3 months after Ortom’s directive, Benue school still without chairs, desks | Dailytrust

3 months after Ortom’s directive, Benue school still without chairs, desks

A Primary 5 pupil of the Arabic Nursery and Primary School, Makurdi, Benue State, Yahaya Anas, doesn’t like anything about his classroom where he sits...

A Primary 5 pupil of the Arabic Nursery and Primary School, Makurdi, Benue State, Yahaya Anas, doesn’t like anything about his classroom where he sits on a wooden plank to learn everyday.

Anas said he would never get used to the uncomfortable learning environment which has become his lot since he became a pupil of the school over four years ago.

The young lad, obviously disappointed over the dilapidated state of his classroom, pleaded in an inaudible tone for government to come to the aid of his school.

“I don’t like the way my class is. I want the government to repair my classroom and give us chairs to sit on while learning,” Anas said.

His female classmate, Rukiya Habib, corroborated Anas’ submission, adding that the poor state of their classroom makes learning difficult for them.

Habib added, “I’m not happy over the state of our classroom. Since I started school here from Primary 3, we have been sitting on planks to learn.

“Most times, my uniform gets dirty. It’s also difficult to write because I don’t sit comfortably. I want government to buy us chairs and repair our ceiling.”

Like these two, other pupils of the school shared similar experiences which describes the plights of some school children across the state, especially in the rural environs. This is despite the state government’s heavy investment in public primary schools across the state.

For instance, the present administration of Governor Samuel Ortom, since coming on board over six years ago, has built over 1000 primary school classrooms and distributed over 35,000 customized chairs and tables for primary schools in the state. 

The number said to be distributed so far was the first batch of 61,000 chairs and tables. The Ortom administration in collaboration with the Universal Basic Education, UBEC, plans to distribute more of the furniture to primary schools across the 23 local government areas of the state.

However, it does not appear that some of these schools are getting the chairs for the purposes they were procured.

It would be recalled that three months ago, Governor Ortom handed a directive for the furnishing of the Arabic Primary School when he paid an on-the-spot assessment visit to the school and others in Makurdi.

He had directed the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) to immediately supply plastic tables and chairs to meet the pupils and teachers needs.

But months after, the situation has remained the same as our correspondent who visited the school observed that the pupils were still learning under harsh environment.

Our correspondent also observed that there were thousands of those plastic tables and chairs believed to have been supplied to the Ministry of Education for onward distribution to schools packed outside the premises of the Education Ministry’s former office in Makurdi.

A worker at the premises said the furnitures have stayed under the sun and rain for over a year, adding that some were already spoiling due to the effect of harsh weather.

Sadly, pupils in public schools such as the Arabic primary school, located not too far from the Benue State Government House in Makurdi, could hardly feel the positive impact of the administration to the state’s educational sector despite their closeness to the seat of power.

Governor Ortom had expressed disappointment over the lack of seats in the school when he paid an unscheduled visit in July during a tour of some of the projects embarked upon by his administration.

The school, which is one of the public primary schools that contract was awarded by the state government for their renovation, aside wearing a new paint, had evidence of a shoddy job done by the contractor from the building itself to the roofing.

Worst still is the fact that some of the classrooms lacked enough chairs as some of the pupils were found sitting on the bare floor to take lessons.

The governor, who could not hide his anger at the development, told the contractor to his face that he had done a very shoddy job and immediately directed the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) to ensure that all public primary schools in the state are supplied with enough desks and chairs as he stressed that the era of sitting on bare floor or on benches in schools was over.

Ortom had then also visited the LGEA Central Pilot Primary School as well as the Holy Ghost Primary School all located within the same vicinity to assess the quality of work done there.

He had told journalists later that, “We have gone to some of our primary schools that we have upgraded. I have seen the facilities myself and I have already queried some of the contractors that they did shoddy jobs. And I think the Board of SUBEB will take action immediately because I have directed that desks and chairs be provided for all the primary schools in Makurdi here. 

“I don’t want to see our children sitting on the floor or benches again and we are starting here in Makurdi, then we can reach out to other parts of the state. It’s an ongoing process.

“Currently, we have counterpart funding of N1.6bn that has been allocated to us. We are sourcing money from the bank to make it N3.2bn. Out of that, we are going to provide desks again and continue to upgrade the facilities in our primary schools. 

“The reason is that primary school is the foundation of every child and we want our children to be grounded and very sound before they get to the secondary and tertiary institutions. If the foundation is faulty, then you can be sure of having a faulty education for any child.”  

But, three months after the visit, our correspondent who went back to the school to speak with the school authority on some of the issues raised by the governor and their experiences over the years, reports that nothing has changed after the governor’s inspection of the school. 

“Some parts of the roof are leaking and some of the ceilings are already falling off. Even the paints are peeling off in some of the blocks of classrooms,” a teacher who did not want to be named said.

Our correspondent also observed that the small office used by one of the Assistant headteachers has a falling ceiling like many other classrooms while pupils were clustered in classroom assumed to be better than others in the building basically due to lack of chairs and dilapidated ceilings which might cave in at any moment.

The Head Teacher of the school, Alhaji Musa Jibril, who said he was glad during the governor’s visit, still expressed hope that his promise to provide seats for the school would come to reality.

Jibril explained that he had made several efforts in the past to approach the state Ministry of Education to get seats for his school but that his effort only yielded insignificant result.

He said, “I was given only 80 seats for my almost 800 pupils. At the moment, I have 786 pupils in this school. The school’s population was a little over 900 before the primary six pupils graduated.

“That’s why my joy knows no bounds that the governor came here to see things for himself. Anytime he visits us, something positive happens to our school.”

Jubril added that July’s inspection was the second time the governor visited his school as he pointed out that the first time he visited, he noticed that thieves were removing the roofs from behind and he immediately ordered that the school should be fenced and it was fenced, stressing that the move finally laid to rest the activities of thieves who come to steal roofing sheets in the school.

He further disclosed that the school houses the only all girls Universal Basic Education (UBE) junior secondary school in the state, adding that although it bears Islamic name, it is fully owned by government. 

Interestingly, unlike other government-owned public primary schools in the state capital battling for survival with fewer pupils, the Arabic Nursery and Primary School in Makurdi, boasts of high population and lack desks and tables.

A teacher in the school, who also sought anonymity, worried that pupils consisting of Classes 1 to 5 sit on the floor to learn, adding that most of the classes had to be combined due to lack of seats.

The school management as learnt put in place measures to also drive enrolment as apart from visiting families to discourage the idea of sending their wards to hawk during school hours, they had to encourage parents who cannot purchase uniforms from the market at N2000 and above, to arranged with certain tailors who can produce the uniforms at N1500, so that there would be no cases of pupils coming to school without uniforms.

When contacted, the SUBEB Information Officer, Erdoo Sar, said the chairs and desks were now being distributed but she could not explain the reason behind the delay.

State Commissioner of Energy, Science and Technology who is presently the Supervising Commissioner of Ministry of Education in the state, Dr Godwin Oyiwona, said the governor’s directive covered all the schools that lacked adequate desks and chairs.

“If you go that ministry’s premises were those items were packed, you will see massive distribution going on currently. If the Arabic primary school didn’t get theirs this week, I’m sure sure in few days time, they will have it.”

Oyiwona explained that the delay might have been because the items were usually distributed in batches according to yearly grants, stressing that every year, the grants were dispatched in batches.

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