Worrisome state of private primary schools in Kwara

Kwara State Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed

Kwara State Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed

THE sharp decline in the standard and quality of education has continued to be a subject of national discourse for a couple of years, among academicians, educationists and other stakeholders proffering what they consider to be solutions to this all important issue.

This state of education has caused a great deal of embarrassment and sleeplessness to administrators of education at both the state and national levels, even with little or nothing being done to look at the very foundation which is the primary schools.

The near comatose in the education sector, especially in public schools, due to lack of adequate funding and the neglect of the welfare of teachers by the government, resulted in the preference for privately owned schools across the nation. Parents and guardians have been left with no other choice than to withdraw their children and wards from the “ailing” public primary schools into private nursery/primary schools.

Not even the exorbitant fees charged by the private schools have been able to deter them from enlisting their children and wards in private schools. They seem fully prepared to bear the huge costs just to ensure sound and quality education for their wards. The rich in the society go as far as sending their children to schools outside the country because they had lost confidence in the Nigerian educational system. The craving and rush by parents to get their kids enrolled into privately run schools which they believe are much better than the government-owned eventually led to an overstretching of the few available private schools at a time.

Establishment of more private schools became inevitable. This led to more business owners and individuals setting up schools, whether they knew or had what it really takes to establish and operate such institutions.

A carefully conducted survey and enquiries within Ilorin metropolis have revealed the pathetic state and unfortunate conditions that pupils are exposed to daily, all because some persons who shouldn’t have any business owning schools were licensed to operate such. They began with nursery/primary schools. This has raised an eyebrow with people wondering whether the ministry of education should have been saddled with the grave responsibility and not a specially set up commission as obtains at the Federal level.

At that level it is the University Commission that issues licences for the setting up of universities. There are laid down rules, criterion and conditions that prospective school owners are supposed to meet before they can be licensed to operate. These includes availability of recreational facilities for pupils, safety of the school buildings and its environ, adequate space and classrooms in order to prevent overcrowding.

Others are first aid health facilities, capacity to employ qualified teachers, and availability of adequate teaching materials among others.

More than 70 per cent of nursery/primary schools I have visited were in rented uncompleted-buildings. Their surroundings cannot be described as healthy enough for the young ones. Apart from the fact that some of these schools were either located close to a refuse-dump site, beer parlor, public toilet or market places, the majority of them do not have recreational facilities for pupils. Hence, pupils are left to roam the street and play around during break periods without supervision.

Of the 16 private nursery/primary schools visited within Ilorin, only two of them had a first-aid kit, which is needed to tend to pupils in case of minor injury. Transportation arrangements of many of them are an absolute display of insanity and an abuse of human dignity, as pupils are often crated and packed in poorly ventilated and tattered school buses as if they are stocked fish.

The quality and qualification of teachers in many of the private schools is cause for worry and concern, as majority of teachers employed by school owners are usually far less qualified for the job. Even though the minimum qualification for teachers in primary school level is National Certificate of Education (NCE), school proprietors are not impressed by such requirement.

They employ NCE holders as the head teacher while the rest of the teaching staff are invariably no more than holders of SSCE/WAEC, whom they can easily pay a token of between N5000 and N7000 in seeming desperate bid to maximize profit. Some of these teachers can’t even express themselves in simple English.

Head teachers of majority of the so-called “international” nursery/primary schools visited do not even know what teaching-aide is all about. The troubling part of it is that all of the schools in reference are government approved and licensed by the department of education!

If the basis and supposed foundation of education can be so bastardised, neglected and handled with utmost levity, then the whole efforts at restoring the lost glory of education in Kwara State and Nigeria in general would be an exercise in futility. They should be regarded as “dead-on-arrival.” The universal basic education programmes in the states, it would appear, have been reduced to conduit-pipes through which the resources of the government are being looted and siphoned by many a political and administrative official. We keep lamenting the low and abysmal performance of our students in NECO, WAEC and UTME, yet the foundation of basic education has been allowed to rot due to corruption, indiscipline and administrative recklessness.

As the case is at the moment, a majority of the private nursery and primary schools in the state are not any better than the public ones. What is apparent in all this is that ministry officials do not visit these schools to see things for themselves. There is need for the ministry of education to put measures in place to continually send out inspection teams to assess the conditions and viability of private nursery and primary schools so as to ensure that rules and regulations governing the establishment of schools are observed and best practice and quality maintained, if Nigeria’s crave to restore the glory days of education is to come to fruition.

• Obaro lives in Ilorin, Kwara State. oseniobaro@yahoo.com, 08065396694.



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