On Wednesday, PREMIUM TIMES, alongside its partner, Strictly Speaking- a media and English Language training organisation, held the first episode of its intervention roundtable on Nigeria’s education sector.
The weekly forum, which is tagged, “The Dialogue,” and anchored by a veteran broadcaster and team lead for Strictly Speaking, Bimbo Oloyede, featured various journalists who have recently published investigative reports on different challenges facing basic education in Nigeria.
The first six episodes of the programme, which focuses on basic education, are sponsored by the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism. It is targeted at advancing conversations around investigative reports sponsored by the centre and aimed at mobilising for meaningful impacts.
During the first session, which held between 11a.m and 12noon, journalists gave vivid descriptions of the rotten state of the basic education subsector, dwelling on the issues of insecurity, poor infrastructure, poor funding, teacher quality and welfare, and misplacement of priorities and wrong implementation plans on the part of policymakers and implementers.
Nura Fago, a reporter with the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN) based in the North-eastern state of Bauchi, said the state of infrastructure in both primary and secondary schools in the state could simply be described as “pathetic.”
He said in some of the schools he visited about 250 pupils sit in a classroom, and that registers are no longer marked by the teachers due to the pupil-ratio rate.
Mr Fago said in a particular school that shares a fence with the Bauch State’s house of assembly quarters, pupils sit on bare floors to learn.
“This shows that there has not been commitment in the education sector to accommodate the exponential growth in population of this country.
“I went round 12 LGAs in Bauchi State and the situation is the same, not only in primary school but in junior secondary schools. Kids are forced to go to school with their prayer mats so they sit on them,” he said.
Mojeed Alabi, the development desk editor at PREMIUM TIMES, said the problem of poor infrastructure in schools has been compounded by insecurity.
Mr Alabi said the frequent violent attack on schools in the Northern part of Nigeria continues to pose a great threat to the education institutions.
He, however, said these attacks are no longer restricted to only the North with southern states also reporting attacks on schools in recent times.
He said: “During a recent visit to Maiduguri, I met teachers who last visited their schools in 2014. About 20 primary schools, three secondary schools were burnt down in Abadam LGA in Borno State. This has given rise to displacement.
“Unfortunately, the issue of insecurity is no longer restricted to the North. States across Nigeria are reporting one clash or the other and this has prevented children from going to school. It is either about sit-at-home-order in the southeast or herder-farmers’ clashes that are forcing schools to shut down in the southern parts.”
In the same development, Juliana Francis, a crime editor with New Telegraph newspaper, said while mass abduction is taking place in the North, kidnapping is ravaging the south.
“And apart from abductions and kidnappings, there are also cases of violent cultism among school pupils which is also forcing pupils out of school. Yet, insecurity is a violation of the right to education,” Mrs Francis said.
Focus on special schools
Eniola Adenitan, a journalist with the FRCN in South-west, said the special schools meant for people with disabilities are also in a terrible state.
Mr Adenitan said a visit to Osun, Ekiti, and Ondo States shows that these schools are not in good conditions suitable for able bodied children not to talk of those who are physically challenged.
He said: “Osun state has nine special schools where an integrated special school system is practiced. The blind, deaf, mentally unstable persons are put together in an environment. Yet, the infrastructure is in bad shape across the schools.
“Whether in Ondo, Osun or Ekiti, the infrastructure in these schools can be said to be appalling. Erosion has destroyed the environment and in my presence visually impaired students were falling down due to bad topographies.”
The organisers of the programme said the next two episodes will focus on the challenges of insecurity in schools and that relevant stakeholders including government officials, representatives of development partners, parents and reporters will feature to make achievable commitments.
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