Lemaplan International

Public schools may be poor but communities can do more…

Many public schools may be in a bad state. However, School Based Management Committees (SBMC) have been told to quit complaining, roll up their sleeves and find solutions.

When asked to list the issues bedeviling schools in their communities, members of School Based Management Committees (SBMC) that attended a training by the Human Development Initiatives (HDI) last week in Lagos, reeled off problems after problems.Hands were raised in all parts of the expansive hall at the basement of the R&A Hotel, Allen as the SBMC members struggling to catch the attention of the facilitator, Mr. Johnson Ibidapo, a Programmes Manager with HDI, for an opportunity to publicly put on record the problems of schools they serve in their communities.Dilapidated facilities, lack of toilets, insecurity, lack of perimeter fencing, menace of hoodlums, inadequate teachers, were common problems highlighted by the SBMC members.Mrs. Abosede Tijani said that Jamatul Islamiyya Primary School, Sabo Ikorodu had no fence and as a result suffered insecurity such that all its fans and windows had been stolen by hoodlums; while Mrs. Omolade Kalesanwo said Christ Central Primary School, Mushin was in such dilapidated state that roof was about collapsing.“Jamatul Islamiyya Primary School does not have a fence and toilets. As a result, there is a lot of insecurity. Hoodlums have stolen all our fans. Iron windows that were installed have also been stolen. Every day when we resume we pack human waste and condoms. They defecate all over the school.“Christ Central Primary School Mushin lacks teachers.The building is dilapidated. The roof is falling down,” Mrs. Kalesanwo said.Mrs. Bola Soaga, a retired teacher at African Bethel Primary School Ebute Metta, lamented the poor state of the school.“A block of three classrooms given to us by Jimi Benson about four years ago is in a bad state. If rain is falling, it will fall on us and the children. We need more security there,” she said.Mr. Liasu Kareem, a member of the SBMC at L.A. Primary School, Irewe, Ojo, said the school had no perimeter fencing.Such was the passion and concern displayed by the participants about the state of their schools. However, Ibidapo said passion was not enough and said the essence of the training was to show them ways to channel the passion into action that can help the schools overcome some of their problems.He said the government could not adequately fund education without support. So SBMC members had to learn how to rally the support of host communities, corporate organisations, philanthropists and others to come to the aid of schools.“We believe that the problems are so diverse that it is going to be impossible for government even to solve them. We expect that after now, we will come up with a strategy and they will individually go back to their local governments to begin to deploy these strategies to tackle the problems. That was why we said that with regards to the problems they identified, they shouldn’t just tell us on what the government should do. It should be what can you do as SBMC? That is the focus. So we want them to take stock – this is the problem; these are the causes; these are the solutions; but these are our own contribution to the solution. We want them to deploy the strategy and begin to address some of these concerns,” he said.

After strategising on what they want to do for their schools, the Executive Director, HDI, Mrs. Olufunso Owasanoye, said it was important they know how to communicate their ideas to get favourable results.  To this end, she taught the participants how to get positive response from school managers, people or organisations that they approach for support.

“We have found  out that most of them don’t understand that role and function and how they can to go about it.  So today, we are here to for us to build their capacity plan on what is school development plan and how they can renew their assessment of the school in collaboration with the head teachers or the school managers and then how they can go about it to achieve in meeting these needs which comes down to resource mobilisation.

“So the capacity also was built on how they can go about resource mobilisation. What are the steps to take? Who are they going to and where and what will they use in engaging these people? For example, old students association, philanthropists, those that they know in the government or also the local government that can assist the school, may be the school needs toilets, school needs extra furniture, they are to go in collaboration with the school and make sure they find out strategies on how those needs can be met.  They have to learn how can they approach, how can they present all these issues to people that are not even members of the community,” Mrs. Owasanoye said.

Apart from mobilising resources to support schools, Ibidapo said the SBMC members also had to learn about what government had officially provided for schools through the Universal Basic Education (UBE) grants to ensure that each school got what they were entitled to.

The participants were exposed to the 2018 Action Plan of the Lagos State Universal Basic Education Board (LASUBEB) which details all the projects that would be done in schools funded by the UBE grants.  The projects include rehabilitation of classrooms, provision of water and sanitation, provision of sports equipment, among others.  They also learnt the importance of school development plans and how to prepare one.

Speaking on the myriad of challenges facing public schools and how to solve them, Ibidapo said in an interview, that the government should not deny these problems but allow others to support in improving schools.

He said: “The first thing is to launch deeply into Public Private Partnership (PPP), to ensure that some of these things can be dealt with. There are organisations that are willing to collaborate with the Lagos State Government at no cost to sort out some of these challenges. There are organisations that are ready to recruit security guards; some are willing to give structures; we have seen banks that approach and say ‘we want to do this, how do we go about it?’. So government should leverage on that opening.

“Number two is that we will advise that the government to stop what I call denial game. The reality is that the challenges are so rife.  The recommended standard is  that a teacher should take 35 pupils or students in a class but classes are just  over populated. We have 150 or 200 pupils in a class. So the government should stop this game of denial.”

Ibidapo also advocated for improved funding of education.

“The government should go beyond this basic education intervention fund.  It is just a special fund; this thing should have even ended in 2012. It was by special grace it did not end.

“The economy of Lagos State is far bigger than some countries in West Africa. So they should stop relying on that intervention and devote more funds. Thank God for what Sanwo-Olu did last year and maybe this year but we want to see much more devoted, much more done.  At least right now we know that they have the right set of people in key positions of authority handling education, basic, secondary, tertiary but we should go beyond that to do more, be open minded, operate an open door policy, let investors come in, let supporters come in, don’t deny the problem and then I believe that we will make a lot of progress on that,” he said.

When asked about what LASUBEB was doing to address the infrastructural challenges in public schools, the chairman, Mr. Wahab Alawiye-King said: “There are processes to be followed.”

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