picture of their experience in Yoruba. “We are always sad when it rains and when it stops, we go back to the class. When it rains, we stop school work and try to run away from the rain but always run into each other.
“We run around till the rain subsides. When they started the new building, my classmates and I were happy but they have stopped it now and we want them to complete our school building”, she said.
Also, Jamiu, a primary 1 student who communicated in Yoruba could only identify with how he felt depending on the weather. “We feel very hot when the sun is shining and very cold when it rains” he says.
In September 2018 Bloomberg published a report featuring Ibadan Municipal Primary School as an example of a school showing the poor state of education in Nigeria, with pictures of the dilapidated school buildings. , “No Books, No Desks, No Pay: Nigeria’s Education System is Failing,”
Profiling the state of education in Oyo state, Deji Bademosi 360 of TVC News, described school infrastructure in the state as decrepit or completely broken down; with a trip to town of Igbo-ora to affirm this.
In an interview with Zainab Sanni, Dr. Nureni Adeniran, Chairman of the Oyo State Universal Basic Education Board[UBEB], also one time commissioner of education in the state, acknowledged the situation with Public schools in Oyo State.
He noted that, “The infrastructure being used in public schools are more often than not in dilapidated conditions. In some cases, you can’t imagine human beings are learning in the structures you see in some of our public schools. The teaching-learning situation does not encourage effective learning”
During his campaigns, Governor Seyi Makinde stated clearly, that free quality primary and secondary school education was a priority for his administration. At his Inauguration ceremony on the 29th of May 2019, Governor Makinde announced the cancellation of N3, 000 school fees for Public school students. With the state of public schools in the state however, not much can be said for quality education.
Ayekale Community Members Tell Their Story
Mary Adeyemo has lived in Ayekale Community for 38 years. According to her, she was there when the first blocks for the foundation was laid. It went beyond the start of a community school and the steady decline over the years till the school buildings became an eyesore. Her house was used as a classroom for several years. She recounts, “When my husband and I were building this place, everywhere was used as a classroom for several years by Araromi Ayekale community school. We did not collect a single penny from them. It was only when work was almost done that they had to leave”.
“As a matter of fact, my child finished from this school. We’re grateful to the government for remembering this community. I could remember how the sons of the soil gave this land to government for the establishment of this school. But at a point in time, the structures started dilapidating, hoodlums would break into the classes to steal materials, defecate in the classes and do all sorts of anomalies,” narrates Segun Ajibade Akande, another community member and night guard of the school.
For his part, Chief Olalere Ajibola recalls that a point in time, “Hoodlums had overthrown this premises at a point in time. You’d see them break into classes; steal instructional materials and even defecate in classrooms. But that stopped the moment this fence got erected. They disturb the community members and destroy things in the school at night. This prompted us to adopt the means of employing guards.
“Initially, we employed five guards and their responsibility was to secure the school but we were not financially capable of sustaining the five guards.”
Hope Came in April 2019….And Then Work Stopped Again
Olatunde Waliu, Headmaster of Ayekale Araromi community Primary school 1 was transferred to this school on October 4, 2018. He confirmed that when he went to the school, the buildings were dilapidated with some blocks abandoned and used by lunatics and hoodlums.
“The school was completely exposed as there was no security, there was nothing different from the place and dumping ground. We had just one manageable building which was Block 1 that contained three classrooms. It was this year, January 2019 that things got worse and some parts of Block B which is the longest block in this school, some part of it was carted away by the winds. The PTA put money together to patch the roof but after 5 days, rain fell again with heavy which removed the roof and other places in the school.
“After the incident, I called members of my staff together for a meeting, then informed the Permanent Secretary of Ona-Ara Local Government. I was asked to take pictures and some documents which I did. We also wrote letters. It was around April 2019 after we had vacated for the second school term that renovation work finally started. When the contractors started work, they promised that the school will be completed within three weeks. After a while, the project was abandoned halfway and there have been complaints from the consultant.
“If there is any other means to assist our efforts so that the work can be completed on time, I would really appreciate. It would be strenuous and discouraging if students resume and contractors have to work while the session is on.”
Community Members Lament Abandoned Project
Expressing his displeasure, Chief Olalere Ajibade said, “We were quite encouraged with the pace at which the work was rushed at the beginning of the renovation exercise; but at the moment, we’re unhappy with the break in the project. Government did not inform the community and the Parent-Teachers’ Association (PTA) when this project was to commence. If this had been done, we would have found every means to reach the contractors and beg them to return to work.”
“The reason for the break in the construction exercise is a mystery to me but I can categorically tell you that the prevalent activities of the hoodlums cannot be identified as a reason for the break in the project. But we have appealed to the engineers we see around, that they need to hasten their job in the school. I want to implore the government to call on the contractors to return to work. We know this is a project that is being handled by government and they should ensure work is completed as soon as possible” noted the night guard
“The way this school looks is not dignifying. Members of the community sleep in the classes, take marijuana and cigarette there, even bathe sometimes. It was after series of letters that they came and started work there but now, it has been abandoned again. We are not sure they are building it again,” said, Mrs. Raif, a community member and teacher at the school.
Contractors Defend Themselves
One of the contractors in charge of Block C simply identified as Mr. John gives a probable reason for the cause of delay in the project. “That job was given out by the former government and government is continuum, they say. When you are given a job like this, the payment mobilized is 60%, it is when you have completed the job that the remaining 40% will be mobilized.
“When a new government comes in, they will now inaugurate a committee that will look into the contract that has been given out. If they don’t find you wanting, when they settle down, they start the process of making their payments. This is especially the case when it is a new government, so they might decide not to release the remaining 40%. For most of the jobs you are seeing around that are yet to be completed, they might have exhausted their 60% and until they are sure that the remaining 40% would come, they won’t be able to complete the job.”
SUBEB Chairman Reiterates Commitment to Quality to Quality Education
This reporter reached out to Dr. Nureni Adeniran, Chairman of the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), Oyo who after admitting to the terrible state of infrastructure in the state public schools, reiterated the commitment of the Seyi Makinde’s administration to quality education.
“We are aware school will resume soon and we want some of these projects to be ready by then and we have made a call through the media for our contractors to return to site and some of them have heeded our call.
“Our major interest is for those schools to be completed and available for use by the students. The only contractors that would have problem are those who have deviated from UBE guidelines. We are not going to say stop working because it was the last government that gave you the contract. We intend to consider schools in need and give them the interventions they require to better the learning situation of pupils.”
He however did not categorically promise any sort of intervention to ensure that Ayekale Araromi Community School is completely renovated.