Parts of Ogun State, one of Nigeria’s six southwestern states, are dominated by traders and motorcyclists. They are a mix of Yoruba, Igbo and local Fulani herders from poor backgrounds. Inside these communities, school children roam the streets during school hours, public schools lack enough teaching personnel, parents watch their children roam the streets, teachers live in fear of being attacked by the students and residents of the community ignore them for fear of being attacked by the students. In this report, Folaranmi AJAYI tells the story of this community and uncovers why this is a widely accepted norm within the local government. This report is in series and this first part introduces the story of education in Ifo Local Government area, solu. In a community visit to schools around the Ifo, Solu areas of Ogun state, Ajayi discovered how school children roam the area early in the morning and during school hours. This has become a norm and school children no longer have the feeling of having to go to school early or to even attend school assembly.
A walk through the school environment early in the morning and the area particularly in the early hours of the day reveals how students roam the street from the senior to the junior sections, it is the same kettle of fish, students unchecked, moving aimlessly, in groups and carrying school bags. When the students were challenged one of them humourously said; “are you new in this environment we don’t have lessons now and when we have my friends will call me. I will return to class once they call me.”
Introducing the school
Founded in 1980, Nawairudeen Public School is located within the popular Solu Area of Ifo, near the Oja bus stop, the school is directly opposite one of the oldest private schools in the local community, Lubotin. The motto of the school is for God and our forefathers land with the slogan ‘epitome of academic excellence’. The colour of the school’s uniform is stripe green and white with the boys and girls wearing light green as skirts and trousers, respectively. This school in Solu, Ifo, has been facing a major challenge: a shortage of teachers, high level of indiscipline, and nonchalant attitude of the parents to their children’s academic development. The situation has become so dire that students have been forced to roam the streets as early as 9:00 am, with no one to attend to them.
Background to the report
Earlier, Edugist newsroom reported that a school girl at Ifo has expressed disappointment over the lack of teachers, high level of indiscipline, and how students play truancy at Nawairudeen Public School in Solu, Ifo affects academic activities and makes learning and assimilation difficult. According to the schoolchildren, the teachers available skip classes, and the school authorities are not doing anything to address the situation. The girl further revealed that students are often seen loitering around the school area as early as 9:00 am, and that the level of truancy is high.
She also stated that some of the available teachers are afraid of the students because of cultism and that the community is not taking any measures to address the situation. Edugist reporter confirmed that there are teachers in the school but the attitude of students and the level of moral decay and disregard for school authorities is a big discouragement for teachers.
A concerned student speaks with Edugist reporter
A young girl, Adeola (not real name) who attends the school, expressed her disappointment and frustration over the situation. According to her, the teachers who are available often skip classes, and the school authority is not doing anything to address the issue. She further revealed that some of the available teachers are afraid of the students, and the community seems to be turning a blind eye to the problem. “Our teachers don’t teach us and that’s even if we have enough teachers we don’t have at all and for those in the art class no literature teacher and the English language teacher is just one person taking all the classes at the senior level.
I leave classes around 9am and come back around afternoon sometimes because we don’t always have a regular flow of lesson periods and sometimes throughout the day we may not do anything and that’s why you see students loitering and moving here and there.
Another student Ezekiel (real name withheld) “I wrote my SSCE, this last one, and I am highly depressed because there is no way we can make the results without engaging in malpractice and the school doesn’t know that it is not all of us that don’t take our education seriously. The students lamented that lack of teachers and the negligence of the school authority is what he finds difficult to understand. “I feel nobody really cares or everyone is tired,” he added.
“We don’t even do any academic work throughout the day sometimes. Some of us that are still serious are highly discouraged. Why then is the school existing if not to impart knowledge,” he asked.
Old student of the school speaks with Edugist
In a related development, an old student of the school described the situation as shameful, stating that students are not well-equipped for the future. The old student revealed that some students engage in prostitution, use birth control measures and that the boys are often involved in cultism.
She further stated that the students are quick to beat up teachers at any available opportunity. Salami a former student of the school expressed her deep concern on how young girls of the age of 16-18 use contraceptives just to avoid being pregnant and how some of the girls are lost in prostitution due to the nature of class activities and the boys are very high when it comes to hooliganism and cultism they are always idle doing nothing.
I know that you guys may not know some of my friends use drugs and in this school students fight a lot with cutlass and all, the issues are just very much from cultism to hooliganism and that is what you find in other schools around.
The situation at Nawairudeen public school is a clear indication of the challenges facing public schools in Nigeria. With a growing population and a limited budget, it is becoming increasingly difficult to provide quality education to students in rural areas within the country. According to a recent report by the United Nations, Nigeria has the largest number of out-of-school children in the world, with over 10 million children not attending school.
Concerned parents speak with Edugist
Speaking with our correspondent, a concerned parent, Mrs. Lawal lamented the situation and revealed that it has been ongoing for a while. The parent further stated that when teachers are transferred, no one is employed to replace them, making the situation even more challenging for the students. “For a long time the school has lacked teachers to teach students and it is not new at all because one of my daughters attends the school. She is always complaining but because I don’t have money there is really nothing that I can do about it. You see no one is taking education seriously in such an environment where almost every public school around has one bad issue or another. They have something in common, lack seriousness, shortage of enough teachers, cultism, hooliganism and students roaming the street.”
Ms Amaka, a stylist who works close to the marketplace at Ifo argued that the school is not one any educated parent can take their child to and it is poverty that makes some parent to take their children to the school. “I don’t see anything educational about that school except bad moral vibes and apart from the fact many parents here are not educated they also are very nonchalant to the welfare and academics of their children.”
Another parent, Mr Alabi, told Edugist that the problem with the school is numerous and you see environmental factor is also a problem and the level of moral in the environment is nothing to write home about. “My daughters struggled here because, I drive motorcycle for livelihood and there mother is a trader, I had to keep fighting my daughters because I do not like the kind of friends and class mates I see around them, moral is low and the kind of things I hear they do from other parents are shocking.”
“It is hoped that the government will take urgent action to address the situation at Nawairudeen public school, and other public schools in the country, to ensure that the children of Nigeria have access to quality education, which is their right,” Mr Alabi stated. Mr Ola on behalf of the parents said the government can make things happen and they can help transform education in the community. “For me the government can come to the rescue and once we have a strong parent teacher association things will get better.”
The parents of the students at Nawairudeen public school have called on the government to come to the rescue of the situation, as the community and the school authorities seem to have failed in their responsibility to provide a conducive learning environment for the students.
Educators speak to the situation
Educators within the neighbourhood have also expressed their discontent with the current situation, speaking on negligence, lack of knowledge of the situation and ignorance of the government of the situation. Ademola, a school teacher who doesn’t want the name of the school mentioned, told Edugist reporter that public schools in the area are birds of a feather and they have similar issues and problems.
Speaking on the similarities he expressed deep concern that 80 per cent of the schools’ students only wear uniforms with no significant difference between them and local people who don’t go to school. “When I move from Oja bus stop to Solu and even to Ogundele area you find them moving here and there and sometimes I wonder if they are playing sports because they are always not properly dressed and they are always in their large numbers roaming the streets.”
Another school teacher who owns a private school in the neighbourhood told Edugist that one thing that is shameful is how the students have no fear for anyone and they beat up some of their teachers who even try to instill discipline. She claimed that while there are teachers in the school there are not enough and those around cannot even do much because of the high level of moral decadence inherent in the area. She warned the Edugist reporter not to try to take video or pictures of the student because they can be very aggressive and no one will stop them even the police.
“I must be honest with you, they have teachers but there are not enough and we have had cases where teachers are beaten by students and you also must be very careful (pointing at our reporter) because they can do and get away with anything.” A roadside mechanic who is an educated young school teacher says he left teaching because it is not sustainable in the area. Commenting on the educational system in the local community he says he can bet it with anyone that nothing will be done because the government itself places no priority on education.
See I was born here and I went to a public school around while I was in school some six years ago. We had teachers leave school at will because they can’t wait till closing time for fear of being attacked in some of these schools because students are not afraid of teachers. Teachers fear the students.
Community leader speaks to the situation.
Chief Bode Sogunle is a renowned educator and son of the soil, he is the brain behind so many educational programmes and initiatives in the Solu,Ifo area and also the founder of Lubotin private school,Ifo,the oldest private secondary school in the community. Speaking on the state of education in Ifo local government, the renowned educator says back in the days, children in the community started school late and they used that factor as a means of influence to intimidate, woo and disrespect their teachers. Chief Bode highlighted that there is no fear, no concern, no eagerness to learn making them losing interest in all academic activities and prone to social vices.
In his words “there was a time we had complaints that students were wooing teachers and whatever you notice now is very small compared to what we met on the ground then.” Speaking to the current educational situation Bode shares the immediate causes why education in this community is backward and why the government needs to salvage the situation.
On parenting and morals
Largely, parents in Ifo are not well educated due because of meagre income. This impacts moral standards and leaves much to be desired in the area as the students behaviours reflect. Parents who have passed through the four walls of the tertiary institution don’t live within the community. A finding by the Edugist reporter revealed that parents within the community are traders and farmers.
Many fathers are social deviants while the hardworking men are motorcyclists. According to Bode, parents in the Ifo community are not educated and those educated don’t live here, they don’t see the need to monitor the education of their children. He argued that the lack of home training and low discipline and self control contribute to social vices such as hooliganism,cultism, truancy, and unserious academic habits witnessed in the majority of the public schools around.
On the environment and and religion
According to chief Bode, the wealthy are not educated and the educated are not wealthy, he says this is because shady businesses and dealings make one wealthy in the environment. Another community leader revealed that predominantly, residents of the environment practise traditional modes of worship and many who use this mode of worship use it for diabolical reasons. “Students use diabolical power on teachers and fellow students and this affects the level of discipline as teachers are always afraid of correcting students,” he said. Our environment is one where students bring charms to school and their teachers are always at their mercy. Some of them use rings to harass and assault fellow students.
The community leaders and educators agree that teachers are limited and those who try to enforce discipline are waylaid, some beaten and some harassed. “Teachers are very limited in the things that they can do, you can’t believe we have had the experience of some teachers who after disciplining a particular student were beaten and mobbed.” Chief Bode hinted that as an educator we enforce discipline based on discretion in the environment as some parents are not understanding and they can allow their children to perpetrate any evil without being cautioned.
How to salvage the situation, community speaks
“We call on the ministry of education to increase the level of supervision and collaborate with local authorities within the area to curb deviance among students so that they won’t bring disrepute to the community like they always do during school hours,” Elder Adegoke said. Chief Bode says the ministry should organise programmes such as seminars, and orientation for the community, bring government officials to speak to the students on career, importance of education, parenting and the importance of primary and secondary education.
Chief Bode emphasised that if there are strong measures put in place like mobile police, education monitoring group and allowing committed non-governmental organisation (NGO) and well wishers willing to help to come in then the situation can be salvaged.
It is already clear that inadequate supervision by the ministry of education is a major issue here and there is also a problem of lack of understanding of what is happening within the community.
Edugist’s visit to the school
The principal of the school was not available. His lieutenants declined commenting on the issue, stressing that as civil servants, they had not the mandate to do so.