By Gbenga Salau @ The GUARDIAN newspaper. >Pupils sitting haphazardly in class due to inadequate chairs and desks< Seven years after Lagos State Government took over the management of a community-funded primary school in Itua-gan, one of the riverine communities in Amuwo-Odofin Local Government, the state government has not sent teachers to the school.It was
When The Guardian visited the school, though the pupils were learning in beautifully built classrooms, there were no good chairs and desks to sit and write. Many of the chairs and desks in the classrooms were damaged, so the pupils sit on broken chairs and write on their laps or cover of a broken desk. And because they have to sit on broken chairs, they sat haphazardly in class.
Findings revealed that the school has no fully paid government teachers, probably because teachers rejected the posting due to the stress and cost of journeying to and fro the school daily, in case they would prefer to come from outside the community, especially the mainland.
A pointer why teaching and non-teaching staff often reject postings to riverine communities was when one of the non-teaching staff, who stays in Igando, Alimosho Local Government, shared his experience working in Itua-gan Community Primary School. To be in school daily, he claimed it costs him on the average about N700 while his monthly take home pay is N50,000. It is not only the financial cost, he must leave home early between 4 and 5 am, if he must be in school at the appropriate time. He disclosed that when the daily transport fare was eating deep into his earnings and the stress of journeying daily to the school was telling on his health, he decided that once he leaves home on Monday, he will only return to his children on Friday. So, he converted one of the rooms in the block of classrooms in the school, what was supposed to be the sickbay, as his staff quarter.
On whether he was not told, when he was being employed that he would be posted to a riverine community, he said he started his career with the Lagos State Government as a staff of Olumole Primary School, Oluti. He was thereafter posted to Igbo Elejo Primary School and in 2014 was transferred to Itua-gan Community Primary School.
He also disclosed that the incentives, a special allowance, meant to encourage and boost the morale of teaching and non-teaching staff working in riverine communities had been stopped, thereby further compounding their plight. Some of his comments were corroborated by two other non-teaching staff.
The teachers employed in the school by the community are only carrying on due to the love they have for the community; what they are being paid as salaries is nothing to write home about. One of them, Edoisa Sylvester said he and his colleagues would be greatly motivated if the state government could give them full employment. He said what he earns cannot be disclosed because it is too ridiculous.
With the state government not employing teaching staff in the school, it is however not surprising that the school lacks other basic facilities. The school is not fenced, which makes it prone to intruders, just as there is no library, equipped sickbay, and play materials for the nursery section to mention a few.
The Baale of Itua-gan, Chief Lot Ikuesan, pleaded with the state government to quickly come to the aid of the community, as it is grappling with even paying the little it gives the teacher as salaries. He was not happy that years after the state government took over the running of the primary school; teachers have not been posted, leaving the community to carry the burden alone. He commended the state and local governments for the two blocks of classrooms housing the primary school. He also wished that the same intervention would be extended to the secondary school, which is begging for serious support from the state government. He asked that the state government should take over the running of the secondary school too.
About 500 metres from the primary school compound, is an abandoned building, which had been converted to the community’s secondary school. The building, it was gathered, was a church hall, but after the congregation of the church discontinued using it, the community had to move in, especially after the block of classrooms built by the community for the secondary school collapsed. The hall, with a sandy floor, has four classrooms, demarcated by wooden chalkboards, each showing signs of fatigue and crying for replacement.
It was also learnt that the secondary school has no formal authorisation to operate, despite being established in 2008 by the community to provide succor to some of his students, who could not risk the daily journey on water to get to a secondary school located kilometers away. One of the teachers disclosed that the secondary school started as a full-fledged one with both senior and junior arms, but due to inadequate funding, as the community could not pay for the number of teachers needed to run the school, the senior arm of the secondary school was discontinued. She said that there are three classes of Junior Secondary School at present, one to three, with about 70 students, being handled by four teachers and two adhoc teachers on training. One of the four teachers in the secondary school provides some teaching support for the primary school, because of the inadequate number of teachers in the primary section.
A youth leader in the community, pleaded with the state government to come to the aid of the community by taking over the administration of the secondary school. He revealed that there are five private primary schools in the community and each has on the average about 300 pupils, which means if a secondary school is fully set up in the community there would be enough pupils that would be admitted to sustain the continuous existence of the secondary school.
According to him, students who go outside the community for secondary education do that at a great financial cost and risk to cross the waters.
Efforts to get the state government to comment on some of the issues raised by members of the Itua-gan community were not successful. The Public Relation Officer of the Ministry of Education did not pick his calls, neither did he reply the message sent to his whatsapp page.