Why Abia parents snub Ikpeazu’s free education policy | Dailytrust

Why Abia parents snub Ikpeazu’s free education policy

  Umoha Secondary School, Uratta in Isialangwa North Local Government Area in ruins
Umoha Secondary School, Uratta in Isialangwa North Local Government Area in ruins

In most of the public schools in Abia State, especially in rural areas, buildings are dilapidated, with most of their roofs almost falling down. Most of the buildings do not have windows, while there are no perimeter fences to protect school premises. There is also no water for pupils and students to drink, thereby exposing them to danger as they cross the busy roads in search of water. The worst situation is that most of the classrooms visited were without benches or desks for the children to sit and write.  

Most of the secondary schools visited, the bare floors on which students receive lessons have already cracked and very dusty, a situation that forces both the students and their teachers to wet the floor before commencing classes. They do this at intervals on a daily basis to avoid the menace of dust during classes. 

Because there are no fences to protect the schools from intruders, some classrooms have turned into public toilets, and students are forced to clear the mess every morning.

Daily Trust Saturday also reports that most teachers do not even have chairs and tables to sit.

Also conspicuously unavailable in most of the schools are simple teaching aids for students, a situation that makes it very difficult for students to learn.

It was learnt that as a result of lack of these basic infrastructure and teaching aids, most of the public schools in the state, especially those in rural areas, are virtually empty, as both students and teachers are always absent. The situation in Isiala Ngwa North Local Government Area obtains in many rural public secondary schools across the state.

In Ikwuano, Bende and Isiala Ngwa North local government areas, the situation is very pathetic as 80 per cent of public schools in rural areas visited by our correspondent were in dire need of modern facilities.

Stakeholders who spoke with Daily Trust Saturday lamented that although the Abia State Government budgets billions of naira for education, there is nothing to show for it. 

When our correspondent visited Umuoha Secondary School, Uratta-Umuchima road in Isiala Ngwa North Local Government Area, the signpost of the school had been removed, while grasses had taken over the entire premises. The administrative block is also not spared.  

Chinedu Onwemadu, a retired teacher from the community, who conducted our correspondent round the school, said parents had withdrawn their children to private schools because of the dilapidated nature of the school; hence, grasses have taken over its premises.

Grasses overtake a part of Umoha Secondary School

He said that as at January this year, the total number of students in that school was 20, but nobody attends the school anymore.

He said, “There is no difference between the previous government and the present one. T.A. Orji and Ikpeazu are like father and son. Their policies are the same. In fact, when Ikpeazu was coming into office, he said he would continue from where his predecessor stopped. You can see that his predecessor did little or nothing in terms of workers’ welfare, especially in education. So he is following his footsteps.”  

On entering the school compound, the smell of excreta hits one’s nostrils, even as it was also learnt that there are occasions when young women are dragged into the premises and raped.  

Speaking to Daily Trust Saturday, Mrs Lovina Alozie appealed to the state government to help resuscitate the school, which she said was the only government presence in the locality. 

Chijindu Ejike, who was a student of the school, narrated how difficult it was to learn under dilapidated school buildings, and why his parents withdrew him from the school.   

“I am a JSS3 student now, but I left the school while I was in JSS2. Before I was removed from the school, we suffered during rainy seasons because of leaking roofs. And there were no good chairs. 

“Also, People who use our school field for football always mess up our classes, which we had to clean up the next day before our first lesson. 

“The woods used for the roof of the school were bad and most of them have been used by villagers as firewood.

My father took me to a private school because the condition of this one was bad,” he said.

Like Umuoha Secondary School, many public schools in urban and rural areas in Abia State are in bad shape despite the free education policy of the present government. 

Our correspondent also learnt that almost all the children in public schools are from very poor homes. 

A teacher from Ikwuano Local Government Area who spoke to our correspondent on the condition of anonymity said it was the desire of parents whose children are in public schools in Abia to take them away some day. “Can you bring your children to this kind of environment to learn?” The teacher asked.        

Teachers in the state also lament that they do not get their entitlements on time.  The state chairman of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) in Abia, Elder Agwu Kalu Kizito, lamented the salary situation of teachers, saying, “The salary situation in Abia is not good at all; we are pleading with the government to see what they could do to remedy the situation. Teachers are hungry. Remember the proverb that says that a hungry man is an angry man. 

“And they did not offer any reason for tampering with salaries of primary school teachers or why they refused to pay those in secondary school.

“Although the salaries of primary school teachers are coming from the federal government, they are paid through the Abia State Universal Basic Education Board (ASUBEB) and it is being tampered with; but secondary schools are managed by the state.  Maybe that is why they are being owed.

“What happens is that when the salaries of primary school teachers come, it would go into the state account. So it is the state that will organise and disburse it, and in the process of doing so, no one can tell what will happen. That is the reason the local governments are talking about autonomy so that money will be coming directly into their accounts.

“As long as the money still comes through the state account, it has every power to tamper with it; and even if you protest, it will not make any meaning. We have pleaded with the governor to at least pay primary school teachers what they are supposed to pay them because what they are being paid is very small.”

He continued, “Last year, two months were paid through the help of local governments, but at a point, it was removed. So, the union has been making frantic efforts to ensure that the money is being placed back because it is their statutory allowance.

“We are not going to fight the government as an organised labour, but we are pleading that they do something to remedy the situation. 

“That teachers still have the mind to go to school and teach despite the way they are being treated is a plus on their side. I want to say here that from analysis, since 2015, Abia State has been making the best results in the West African Examinations Council (WAEC). Despite the fact that the government owes us, we are doing our best for the sake of the students. We still do the job perfectly, yet we are not being treated fairly.”

In his remark during this year’s Workers Day celebration, Governor Ikpeazu, in a speech presented by his deputy, noted that the state government had identified four ‘most dilapidated’ schools in each of the 17 local government areas for rehabilitation, after which the gesture would be extended to other schools. 

“Rehabilitation of schools is part of the larger plan of infrastructure renewal currently going on in the state. I will like to inform you that education is being given attention by the Ikpeazu administration,” he stated.

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