Four weeks after the resumption of the 2015/2016 academic calendar across the country, government-owned primary schools in Rivers State have remained shut.
The schools were locked up by security personnel who are protesting non-payment of several months salaries, PREMIUM TIMES has learnt.
The lock-down had continued despite a promise by the Rivers State government to pay the aggrieved guards.
“We want to unequivocally state that for no reason should our children be locked out of their schools because of government’s inefficiency at properly managing her institutions,” said Solomon Okocha, head of the Port-Harcourt based The Patriots Alliance.
“We believe that a Nigerian child should not be dragged through the traumatic lane of abandonment by a resource endowed government. Moreso, no primary school pupil in Rivers State should suffer because of the refusal of Rivers State government to maintain her own part of payment agreement with security staff.
“It is expected that the government having fixed the school resumption date, ought to have responsibly addressed all outstanding issues before the chosen date.”
In 2012, then state governor, Rotimi Amaechi, completed about 250 Model Primary Schools across the state, to replace old dilapidated schools as well as ease access to education.
According to Media Vanguard for Change, MVC, another Port Harcourt based organization, the model primary schools were equipped with lCT facilities, modern libraries, science laboratories, football fields, basketball and volleyball pitches, and nursery playgrounds.
Mr. Amaechi had recruited private security personnel to guard the model primary schools.
“These primary schools were built to the standard of the United Nations and measured with other parts of the world,” the MVC said in a statement by Sandra Briggs, its Secretary, on Friday.
“The MVC reminds Rivers people that Amaechi developed the education sector by building 24 model secondary schools across the 23 local government councils in the state; these were well planned and structured and fully equipped with modern day educational, recreation and boarding facilities with standard housing for teachers,” Ms. Briggs said.
Ms. Briggs noted that the previous administration of Mr. Amaechi ran a free education with free books and uniforms, provision of libraries and internet facility for the primary schools.
“The MVC wishes to remind Governor Wike that 13,000 teachers were recruited by Amaechi and some retained to handle the world class primary and junior secondary schools,” she said.
“He sanitized education in Rivers State in order to produce quality graduates. He provided an enabling and conducive atmosphere that enhanced education excellence in the state before he honorably left office after the end of his prosperous tenure.
“However, the refusal of Governor Wike’s administration to reopen these public schools, the deplorable nature of these schools’ environment and the eventual decay in education both in primary and secondary have sadly come to the notice of the MVC.”
The statement went further to describe Mr. Wike’s action as “totally unacceptable” and a deliberate conception to deny Rivers children their right to basic education.”
“May we remind Governor Wike that the legacy he is deliberately destroying happens to be the first in Nigeria to introduce lCT at primary level,” Ms. Briggs said.
“What added value has his administration built into the education sector? Education and other facets of governance has been down-trodden, battered and the decay as observed is enormous.
“The MVC therefore demands the immediate reopening of our public schools to enable Rivers children gain access to proper education.
“No child of Rivers State will become uneducated in the midst of first class facilities.”
However, according to Opunabo Inko-Tariah, Special Adviser to the Governor on Media and Publicity, Mr. Wike knew about the unpaid salaries when the schools resumed.
“The PDP administration in Rivers State inherited enormous liability from the previous APC government, which accounts for some of the prevailing problem,” Mr. Inko-Tariah told Today FM in Port Harcourt last week.