One word that best describes many of the public primary and secondary schools in Abia State is ‘eyesore’. Some look like pigsties and poultries – so dilapidated that one would wonder how they got to such repulsive state. Yet, they are places where pupils go to learn from teachers who are equally frustrated and disgruntled.
Investigation revealed that no form of renovation or facelift has taken place in most of the public schools in the last decade or thereabout. The pupils learn in conditions unfit for human beings. Some of the schools do not have ordinary boards and chalk, just as pupils sit on bare floor to learn. Of course, the schools do not have toilets.
Most public secondary and primary school buildings and facilities across the 17 local government areas of Abia State are ageing and decaying in spite of massive maintenance and infrastructure funding by the government annually.
A sizeable number of school buildings in the state are virtually dilapidated with leaking roofs, broken furniture, doors and windows; some completely abandoned, with tons of garbage, human excreta and overgrown shrubs. Leaking roofs let rain cascade into classrooms, thereby creating a dangerous learning environment.
There is complete absence of modern multimedia, teaching and library facilities in hundreds of schools while most of the chalk boards in classrooms were broken.
The lack of cleanliness or poor toilet hygiene and usage present a serious risk of passing infection from one person to another, especially in schools located in rural areas.
Laboratory equipment were lacking in many schools and sports development facilities were in most cases substandard as football pitches were located in unsafe surfaces.
A father of four, who identified himself as Mazi Ndukwe Ikoku in Oloko, Ikwuano Local Government Area, wondered if Ikwuano is still in Abia State as there is nothing to show that Governor Ikpeazu has done anything in the public schools. He said “successive governments showed nonchalant attitude towards the development of schools,” adding that corruption and poor supervision have left the schools in poor conditions.
He said within his local government, schools that the state claimed to have handed over to the churches, were done without sufficient furniture, laboratory and workshop equipment and learning facilities in the schools were seemingly not updated since it was taken up decades ago.
He said, “You can see for yourself the state of the schools. If you had come here some months back, you would have seen the level of dilapidation.
According to him, the state government had withdrawn from nearly all aspects of school operation but reluctantly accepted the payment of teachers’ salaries for a period of time, while the church will take the responsibility of the day-to-day running of the schools.
Commenting further, he said low teacher motivation had led to negative educational outcomes in the state in recent years. “The lack of motivation is a pressing problem facing teachers. The most dedicated teachers in the state are as badly in need of motivation as their students.”
He cited the delay by the government in the implementation of ‘27 per cent teachers’ salary increment’ as a major setback.
A teacher in a government secondary school in Ikwuano said “We seriously need help.”
She complained bitterly about the utter abandonment of the school to rot to the point of scandal.
“Our major problem is the risk of the buildings collapsing on us and our students. The ceilings are collapsing by the day, the roofs are off and the remaining ones are leaking so badly. Termites have finished the woods, so they can drop any time. Worse still, snakes, including python, have invaded the premises on some occasions. So, any time you are within the premises, fear will grip you,” she lamented.
When our correspondent visited Akpaa Primary School Osokwa, Osisioma Ngwa LGA, a stone throw to the governor’s village, pupils were seen sitting on the floor to receive lessons, class teachers were without writing tables and no good seats to sit on.
This condition has been said to affect enrolment in the public school, with a total population of less than twenty pupils. Findings show that a lot of parents have moved their children from the school.
One of the parents who identified himself as Mr Steven Eke said “This is an example of the schools where government officials claim to spend hundreds of millions of naira monthly on feeding non-existent school children. They claim to have 600,000 pupils in our state-owned primary schools and this is evidence of it. These overnight billionaires think we are all stupid. Only God can reward these men for their wickedness because Abians are not interested.”
At the Community Primary School Ndoro Oboro in Ikwuano Local Government Area, pupils also sit on the floor to learn, with leaking roofs. Some parents expressed disappointment over the terrible condition of the school.
A community leader, Chief Nicholas Orji, said it was unfortunate that the state government has abandoned Ikwuano Local Government Area with nothing to show since 2015. “There are more terrible schools around if you can walk round; we have no option than to send our children to this school, while those with money send their children to a better private school in Umuahia urban.
The immediate past Commissioner for Information and Strategy now Commissioner for Trade and Investment during one of his interactive sessions with journalists in his lodge at commissioners quarter in Umuahia, said the government is not pleased with some of the learning facilities in the state.
He decried the state of infrastructural decay in most of the schools, especially in the rural areas.
He stated the intentions of the government at the three senatorial zones of Abia North, Abia Central and Abia South.
“The schools which the state government intends to erect in the three senatorial zones of the state, would have modern school buildings and classrooms equipped with 21st Century learning facilities.”
According to him, “the government is determined to restore the quality of schools in Abia State and make education one of the pillars of sustaining growth.
“I want to confer to you that the desire to erect and renovate more than two modern schools is something the governor would want to do but the financial constraint can only take two schools at a time.
“As the economy improves, others would be built and renovations will be done.”
The Abia State House of Assembly approved 1,395,216.00 (One billion, three hundred and ninety-five million, two hundred and sixteen naira) for the ministry of education this year.
In 2020, the House approved N611,014,600 as personnel cost and N47,250,000 as overhead cost for the ministry of education, while in 2019, N4.4bn was approved by the House for ministry of education.