By Linus Effiong
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 number of technical colleges require more workshops and tools across the state.
Holy Ghost Technical College Umuahia was established by the missionaries in pre-independence period and taken over by the state government years after independence in 1960. The government had virtually failed to take swift and effective action to address most of the learning problems in the school but rather left the school in a pitiable state.
The government recently returned the school to its original owners with crumbling structures and facilities.
A teacher in the school, who prefers anonymity, 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 government handed over the schools to the church without sufficient furniture, laboratory and workshop equipment and that 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 government said they returned to the original owners. If you had come here some few months back you would have seen the level of dilapidation. Our principal, the Reverend Father has done much in terms of renovation still, it seem as if nothing was done. It isn’t going to augur well if governments say they have returned schools with all these buildings falling to pieces, to the church without takeoff grants.”
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 previous government in the implementation of ’27 per cent teachers’ salary increment’ as a major setback.
He said “the former governor promised to implement teachers’ pay rise in 2010 and nothing was done until we were forced to embark on an industrial action.”
The situation was no different in Government College Umuahia, one of the secondary schools the immediate past administration claimed to have rebuilt alongside other schools such as, the former Annunciation Secondary School Isuikwuato and Umuocham Girls High School Abayi, Aba.
The roof of the official residence of the principal of Government College was blown off by wind while the entire school buildings including Wareham, Erekosima dormitory, staff room, students dining hall were aging and decaying.
A number of decaying buildings had been abandoned while toilet facilities were lacking in most of the classrooms and hostels.
A teacher in the school said “except the new ’24 classrooms’ which are under construction, there is apparently no new rebuilding or renovation works going on.” He said the new buildings could solve some of problem being faced by the school if completed.
He said the number of students per classroom per teacher had doubled in the school, adding that there were “approximately 70 students in each classroom that stretched from classes A to J from JSS 1 to SSS 3.
Another teacher, who craved anonymity, told our correspondent that such is the condition of almost every school the government claimed to have renovated. According to her, the school was operating in few classrooms that “were re-roofed by the Old Boys Association.”
Reacting, the Chief Press Secretary to the government, Mr. Godwin Adindu, said Governor Okezie Ikpeazu had identified four ‘most dilapidated’ schools in each of the 17 LGAs for rehabilitation thereafter renovation works 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 Governor Ikpeazu’s administration,” he said. (Daily Trust)