Stakeholders worry over safety, environment of low-cost schools
AS another academic session begins in all primary and secondary schools in the state, there have been growing concerns about the indifference of school administrators and proprietors to health and safety concerns of the wards in their care.
In organised societies, issues of safety are taken serious, because it is about preventing accidents and ensuring that people do not suffer injuries or death. This is probably because they understand that injuries or death recorded as a result of no proper safety measures could have livelong negative implications to a person and his relatives.
One would expect that issues of safety are taken seriously in schools, especially since minors are involved, but findings revealed that many of the schools, especially the low-cost private ones in Lagos State, give little or no thought to safety within their premises. It is evident in not just where the schools are sited but also the structure housing their classrooms.
Many of the schools use rented apartments, while those who have acquired land are grappling with constructing a modest structure, which goes a long way to affect the type of structures used as classrooms. Besides, the materials used in erecting the structures are not of the best qualities. The situation is worse in low-cost private primary schools.
There are two critical areas to watch out for when it comes to safety: unsafe conditions and unsafe acts, according to a recent study. The unsafe conditions, it said, are situations or circumstances that jeopardize the safety of pupils and students such as slippery floor, steep stairways, staircase without hand rails, hazardous chemicals and inflammable substances in school environment, single doors in classrooms and schools without fire exit, crowded classrooms, swings without soft landings nearby, and narrow gate into the school premises.
For instance, in Mazamaza and Naid areas of Oriade Local Council Development Area, two of the low-cost private primary schools located within that community were observed to be using a mini-warehouse as school buildings. The warehouse has just an entrance with blackboards serving as the demarcating line for classrooms. In one of the schools, the only entrance is even partially shut in order to maximize space.
In another, the school used to be a residential storey building. The space on the ground floor meant for the car park in the initial building plan has been converted into classrooms after the population of the school grew. In some other places, the structures housing the classrooms are makeshift buildings, while many others are housed in very dirty environment, with the school having no fence and toilet.
Another finding was that many of these schools do not take efforts to educate their pupils or students on what to do in case of emergencies or the need to be safety conscious. This no doubt has negative implications for the students or pupils, as they could be clueless about what to do during an accident. Similarly, many of the schools do not have fire extinguishers.
A primary five pupil, Abiodun Dare, said he has never been told anything about safety in school, especially as it concerns his school environment. Another pupil, Abidemi John, also corroborated the statement of Dare. According to her, there was no time she has been addressed by her teacher or the headmistress on what to do when there is an accident or emergency within the classroom or the school premises.
A teacher, Raphael Johnson said that he never gave the issue of safety in the school a thought until the reporter asked him. According to him, the school has not considered it as issues to discuss with the pupils or to educate them on. He said in the five years he had been teaching in his school, there was no day the school heads discussed issues of safety with the teachers whether when newly employed or at the resumption of a new academic term.
Johnson, however, said it is one issue that he would discussed with the management so that pupils of the school would be more conscious of safety measures in the new academic session.
About two years ago, the Lagos State government gave the directive that private schools in the state must conduct safety audits at the beginning of every term and maintain incident logbook for all accidents within its environment. But findings revealed that most of the low-cost private schools do not comply with this instruction.