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Public schools in shambles despite adoption policy
By Wale Ajao
Vanguard Thursday, August 23, 2007

DESPITE the Adopt-A-School programme of the Federal Ministry of Education, public schools around the country remain in shambles, Vanguard investigation has shown. As at now, it is no longer news that both the States and Federal ministries have been addressing the issue of the poor state of public schools around the country. Vanguard investigation has revealed, rather sadly, that nothing concrete has been done since the present dispensation started on May 29, 2007.


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Before Mrs Obi Ezekwesili left as Minister of Education, she initiated the Adopt-A-School programme. She was just about to create broad support for the initiative when she had to take on an international appointment. Since then, many of the companies that agreed to participate in the programme are yet to do so. Therefore, the public schools are still waiting to be adopted.

Essentially, the idea behind the Adopt-A- School programme can be seen as a form of Private Public Sector Partnership. A number of private companies agreed to refurbish public primary and secondary schools in their domain. Oando Nigeria Plc, for example, agreed to adopt some public schools around the country.

According to Bimbo Okoya of Oando Corporate Affairs Division, Oando has started to keep its promise. Recently, Oando was in Calabar for its Annual General Meeting. The company used the opportunity to formally present a primary school it intends to refurbish. “Our consultants, engineers, architects and other experts connected with building are working on the cost of the project and, as soon as we get their reports, we will start full reconstruction of the school,” she told Vanguard in an interview.

Miss Okoya said Oando, as at now, does not want to make much noise on how far it has gone. She, however, assured stakeholders that as a reliable and people friendly corporate body, people trust us that we will deliver on our promises.

Vanguard investigation also revealed that many of the banks and manufacturing companies involved in the Adopt-A-School programme are also at the preliminary stages of their involvement. A source in First Bank, who spoke anonymously, said, “we have always been at the forefront of social responsibility in education. But, we just can't start building or rebuilding schools until we have done all the necessary preparations. For example, it would require consultation with the authorities of the schools that we can agree on how we can meet their needs. We have already consulted with some school authorities and we are at the planning stages. You know this is not the first time First Bank has made significant contribution to the education sector.

Therefore, our support for the Adopt-A- School programme is a continuation of our tradition as an education friendly bank. If you go round our campuses in this country, definitely, you will see what First Bank has done.”

It appears, however, that it is only in Lagos and environs that corporate bodies have started to take steps to fulfill their promises. Outside Lagos, many of the State Basic Education Boards (SUBEBs) that are supposed to partner corporate bodies are not even aware of the existence of the programme.

In Oyo, Kwara, Ekiti, Ogun, Rivers and Kano States, sources in SUBEB said they have not even received any official communication on the programme.

According to Mrs Titi Olofin, Executive Secretary, Oyo SUBEB, who spoke to Vanguard in Ibadan, she said “as far as I know, the programme is more of a street kind of thing. We have not received any policy paper on it. May be if you go to the Ministry of Education, they may have received information which they are intending to pass on to us.”

While the present Federal Minister of Education is trying to settle down, stakeholders are waiting for what the ministry is going to do on some of the reforms and initiatives of Mrs Obi Ezekwesili.

Close to its first hundred days in office, the Federal Ministry of Education and, indeed, the Presidency are yet to make fundamental policy pronouncements on education. The effect of the poor start, which this administration has made in the area of education, is that public schools keep suffering from inadequate funding.

Promises of support and adoption made by a few corporate bodies are yet to materialise, so, there is yet no silver lining for the public schools. All around the country, the result is that pupils learn under terrible conditions.

As Umoru Henry found out in Abuja, pupils in primary schools scattered around the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, still learn under trees. They sit on bare floor while learning. The ugly scenario is rearing its head in spite of the huge capital expended on education sector by the immediate past administration of the FCT and the Universal Basic Education (UBE) board.
Vanguard investigation shows that most of the affected schools are directly under the Local Education Authority (LEA) situated in all the six Area Councils. Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC) and Bwari Area Council have a record of the highest number of pupils sitting on bare floor.

At LEA Lugbe, located along the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport Road, quite a large number of students do not have chairs, desks and tables to use while in the school. In addition to lack of chairs, desks and tables, the schools have no toilet facilities. The Head Girl of the school, Miss Rashidat Abubakar, in response to the situation, called on FCT authorities to come to the aid of public schools in the area. “Our public schools in the FCT area need urgent attention, she told Vanguard.” While stakeholders are praying for improvement in the fortunes of the public schools, some state government are responding. Lagos State, for example, has voted N500 million for repair of 166 public schools. According to Director of Projects for Rehabilitation of Public Schools, Mr. Olugbemiga Abudiore, the schools include 51 primary schools, 43 junior secondary school and 72 senior secondary schools.

Other states would have to emulate the example of Lagos before public schools can get significant upliftment.


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