This may sound like a fairy tale but it is for real. Children still study under trees and unfriendly classrooms in many government owned basic education facilities in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.
That is not enough. Children also sit “comfortably” on bare floor while receiving lessons in some public education facilities in the FCT. The schools are equally faced with teachers that are clearly not motivated, financially and otherwise, to give their best.
Local Education Authority (LEA) School, Abattoir, Kutunku IV Extension Layout, Gwagwalada, Abuja, is one of the many public schools in Abuja, where the children of the “poor” get their education under trees and open classrooms.
Of course, aside the health, mental and psychological implications, the children are obviously denied the opportunity to build a strong academic foundation that would help them excel academically in future. Many might be surprised that, in spite of interventions by government and international donor agencies through different platforms, Nigerians could still be found studying under trees in FCT public schools.
This is contrary to the conducive, lovely and caring teaching and learning environment in many private schools where children of the elite are found. At Kutunku, Gwagwalada, Daily Sun saw pupils milling around even when teaching was supposed to be going on. The pupils were obviously children of the less privileged persons in the society.
It was obvious that parents of larger number of children in the school could neither afford instructional books nor uniforms, not to talk of daily stipends for the children’s lunch. The children do not only study under trees and open classrooms, they are also exposed to several health hazards. For instance, in the school compound was a stagnant pool where cattle gather periodically to quench their thirst after grazing.
Being a LEA school, it was expected to be under the care and supervision of the Gwagwalada Area Council but otherwise seems to be the case, an indication something was amiss. Head teacher, Mrs. Olumulo Esther, registered her displeasure and frustration to the poor condition of teaching and learning services in the school:
“It is unfortunate that Nigerian children still study under trees in the 21st century world where systems have been transformed via technology and other innovations. Nigeria is blessed with human and natural resources that could positively transform the living conditions of people. But corruption has held us down. However, there is nothing we could do at our level to help the situation.”
She pointed at an uncompleted structure erected through the financial and logistic contributions by the Parents Teachers Association (PTA) that is being used temporary for the children: “We have to look for a means to cover the uncompleted structure so we could use it to teach children.
“We have few teachers that accepted to work with us. We have to appreciate the NPower programme of the Federal Government. It provided us with more teachers to complement the efforts of the few available ones.”
She solicited the intervention of the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) and FCT administration, in the provision of teaching and learning materials, as well as erection of befitting structures and classroom desks.
The case was different at the LEA basic education school in Dawaki, Bwari Area Council, Abuja, where classrooms in the school had few seats to cater for large number of children. As a result, the children were left with the option of converting the obviously cold floor to comfortable seats so they could receive lessons.
One of the teachers who pleaded anonymity admitted that enrolment and children attendance have been poor due to absence of conducive teaching and learning environment: “It has also discouraged teachers and weakened children’s interest from attending school.”
She appealed to a team of UBEC officials monitoring the ongoing National Personnel Audit (NPA), to assist the school with basic teaching and learning needs so they could assist the children build their academic foundation, preparatory for global challenge ahead.
It was believed that these barrage of complaints across Nigeria that informed the decision of UBEC to audit all private and public basic education facilities so they could produce a reliable statistical database that would help in the planning and implementation of educational policies.