Itun-agan school where desks, qualified teachers are unaffordable luxuries

A class in the secondary school. PHOTOS: Gbenga Salau

Pupils of Itun-agan Nursery and Primary School, a government school located in Itun-agan, one of the riverine communities within Amuwo Odofin Local Council of Lagos State, they have set sail on the journey to knowledge acquisition in conditions that are inclement for such endeavour.

Over the years, these kids receive lectures sitting on broken chairs and desks, as well as, on bare floor. Of course, this happens in run-down and decrepit classrooms, which are devoid of modern teaching aids.

Interestingly, when The Guardian visited the school recently, the pupils seemed unperturbed about the worrisome conditions that they are learning in, reason being that they probably know no better way of acquiring knowledge, having not left their small island habitation all their lives.

It is not just chairs and desks that are in short supply in the school, qualified teachers are also a luxury. The entire school has eight classrooms, that is, Nursery One and Nursery Two and primary one to six, but there are only two teachers, four non-teaching staff, and the headmistress, who does the day-to-day running of the school.

Because of the short supply of teachers, the headmistress combines administrative duties with teaching. In fact, she, just like the two teachers, handle two classes each, while the non-teaching staff are also handed teaching assignments to make up for the shortfall.

A look around the school reveals that its sickbay and library are merely ornamental as both are empty.

The Lagos State government still unaware of their plight. In March last year, The Guardian, through a report, drew the attention of state government to the plight of pupils in the school and community, but over 12 months after, their fortunes remain the same.

Established by the community in 2007, the school was taken over in 2009 by the state government, with the intention of making learning more conducive. It started by promptly sending in a new head teacher to oversee its administration.

In 2013 (four years after the take over) the state government and the local council, constructed the two blocks of classrooms, which are in place in the school.

Baale of the community, Chief Lot Ikuesan, is bothered that about eight years after the take-over, the school was still in dire need of teachers and vital facilities that would enhance pupils’ comfort and learning.

He therefore, pleaded with the state government to swiftly address the infrastructural needs of the school, just as he commended the state and local governments for building the two blocks of classrooms.

He also called on the state government not to forsake the community’s secondary school in the area, which is equally begging for serious attention.

Ikuesan, who pointed out that there were qualified teachers within the community that could be employed to beef up the teaching staff, lamented that the non-availability of sufficient qualified teachers is affecting pupils’ performance.

Barely 500 metres from the primary school, is an abandoned church hall, which the community converted to their secondary school. This was after the block of classrooms built by the community to serve as secondary school collapsed.

Now, the abandoned church auditorium with sandy floor has been partitioned into four classrooms, with wooden chalkboards.

Despite being established in 2008 to shorten the distance travelled by youths of the community by water to the closest secondary school, the school it was reliably gathered has no formal authorisation to operate. It started with senior and junior arms, but due to inadequate funding, and the community’s inability to pay salaries of the number of teachers needed to run the school, the senior arm was discontinued.

This development left a sour taste in the mouths of needy parents, who cannot afford the daily transportation fare to send their wards to approved senior secondary schools in the mainland.

The monarch said the secondary school, just like the primary version became a child of necessity because of the growing number of children that are ready for secondary education in the community.

He regretted the inability of most parents to muster enough funds to send their wards to secondary schools in either Ajegunle or Apapa, stressing that such would have not been the case had the government taken keen interest in the educational needs of the community.

Ikuesan further explained that the risk of taking daily trips by boats (along side ships, tug boats and speed boats) to school was highly dangerous, adding that casualty figures from accidents would have been on the high side but for the fact that the students were good swimmers.

The Baale maintained that the burden of financing the secondary school is too much for the community to carry alone, and appealed to the state government to takeover the management of the secondary school too.

According to him, “The takeover and further development of the secondary school would relieve the community of the burden of funding it.”

One of the teachers in the secondary school, Sylvester Edoisa, said what the students are made to pay is a paltry N1, 500 development fee, which many of the parents still struggle to pay, and which was one of the reasons that led to the abolition of the secondary arm.

A Junior Secondary School (JSS) Three student, Success Ishola, said her parent enrolled her in the community secondary school simply because they could not stand her making daily trips by water to school.

But Oreofe Obakpolo, who attended Ojoku junior High School, Ajegunle, dropped out of school because her parents could not afford to continue spending N450 daily on transport fare.

A minute number of students who school in Ajegunle or Apapa enjoy free boat ride daily. To benefit from this, students must get to the river bank in good time as each boatman gives a student free ride on each trip.

For Olabisi Ajayi, an alumni of United Christian Secondary School, Apapa, to complete secondary education while living in the island remains an arduous assignment.

According to her, it took extra efforts by her and some of her friends to achieve this feat because whenever it rains, they missed several lectures or even school for days, as boatmen often go off duty during this period as a result of turbulence.

She deplored the rising number of school drop-outs in the community owing to parents’ inability to continue supporting them financially.

A youth leader in the community also appealed to the state government to take over the management of the secondary school.

He said with five private primary schools and a public primary school in the community, it is ripe for a government-owned secondary school, a development he said would remove the youths from harm’s way, as they would no longer commute to school by sea.

When The Guardian got in touch with the public relation officer of the Ministry of Education, he said the SUBEB would be the appropriate body to respond to the issues raised.

The PRO of SUBEB was contacted, he promised to investigate and get back. He is yet to, even after he was again contacted two weeks after.

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