Generally lethargic towards anything academic (perhaps understandably so): children in this school located in the heart of 3 Battalion, Nigerian Army, Effurun, Delta State, lack the most basic of infrastructure required for effective learning. Furniture.
And the enthusiasm they lack naturally by the nature of their circumstance, the teachers seem to want to instill by rote.
Beside the rickety desk of each teacher is a bunch of canes with which they hope to ‘tame’ the children. This is the story of children at the Army Children Primary School, Effurun, Ovwie Local Government Area of Delta State.
Education psychologists believe that the state of an environment determines the kind of behavioural pattern exhibited by occupants of that environment. It is even more true of learning environments!
The school, comprising Schools 1 to 4, was obviously well-conceived when it was founded. It has well mapped-out space both for academic and co-curricular activities.
And it boasts of hundreds of pupils who exhibit some level of good breeding, but the little sense of humanity and dignity that may be left in them is fast wearing off – no thanks to the deplorable state of the school’s facilities.
For the first time in the history of Delta State, there is a government headed by a medical doctor who is deploying the best hands available to man strategic ministries, including education; but the Army Children’s Primary School, Effurun, sticks out like a sore thumb and seems to make mockery of those efforts so far made to arrest the decay in the sector.
In Delta State today, there are two commissioners of education – one in charge of basic education and the other, tertiary education. The division of labour is to ensure that no stone is left unturned in addressing the rot in the sector.
But while history is being made both in the health and even education sectors with the refurbishment of old buildings and the construction of new ones, the recruitment of medical doctors and teachers, it is still curious how a basic school with so many children could escape the attention of government and allowed to get to such a sorry state.
The four schools: Schools 1, 2, 3 and 4, are in a very bad state. In Primary 1, all the pupils take lessons sitting on the floor. At School 3, the roofs leak when it rains.
When Saturday Tribune visited the school, the water left on the roof by the January rain was still dripping.The security gate hangs on precariously, about to fall off. The head teacher in School 4, for lack of office space, now sits in an open veranda.
Because of the poor state of the toilet facility, pupils defecate in a nearby bush or deposit their waste in a nylon bag and fling it across into the bush. Teachers, Saturday Tribune was told, ease themselves in soldiers’ quarters or sneak into and use toilets in banks located in Effurun roundabout.
Teachers’ desks are rickety, and pupils trek, mostly barefoot and usually in a noisy group, to fetch water from the soldiers’ quarters – much to the chagrin of the officers. Sometimes they go to faraway brooks.
Obviously embarrassed by what they saw, some National Youth Service Corps members, who are said to be about passing out, last week rallied round to drill a borehole for the school.
“The corpers said they usually saw pupils going to soldiers’ quarters to fetch water to drink or even cross the expressway to get water in brooks. They said they wanted to help the children by sinking a borehole in the school. You can see how far they have gone about it,” one of the teachers, who conducted Saturday Tribune round the school, said.
Decrying the state of the school, one of the female teachers said: “We are tired of complaining. Look at the roof of my class. Look at the desk I use as a teacher. Look at the windows, patched with planks! Just look at the falling ceilings as a result of leaking roofs. It’s a hell managing these pupils of over 70 in my class.”
At School 4, said to have been inaugurated by the James Onanefe Ibori administration, the experience was more pathetic. From the entrance of the school, one could see some iron sheets have been blown off, leaving the roof bare.
The teachers, numbering less than 20, are saddled with the responsibility of managing not fewer than 600 pupils, according to one of the teachers. In fact, their rickety desks are ridiculously positioned amid the pupils who swarm around them like bees.
It was gathered that some of them who could no longer bear the pain of standing or sitting on windows went to purchase plastic tables and chairs for themselves!
At the Army Children School, some classes have up to 120 pupils to a teacher. When asked why it is so given that there are some empty classes, one of the teachers mentioned the lack of adequate desks and chairs for pupils, hence the need to merge classes. But the merging notwithstanding, pupils still sit on bare floor.
This harsh teaching and learning environment of course has had its effects both on teachers and on pupils. While it has produced in teachers aggression, loss of motivation and its subsequent low efficiency, it has produced in the children apathy, truancy, insolence and mass action to disobey teachers.
Many of the pupils complained of ants’ sting, coldness of the floor and their general lack of interest each time they remembered they had to attend school.
The teachers said their writing ability had been affected. Speaking with Saturday Tribune, another male teacher wondered: “How can they (pupils) write well when they do the writing on bare floor? We are running the school on our own. The PTA (Parent Teacher Association) is not doing anything. I feel very bad. The children are usually noisy and uncontrollable when lessons are going on because they are not comfortable. I had about 50 in my class and another 50 were added (from another merged class) to mine for lack of desks for the pupils.”
When asked if the pupils were able to assimilate during class activities, a female teacher said: “We are trying to help them. Their sheer number and no furniture to sit on are not encouraging. Because of this, some of them now absent from school.
Some of their writings are also bad, because of the inconvenience of sitting down on bare floor. If they are well seated and the classes are well arranged, their handwriting will become better.”
While decrying the three-legged chairs being used by some of them, the female teacher called for help from the Government Emmanuel Uduaghan administration to renovate the building and equip the classes.
A female teacher, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said “During the raining season, we literally wade through water in the classrooms. The roofs are bad. When it rains, we pack the pupils and we stay on one corner of the classes until it subsides. Even after rain, water will still continue to drip from the ceiling on us. The pupils are drenched and with water dripping from their uniforms.
Sometimes when the rains persist for long, we find it difficult using the classes or even coming to school because the classes would have been flooded.”