To appraise how schools are faring in Nigeria, Gbenga Odunsi, an investigative journalist visited private schools to ascertain the cause of decline in the quality and standard of education in Nigeria. Disguising as an uncle searching for a good school for his little nephew, this undercover reporter perused private schools in Oyo and Ogun States. His findings expose substandard private schools with dilapidated structures; inadequate and unqualified teachers; students receive shoddy education. Odunsi writes…
The name His Grace Model School should ordinarily invoke the picture of a highbrow school with good facilities.
But the school, positioned in a relatively remote community in Abeokuta is only superb in name. This primary school is located in a small three bedroom bungalow which is also the residential apartment of the proprietor.
How students can learn in such a milieu, where different classes are taught in the same room, could, indeed, be the topic of PhD thesis.
The school has a number of four teachers, whom, due to understaffing, bifurcate themselves among the various classes. One begins to ponder on how the four members of staff are expert in all the ten subjects required to be taught in primary schools.
Learning in such an environment would clearly be a herculean task for the pupils who risk having a narrow worldview because of the dearth of educational infrastructure in the school.
Pointlessly, the school bereft of clinic or first aid facility. Moreover, the pupils share same toilet facility with residents of the ‘recklessly-built bungalow.
Other essential facilities for the appropriate operation of a school such as a library, playground, administrative block, and examination or assembly halls clearly are a luxury that these poor pupils cannot even imagine.
One of the teachers, a young, light-skinned lady, conducts me around the school environment while I asked questions. As this was ongoing, a middle-aged man, whom I later knew as the proprietor, swaggered past us.
The proprietor, a tall, dark man, probably in his early 40s, showed no remorse for the poor quality of the school and its operation. He maintained the school is of high standard regardless of its dilapidated state.
“You cannot use the school surroundings to judge the quality of education we dish out here. This is our third year, and having graduated two sets of primary six students into secondary school, we feel complacent with such height of achievement”.
Just like His Grace Model School, Westley International School appears to be the same feat. Both schools have loads of things in common from the pompous-sounding name to the fact that they are both sited in a residential apartment and both have no sign boards announcing their existence.
Located in Adatan area in Abeokuta, Westley International School encompasses all that is wrong with substandard schools. The school is situated near a motor park and of course, it has no fence.
Sorrowfully the school is bereft of basic necessity it needs to function properly. Save for chairs, tables, and chalkboards, both the interior and the exterior of the apartment have no semblance of a school.
But the proprietress of the school does not see anything wrong in the poor educational setting of her school as she continually canvasses the reporter to bring his ward to the school. “For a child that is in primary three we charge N30, 000 per term,” she said complacently.
Therefore, expecting such a school to have a library, sick bay or other necessities that would make for a normal school would amount to building castles in the air.
Whereas the guiding principle for setting up primary schools in Nigeria by the ministry of education stipulates that at commencement, they should have a minimum of a library, three VIP toilets, computer and health facilities and playground among others, these schools which have functioned for several years do not have such facilities.
Other minimum standard mandated by the education department that this type of schools lack comprise two hectares of land, three classrooms of 9m by 12m in size, big assembly hall, administrative block, water utility, and farmland, among others.
The case is similar in Oyo State: Bulk of the private schools are positioned in residential apartments; insecure locations; and are without qualified teachers, thus churning out bad products with no value to the society.
Residents of Ibadan have condemned the rate at which substandard schools are springing up in neighborhoods across the Oyo State capital. Investigations evince that many of these private schools operate without names or any signboard in order to beat government officials charged with monitoring them.
Also, the buildings of these shoddy schools are actually the residential houses of the owners, which also often function as beer parlors in the evening and churches at weekends. The rooms are partitioned into small sizes and the pupils are packed into the small room to receive lessons. It was also gathered that some of the schools existed without computer laboratories.
Mrs. Funmi Owodunni, a businesswoman in Ibadan, in an informal chat with the reporter, decried the number of substandard schools operating in the Mokola axis, without government approval. She further stated that in most of these schools, “students are asked to bring N50 to school every Friday for chalk and another N20 to be paid for extra morals. Four textbooks are required and most times, no single student has those textbooks. They pay N2,500 for English studies, Yoruba, N1000; Quantitative Reasoning and Verbal reasoning is N1,000, Handwork, N260; and Examination/PTA Levy is N700.”
Investigation reveals that many of these schools do not have the school curriculums that should guide what they teach to their pupils, and while they are often understaffed, most of these schools employ school certificate holders as teachers.
Undeniably, the owners of these schools are people who do not see education as a social investment which should not be guided by the profit motive alone. Rather, they see it as an avenue to line their pockets and are too willing to cut corners and cost, not caring what effect their actions might have on their pupil’s destiny.
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While these type of schools typically do not charge large fees, usually between N7,000 to N20, 000 per term, they seek to maximize profit by having many pupils, while skimping on infrastructure and paring down essential costs.
This is why such schools, apart from failing to provide good educational infrastructure, employ unqualified teachers who take salaries as low as N10,000 and are expected to teach several subjects.
A government-owned school teacher in the Bodija area, who pleaded anonymity, said, “The establishment of substandard schools in our environs is becoming very bothersome to us as these schools have taken over the entire neighbourhood. The most infuriating thing is that they don’t occupy more than a three-bedroom flat. When the students are on break, they play in the corridor in front of the school. It’s high time the government put an end to these so that we won’t have a complete breakdown in the education sector.”
Efforts to get the reaction of the President of the National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools, Mr. Yomi Otubela proved abortive as several calls and text messages put across his lines were left answered.