With renovation of public primary schools by the Ondo State Government, BABATOPE OKEOWO reports that owners of private primary schools would have to battle the government in order to retain their students
For years, the Muslim Primary School in Akure, Ondo State capital, had less than 90 pupils in six arm classes, no thanks to the dilapidated structures in the school. The Muslims, who were supposed to take their children to the school would not touch it with a long pole because of the decrepit nature of the school.
In fact, Islamic clerics, who are supposed to lead by example by enrolling their children in the school, abandoned it, for fear of possible collapse building. As a result, the Muslims led by the Chief Imam of Akure, Alhaji Yayi Akorede, alleged the marginalisation of Muslims in the state.
Aside from the Muslim Primary School in Akure, the one in Ile-Oluji/Okeigbo Local Government Area of the State was a ghost school as a result of dilapidated structure in the school premises.
The dilapidated structures were not limited to only Muslim Primary Schools but to virtually all public primary schools in the state. Although, there are some primary schools in urban centres like Akure, Owo, Okitipupa, and Ore in the state of disrepair, the worst hit by the neglect of public primary schools were schools in rural areas, especially those outside the Local Government headquarters and those in the far-flung localities.
Apart from the fact that teachers refused postings to these rural areas due to lack of social amenities like road, water and electricity, the structures of the schools are calamities waiting to happen due to neglect by the relevant government authorities.
The precarious situation of one of the schools; Aponmu Community High School made the people of the community call on the state government to come to their aid.
The school that serves over 50 communities in one political ward of Akure South Local Government Area and founded in September 1980 by the first Civilian Governor of Ondo state, Chief Adekunle Ajasin, was a burden to Parent/Teachers Association through whose efforts the school has being sustained over the years.
Also, many primary school buildings in the state were in a state of disrepair, hence the parents and students abandoned public primary for privately owned primary schools which are scattered across the nooks and crannies of the state.
The patronage of private primary schools at the expense of public led to low students’ enrollment in the public schools in the state.
In fact, there were some public schools with less than 50 pupils.
The need to address the imbalance between the public and private school system made the immediate past government embark on the construction of mega and model primary schools in different locations in the state. However, the model schools could not go round beyond five per cent of the schools in the state because of the huge cost involved, hence the decision by Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu to embark on the renovation of existing primary schools in the state
However, many of the public primary schools are now wearing new looks due to the renovation that was carried out by the state government.
Students, parents, and teachers have now heaved a sigh of relief as there is no fear of imminent collapse building.
After outright construction or renovation works on about 700 public primary schools spread across the state, the Chief Imam of Akure, Akorede, who had alleged marginalisation of Muslims hailed the governor for resuscitating the Akure Muslims Primary School, located in the heart of the ancient city.
His words: “The governor has done very well. He is a good man with a good heart. For a long time, the Muslim community watched as the school went into ruins. Our children could not go to school as parents took their children to other schools. Despite not being a Muslim, the governor ensured that the school was reconstructed and fenced. Today, our children have gone back to school and we are happy.”
Similarly, the Head Mistress of Muslim Primary School, Ile-Oluji, Mrs. E. Ajayi, said the renovation of the school has increased pupils’ enrollment. She said the fascinating environment has made many parents to return their wards to the school. The school now has 400 pupils.
Many of those who spoke with New Telegraph believed that the situation would have been a lot different if other successive administrations had paid similar attention to education in the state.
A parent, Mr. Kayode Ajisafe said: “You will agree with me that most of our schools would be in a lot better shape if other administrations have paid similar attention to education in Ondo State. However, I would love to see the government extend its programme to other schools needing attention in the state.”
Some of the schools that benefitted from the renovation and reconstruction aside the Muslim primary schools included the St Jude’s Primary School, Obinehin; Don Bosco School, Ondo; and St Andrew’s Primary School, Elegbeka among others.
The intervention of government in the primary schools, including the promotion of primary school teachers made the Chairman, Nigeria Union of Teachers, NUT, Mr. Victor Amoko, to laud the state government for the kind gesture.
Amoko said promotion of teachers in the primary school sector would spur them to commit their knowledge, time in teaching pupils who are the leaders of tomorrow, and called on primary school teachers in the state to reciprocate the kind gesture of the state government by putting in their best in impacting knowledge on the pupils.
Also, the Chairman of State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), Princess Oladunni Odu, said the renovation has attracted students into the public schools across the state.
Her words: “With these projects, children are now attracted to the schools, enrollment has increased and there are more children in our schools now.”
Odu said further: “We are going back to the drawing board in Ondo State to see where we missed it and what we think is that we need to do training and retraining for our teachers because we also noticed that most of our teachers are no longer committed the way they were in the past. The training of teachers was not as solid as it used to be. We also noticed that the world is changing in terms of technology; the world is becoming a global village. Teachers have to keep up and a lot of them who don’t know anything about computers will have to see a way to seek for computer training. It is now compulsory for them. We are doing all these to see that we are getting it right from the very foundation of education.”
Giving reasons for the renovation of the schools, Odu said many of the buildings in the schools were actually dilapidated and they needed renovations and the state government thought it was better to have a conducive environment for learning and teaching.
“Good surroundings, nice building and we think if the buildings of the public schools are attracting to the young ones, they will be motivated to come to school regularly and that’s why we have these projects.”
She said that the majority of the primary schools across the state, including the capital city, Akure, were in serious and various state of ruins, saying a few blocks of schools, tagged Mega schools, were scattered around in selected areas in the state. Most of these structures, she said lie unused, while a few others have been handed over to state-owned tertiary institutions.
Despite the intervention of government in public primary schools, Odu said the privately owned institution would still thrive and would not be a threat to the government-owned primary schools.
Her words: “The difference between a public and private schools is that there is much supervision in the private schools and ‘this is what is lacking in the public schools but by the time we put some measures in place, there will be people to monitor and the teachers will be more committed when they have good training. Truancy will be controlled in our schools and you will find out that parents will be ready to take their wards to the public schools with nice structure, security, discipline and teachers that are paid as and when due.”
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