Inside the unconducive classrooms in Enugu schools

A collage of unconducive Enugu State owned schools

Facilities in various schools across Enugu State are in deplorable state despite government interventions in basic education. ABDUSSALAM AMOO visited such schools spread across the state in September. Excerpts of his report are presented below.

Whenever rain falls at the Central School, Imezi Owa, learning halts. Pupils are led into the few available classrooms in better shape within the school for shelter.

On a normal day, only three classrooms are in relatively good shape to cater for the eight classes in the primary school with over 100 pupils.

Headmistress of the school in Ezeagu Local Government Area of Enugu, Mrs Roseline Jideofor told this reporter that the school had managed the available facilities like that for a while.

Documents from the Enugu State Universal Basic Education Board (ENSUBEB) show that N3.17 million was allocated to the renovation of the school building under the 2014 UBE intervention projects. This was never implemented.

This reporter observed that two to three classes share a classroom because the roofs of other available rooms had caved in.

A three in one classroom at Central School, Imezi Owa, Enugu State

What a good classroom should be

The United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) identified poor schooling conditions as an impediment to accessing a quality education.

Globally, the UNESCO Institute of Statistics described the disparities in the availability of facilities at the basic education level as a global learning crisis affecting over 617 million adolescents and adults.

Among parameters it used in establishing these are the availability of electricity, internet, computers, adapted infrastructure and materials for students with disabilities, clean drinking water, single-sex toilets, and basic hand washing facilities.

But the situation at the Imezi-Owa school and many others visited in Enugu State appear much deplorable in these regards.

The Compulsory, Free Universal Basic Education Act of 2004 mandates government to provide enabling conditions for accessible learning for all.

Enugu is one of such states that did not access its UBE intervention funds for about four years as at October 2018. It only began doing so much later with the implementation of 2014 and 2015 UBE intervention projects late 2018.

Neglect across board

Data from the Federal Ministry of Education made available to shows that up 30 percent of basic education schools across Enugu State are in bad condition.

That is higher than the national average of 25 percent.

Specifically, 2,056 pre-primary schools in Enugu State are in bad condition just as 4,205 of the primary schools as well as 915 of the Junior Secondary Schools are.

Some 28 kilometres away from Imezi-Owa is the Community Secondary School, Umana Ndiagu in Eze Agu Local Government where a not so different tale of neglect lies.

Whereas, the government proposed to renovate three blocks of dilapidated classrooms in the school, it has put only one in good shape.

The remaining classroom blocks in the school remain unconducive as at the time visited there.

An abandoned classroom at the Community Secondary School, Umana Ndiagu, Enugu State

With almost open roofing, cracked walls, absent windows and some collapsed classrooms, students would have to take cover whenever the weather changes.

School Principal, Mrs Cordelia Nwajuani said the contractors who showed up to continue work on a section of the school a weekend before the visit only attempted patching a weak broken wall rather than reconstructing it with pillars.

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In the event of rainfall, the headmaster at Community Primary School, Ekoyi Iheaka, Mr Samuel Ugwuja said “the noise alone will not make you hear word. The children would shift to the middle of the class.”

A classroom block in the school, which remains dilapidated would pass off worse than a poultry farm.

An ongoing classroom block construction in the school is nearing completion but the contractor, according to Mr Ugwuja, had not shown up in over two weeks before the visit.

A makeshift staff room under a tree at the Community High School, Umumba Ndiagu, Enugu State

For teachers at the Community High School, Umumba Ndiagu in Igbo Etiti Local Government Area, they have their staffroom under trees as they have had to sacrifice the few available spaces in the school for students to learn.

The roof of a block of classroom had caved in for more than three years and calls to government to commission repairs remained unanswered.

The principal of the school, Mr Reuben Omeh told that he shares his office with students in JSS3.

At the Central School, Ugwoba in Oji River Local Government, a collapsed classroom block lies there for almost four years despite funds allocated for its renovation. Officials of ENSUBEB initially claimed that the project had been executed until when confronted with pictures of the school that showed them otherwise.

This classroom block had remained dilapidated for about four years at Central School, Ugwoba, Enugu State

With the yet to be renovated classroom block at Iva Valley School II in Enugu North Local Government Area, the management made do with the available better structures within the school.

Classrooms were overcrowded and the primary school students still have to shift their seats whenever there is a downpour as some roofs were leaking.

A classroom block in the school compound was originally designated for renovation works in the 2014 intervention projects at the estimate of N3.17 million. But that never happened as noted.

The school’s headmistress, Fidelia Agu claimed that some persons had come to mark the building with a lot number but later cancelled it saying that the project was meant for another school, Iva Valley School III.

The abandoned dilapidated classroom block at Iva Valley School II, Enugu State

Pupils sit on the floor

At some of the schools, pupils sit on the bare floor to learn daily.

Beyond the provision of a new block of classrooms at the Central School, Eha Ndiagu at Nsukka Local Government, over sixty pupils in three classes of the nursery education level still sit on the floor due to the non-provision of classroom furniture.

There were such instances at the Community Primary School, Ekoyi Iheaka and Modern Primary School, Ogba Iheaka both in Igbo Eze South Local Government Area; the Community Primary School, Umuagama in Igbo Etiti Local Government, and the Community Primary School, Umumba Ndiagu in Eze Agu Local Government.

Inside one of the classes where pupils sit on the floor at Central School, Eha Ndiagu in Enugu State

Originally, the action plan obtained from the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) indicated that between twenty-five to fifty plastic chairs were to be provided for pupils in the pre-school classes in each school. But school heads told that they got eight each.

Due to the insufficiency of classroom chairs and desks, the responsibility of providing one fell on parents who would at times give their children kitchen stool to take to school. That is if they could afford one.

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To prevent the occurrence of such in her school, the headmistress of Iva Valley School II in Enugu North Local Government Area, Mrs Fidelia Agu said she had to use her money to make additional school furniture available ahead of resumption in September. In that case, nursery school pupils were seen using chairs meant for older ones as theirs were not provided.

The action plan originally allotted the school 35 plastic chairs and desks but none was delivered there.

Due to lack of classroom furniture, most of these pupils at Community Primary School, Ekoyi Iheaka sit on the floor

No toilets

Virtually all the schools visited had no building designated as a toilet.

Students and teachers would have to leave school during official hours in the event that they need to defecate.

The surrounding bushes of the schools would sometimes serve as toilets when they need to urgently answer the call of nature.

The action plan allocated over N892 thousand for the construction of four toilets at each school but only Ojinator Primary School in Oji River Local Government had a functional one save for the Community Secondary School, Umuagama that has one uncompleted structure overtaken by weed.

Across the schools visited, access to water supply is dependent on the host communities as none was readily available in school compounds. This reporter found no specific item in the states action or implementation plan indication the provision of water in the schools.

The abandoned toilet at Community Secondary School, Umuagama

Under-delivered projects

While the action plan specified the facilities to be put in place in each school, observed that some of such projects were under-delivered.

Just as toilets were missing in most of the schools, some classrooms were not done to specification.

At Modern Primary School, Ogba Iheaka, the plan was to renovate three blocks of classrooms but only one was done, leaving the other classrooms unconducive.

But at Community Junior Secondary School, Nkalagu Obukpa in Igbo Eze South Local Government, only two of the three blocks were constructed. The second was already near completion when this reporter visited the school.

The action plan for Central School, Eha Ndiagu proposed two blocks of classroom for the school but only one was eventually constructed leaving the other in bad shape as well.

Two of the classroom blocks at Modern Primary School, Ogba Iheaka showing the completed and one of the abandoned blocks

No fencing

Most of the schools visited had no fence, leaving them vulnerable to external aggression.

While some school in urban centres with fences could afford having security patrolling the communities ensure the safety of their schools, those in rural communities reported their property being vandalised and stolen occasionally by unknown persons.

Unqualified contractors

Our findings showed that some of the contractors that managed the construction works were not registered to do that.

This is in violation of provisions of the Public Procurement Act.

Checks with the Corporate Affairs Commission revealed that Packs and Services Ltd, which handled the work at Community Junior Secondary School, Nkalagu Obukpa has no business with building construction originally.

This reporter was told by bricklayers on site that the work was subcontracted to them but this could not be verified till the time of filing this report.

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Based on a check with the CAC, found that the company registered in August 1991 was designated to “engage in the distribution, manufacturing, importing and exporting of all kinds of polypropylene and polythene packaging materials” as well as to “manufacture, produce and distribute all kind of agro-allied materials”.

It also set out to “carry on the business of hotel, restaurant, café tavern, beer-house, keepers” among other things descriptive of  aspects of hospitality and hotel management.

In the case of Cleandom Integrated Limited, which managed the construction at Modern Primary School, Ogba Iheaka, it was registered in December 2016 as an enterprise meant to “carry on the business of general contracts, sales and supplies of general goods, manufacturers, representatives, sales agents services and suppliers of office equipment, importation and exportation of general goods, (and) general merchandise”.

Kenjude Enterprises managed the construction work at Community Secondary School, Umuagama. Its focus includes “sales marketing of goods” and “general merchandising and contracting services”. As at the time it was awarded the project, the company was yet to be registered. It only filed its registration in October 2019.

Government reacts

The Enugu State Government has said that it had no intention of abandoning any of its schools.

Commissioner for Education, Uche Eze while responding to enquiries from our correspondent via text messaging said the ENSUBEB was not known for abandoning school projects.

The University of Nigeria Nsukka professor was, however, silent on other findings from our investigation after promising to get back to us.

Further calls to his mobile numbers and text messages were not answered either.

Meanwhile, the head of Physical Planning unit in ENSUBEB, Ms Sandra Nneji had told that cases of projects yet to be done or under-executed was a case of transfer.

The project at Central School, Imezi Owa, for instance, was one of such cases as this reporter later learnt that a new block of classroom was being constructed under the 2015 intervention projects.

She assured us that identified findings would be put into consideration in subsequent action plans.

“In such cases of project you can’t find, the project must have been transferred.”

“So, that dilapidated school should be in the next action plan. It’s not that we abandon it.”

“At times when officials from a local government submit a list and they later noticed that another school is worse than that school, the project can be transferred to that worse school.”

Nneji added that whatever the SUBEB would do is subject to the availability of funds.

A promise made by ENSUBEB to respond to our other findings through its spokesperson had gone unfulfilled with the excuse that the senior officials of the agency had not authorised further responses.

Negligence unfortunate

The Programme Coordinator of Youth Child Support Initiatives (YSCI), Chiamaka Chukwuude said the state of schools in Enugu State was unfortunate.

Mrs Chukwuude, whose organisation is based in Enugu, noted that what the government referred to as transfer of project could also be a “misuse of political power”.

“Some of the projects planned but transferred to other places were changed by people who had others that can speak for them in the government,” Mrs Chukwuude said.

“Those projects were needed where they were planned to be initially.”

On the insufficient classroom furniture in schools, she wanted the government to address that in its subsequent implementation plans.

The YSCI official believed that a proper sensitisation of the School Based Management Committee (SBMC) across schools would ensure that appropriate monitoring and execution of school projects.

This investigation was supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism.

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