Their condition of learning is certainly in sharp contrast with their calling and what they are expected to become at the end of their course. Students study in unbearable conditions at the Ebonyi State School of Health Technology, Ngbo, in Ohaukwu council area. The school offers courses in Community Health Technology under the Community Health Workers (CHEW), Junior Community Health Workers, (JCHEW), Environmental Technicians, (ET) and Environmental Technology, (ETECH). Students also study other programmes like Health Promotion (HE), and Health Information Management, (HIM).
Management, staff and students of the school are in tears following the condition of teaching and learning in the health institution. In fact, there could not be another way to describe the condition of students in the health institution founded by the past administration in Ebonyi State under the leadership of Senator Sam Egwu in 2007 than a pit of hell. Students with seemingly bleak fate found themselves under high exploitative and manipulative system.
Daly Sun reporter, who visited the School of Health with the state Commissioner for Health, Dr. Daniel Umezuruike observed that since the inception of the school with over 1,600 student population, there are no adequate classrooms, school laboratories and conveniences for both teachers and students. As a result, both students and their lectures adopt the bush-method, according to one of the lecturers, Mr. Daniel Itumo.
The Ebonyi State School of Health Technology (EBSOTHEC) was initiated by the Sam Egwu administration in 2007. The state government through the effort of the people of Ngbo community acquired a massive land for the school with little or no clauses attached. However, the fortune of the school, which was seen as a noble project by both students and stakeholders in Ebonyi began to dwindle when former Governor Martin Elechi took over in May, 2007.
Throughout the eight years of Elechi’s administration, the School of Health was allowed to decay. In fact, so many people believed that apart from the visible neglect of the important health institution, it was also a hidden pipe where successive leadership of the state Ministry of Health siphoned the state government money.
Despite the huge millions invested by the Elechi -led administration in health sector through mission hospitals, one would begin to ask, why the past administration sunk hundreds of millions of naira as free will donation to mission hospitals across the state without any attention to the School of Health Technology which ought to be the only government owned health institution that is expected to produce the medical health workers.
It was gathered that when the administration of former Governor Elechi came on board, the then Commissioner for Health, Dr. Sunday Nwangele, as part of his official tour of all facilities within the Ministry discovered the poor state of the school and promised to change the face of the health institution.
The former Commissioner, it was gathered, promised to facilitate the level of work at the school through the help of the Ministry of Health. However, throughout his eight years as the Commissioner for Health in Ebonyi State, the Ebonyi State School of Health Technology though managed to get accreditation but does not have any single classroom block, no hostel for the students’ accommodation, no library for students research, no toilet for students’ convenience and above all, there is no laboratory for practical learning as medical and health students till date.
According to one of the lecturers, Mr. Daniel Itumo, the condition of teaching and learning in the Health institution could only be compared with that of a pig living in a dungeon. He painted a gory picture of the condition of students studying under such dehumanizing environment despite the high rate of tuition fees they are expected to pay.
He said since the school took off in 2007 till date, there have never been functional offices for the lecturers except make-shifts carved out for the Heads of Departments. Other members of the tutorial staff are forced to congest in a hall, which also doubles as examination hall for the students.
“There is no single functional convenience anywhere in the whole school, I know you will be surprised but it is the whole truth, the only place you can see a toilet is in the Principal’s office, others have adopted bush method where you go each time you are pressed to answer call of nature,” he revealed.
Mr. Itumo further drew the attention of the Commissioner for Health, Dr. Umezuruike to the challenges facing the school, which include the lack of a functional library and classrooms for students.
“The condition of the students is too bad to the extent that they stand up during lectures. Others squat while majority of them carry each other on their legs during lectures. There is no single lecture hall anywhere in the school and the only available building here is an uncompleted and abandoned building which the students regard as a safe heaven,” he complained.
Another lecturer in the Department of Environmental Health Science, Mr. Josiah Aja, lamented that despite appeals to successive administrations for help, the condition of teaching and learning in the school have continued to worsen by the day following influx of students into the institution with little or no facility to accommodate them.
He lamented that the school always find it difficult to control examination malpractice students overcrowd the hall. “Because there is no single seat in the empty halls we converted to examination halls, a hall that is supposed to contain 10 persons have been forced to accommodate over 30 persons and it becomes very difficult to check cheating because you cannot tell five persons occupying a space of just two persons to stop cheating.”
Mr. Aja expressed concern over possible outbreak of epidemics in the area because of the poor environmental health condition of both staff and students especially at their various hostels.
“There is also another bad case that may soon come up. This is the issue of environment where our students live. There are no toilets or good drinking water in these places they live. Majority of them are female and they have been contacting various infections as a result of poor toilet facilities in their hostels and that is to show you that even as students who are studying about health, their own health is in danger under such condition.”
A Community Health Officer, Mrs. Eze Favour, who disclosed that though the school is called School of Health, there are no facilities to aide teaching and learning lthat would qualify one to be a consummate health practitioner.
She made a startling revelation that the school does not have any clinic or functional laboratory including labour ward for students to be taken on practical aspect of their course.
She said, “We don’t have clinic here in this school. The reason I insisted that the Honourable Commissioner should visit the labour ward was for him to see the mess in that area, there is no single facility to take the students on practical aspect of their course. We only teach them theoretically,” she said.
She further disclosed that the school doesn’t have an anatomy department, adding that students have been on their neck to take them on practical lecture on anatomy but because they don’t have the equipment or facilities, they have been evading that aspect.
Also speaking, the students of the school did not hide their own displeasure with the state of the health institution. The President of the Student Union Government (SUG), Mr. Ogonnaya Okorie, disclosed that they have been passing through hell under such condition of learning.
Mr. Okorie disclosed that the students have been dehumanized and exploited severally by both the management and lecturers under various guises.
“We lack infrastructure like convenience, school bus and everything that makes a school operational. Another area is the hardship the lecturers have brought on us which includes exploiting us through sale of hand-outs which they make mandatory and until you buy the hand-out, you will not be allowed to take quiz or even examination. When you manage to take the exam, you will neither see your result nor pass the exam.
Another student at the Environmental Health Department who gave his name simply as Kingsley made another startling revelation of how teachers’ especially male teachers allegedly victimize the students especially male students over their unholy affairs with their female school mates.
“Some of us who are male students are no longer safe in the hands of the male lecturers who have shared the female students amongst themselves, and if you have any issue with your course-mate who happens to be a female student, you may not pass that semester exam. In fact, some of the male lecturers will tell you that since you had the effrontery to challenge or try his ‘babe”, you will not graduate.”
“Another one is sorting; the lecturers have capitalized on the neglect of this school by the supposed supervising Health Ministry to unleash terror on us the students. They no longer mark the scripts based on merit, what they do now is to constitute some students who will be collecting money from us for them to sort their papers and get higher marks. If you don’t sort, you will either fail the course or get poor result, no matter how good you are in the course,” he said.
Other students accused the school management of sabotaging the interest of the students by diverting their index numbers upon graduation to non- students in exchange for money.
Reacting, the State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Daniel Umezuruike disclosed that he was aware that the school authority was diverting index number meant for the graduating students of the health institution to non- students in exchange for money.
“I am aware that the school some times divert the index numbers because Council of Health gives every school a number of students that will graduate and they issue them with index numbers. But here, we learnt that the school gives out some of these numbers to non- students in exchange for money and that is why some students here have not gotten their index numbers but we shall look into the matter and investigate it properly,” he promised.
On the dearth of infrastructure in the school of health, Dr. Umezuruike assured the staff and students of the intervention of Governor Dave Umahi in ensuring that all that the school needs to operate optimally and produce well equipped health workers are provided.
He expressed dismay at the level of decay in the health institution while assuring that the Ministry would commence immediate investigations into some of the allegations leveled against the lecturers by the students with a view to bringing sanity into the system.
Responding to some of the questions raised, the Principal of the Ebonyi State School of Health Technology, Mr. Igwe Martin Okike said the school had been having a running battle with the indigenes of the community over non-payment of compensation by the state government.
He denied some of the allegations by the students but said though the school is over populated at the moment, majority of the students are still people on pre- admission status. (Daily Sun)