Huge pupils population and inadequate teachers are hindering education delivery at the only two public secondary schools serving over 12 communities in Ibafo/Mowe axis of Obafemi Owode Local Government Area of Ogun State.
The teacher was sweating. The pupils who were huddled together in fives on each of the long wooden chairs in the overpopulated classroom were doing everything but learning. From his countenance, the overworked teacher was only waiting for his lesson to be over.
The classroom that ordinarily should sit 40 has 120 pupils. While some of them were playing at the back of the classroom, others were busy doing various things.
Now, the frustrated teacher picked out his handkerchief from his pocket, cleaned his sweat-soaked face and yelled at the noisy pupils.
“Stop making a noise! If you don’t want to learn go back home,” he said. His action only provoked more noise as some of the pupils complained in hushed tones that the classroom was not comfortable for them to learn.
Lack of adequate classrooms had forced the management of the Community Senior High School and Community Junior Secondary School, Ibafo, Obafemi Owode Local Government Area of Ogun State to merge classes.
The junior and senior schools are the only ones serving all the communities in Ibafo/Mowe axis of the Obafemi Owode Local Government, an area fast growing in population as many Lagosians are relocating there. So pupils come from as far as Mowe, Asese, Magada, Matogi, Abule Oba, Arepo, Magboro, Sefu Elelede, Temidire, Sefu Ota and all the adjoining villages. Since the school was established in September 1980, none other, except one that was started by the Chinese community in Magboro three years ago, has been added in spite of increasing population of the area.
The senior arm of the school has just 14 classrooms for over 2,000 pupils while the junior arm has about 11 classrooms and 33 teachers for about 2,300 pupils. The only public primary school in the area, Obafemi Owode Primary School, Ibafo, is also not faring any better. It is also overpopulated.
Checks at the state Ministry of Education revealed that 1,137 pupils were admitted into the JSS 1 of the school for the 2012/2013 academic session. This is in spite of limited number of classrooms. Due to inadequate space, the management of the schools had to combine two arms of a class into a classroom. This has made it arguably the first school that would have two arms of a class in a single classroom. A teacher, who pleaded anonymity for fear of persecution, said that overpopulation and government refusal to build more classes in the school were responsible for the bloated classes.
“That is why we have SS1A1 and SS1A2 in the same class. This is also one of the factors for poor education delivery in the school. Just imagine a teacher working under such a condition!” the source said.
One of the pupils, Akinbode Abiodun, who confirmed this, said that there are 110 pupils in his class.
“I’m in SS 2 B2 and we are 110 in my class. It’s not always easy to learn under this condition because we sometimes fight for space,” he said.
Also, Ojo Emmanuel, who comes to the school from Magada, a distance of over two kilometres, said that over 100 pupils are in his class. He is in SS3A2.
Lawal Ayobami, an SS 3 pupil of the institution, also complained about lack of space. Our correspondent, who visited the school on Thursday, counted 112 pupils in one of the arms of the senior secondary school. But apart from lack of classrooms, the junior arm of the institution is battling with inadequate teachers.
A JSS 2 pupil of the school, Kehinde Ahmed, said that though the pupil population in the junior secondary is over 2,000, there are just three English Language teachers for the whole school.
A non-teaching member of staff, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, because he was not allowed to speak with the press, confirmed this. The source added that three teachers could not effectively teach over 2,000 pupils.
“It is not just about inadequate English teachers, this school also has only one Fine Art teacher and one of the arm of the school-JSS1 – is so large that we have up to JSS 1G,” the source added.
At the senior secondary school arm, a clerk told our correspondent that the principal had gone out for a meeting. But other senior members of staff, including the two vice-principals, refused to speak with our correspondent.
“The principal has gone for a meeting. You can come back another day,” one of the two female vice-principals said.
However, a drama ensued when our correspondent tried to get the views of the principal of the junior school about the problem of overpopulation and inadequate teachers.
The man became furious as soon as he learnt about the mission of our correspondent in the school.
“How did you enter the school? Who allowed you in? Who invited you? You must not write anything about this school and you must not take any photograph. Otherwise, I will deal with you. Why are you people from PUNCH always creating problem for us. Please, leave this school now! I say leave,” he said.
All efforts to convince him to talk failed. “I’m a civil servant, I don’t talk to the press,” he said amid threat to destroy our correspondent’s camera if any attempt was made to take photographs.
However, one of the parents, Mr. Alani Fatai, who spoke with our correspondent at the school gate, said the state government was not serious about giving quality education to the people of the area. According to him, the land housing the two schools is well over 20 plots. This, he said, was enough to build befitting schools.
He also accused the state government of paying lip service to education, saying that the books distributed to pupils as part of its free education scheme were not enough.
“This school is now a bit better now because before the intervention of the Parents Teacher Association, our children were sitting on bare floor. But we are now providing the desks and chairs for the school,” he said.
However, the state Commissioner for Education, Science and Technology, Mr. Olusegun Odubela, said the government was aware of the challenge. But he explained that lack of land space to build was responsible.
“We are aware of the problem and, in fact, His Excellency Governor Ibikunle Amosun is passionate about education. That is why he has started the idea of model schools. The committee has visited that axis to look for land where a model school could be sited. But unfortunately, we have not been able to get the required land space of at least 10 acres to accommodate the model,” he said.
Asked why the state government was finding it difficult to get land in the area, Odubela, a lawyer, explained that most land in the area had been sold.
“We got one around Akute but there are still some challenges. Some people have said we should acquire land but the feeling of the government is that we don’t want to render people homeless; but we may have to resort to that if we can’t get the land to build schools for our children in all the border areas,” he said.
Odubela added that the state government was committed to the development of the education sector, adding that millions of naira had been expended on infrastructural development of schools across the state.
However, some residents of Ibafo said the reason given by the government could not hold water.
“Ok, assuming that they don’t have land, why can’t they make use of the expanse of land in the existing school? Why can’t they build huge story buildings like they are doing in some Lagos schools? I don’t believe there is no land, it’s just that they don’t want to develop this Mowe/Ibafo axis,” Mr. Sunday Tejumade said.
Another resident, Alhaji Sunmaila Ajani, also faulted the state government for failing to develop the area. He said, “It’s not right. If the government truly desire to give us school, why did they decide to pick Owode as the site of the model school in this local government? That town already has two secondary schools. Why can’t they say; let Ibafo/Mowe axis of the council be given the model school?” he said.
The pupils also called on the state government to give them more classrooms and teachers to enhance education delivery.