With Joke Adeniyi-Jackson
“A particular school operates in the flat of the proprietor and pupils are put in their kitchen, which was demarcated for classroom. In some facilities, they use pit toilet as classroom for children. A facility was situated near a refuse dump. In a so-called school, goats were going in and out of the classrooms. The environments were not conducive for learning”.
The above were the words of the Permanent Secretary of the Kwara State Ministry of Education and Human Capital Development, Hajia Mariam Ayodeji Garba, while painting the deplorable state of some private schools in the state.
This, according to her also led to the shutting down of 99 schools in the state penultimate week.
There is no doubt that there is unbridled proliferation of private primary and secondary schools in the state in recent time. Although there is need for the establishment of more schools to accommodate the growing population of children in need of education, but the problem is that most of these educational institutions are unregistered and therefore not regulated.
It was astounding sometime ago to see a structure that formerly house an eatery converted to a school in Ilorin. There also abound large number of mushroom schools with structures that does not depict them as educational institutions. Some schools even operate from abandoned uncompleted buildings.
Mushroom schools are springing up astronomically, which poses grave danger to next generation of Kwara future leaders. Sadly, every community particularly in the state capital play host to one or more illegal schools. Most of the schools are unsightly, situated in unhygienic environments not conducive for learning and hazardous to health of pupils and teachers alike. There are schools that operate in shops and even improvised wooden structures. Despite clampdown by the ministry, the schools proliferation has continued abated.
These schools lack basic facility requirement of standard institutions. It is established fact that this category of schools fall short of standard educational requirements. Unqualified teachers is a common denominator of these sub-standard schools. It is common knowledge that if the educational foundation is faulty, then a bleak future stares recipient(s) in the eye. The future of any country depends on sound education system. But, the proliferation of schools is fast impairing the standard and integrity of education system not only of the state but the country at large.
One wonders why parents would take such risk as enrolling their kids in schools with dillapidating structures and other hazardous conditions. The reasons adduced for this is poverty which has been made worse by the current economic realities in the country and the erroneous belief that the worst private school is better than the best of public schools.
However, one of the major factors attributed to pupils poor academic performance is the learning environment. Students find it difficult to learn and assimilate in unconducive environment. A school is expected to be a place that is conducive not just for learning but interesting and safe. That is why most standard nursery and primary schools use bright colours for structures to make learning fun for children. And, hilarious is the fact that some of these mushroom schools claim to be international schools as depicted by their names. Interestingly, most of the schools started as creche and lesson centres and later transformed to regular schools by their proprietors without recourse to government policy on schools establishment.
Nonetheless, while one will applaud the state government for the clampdown on the mushroom schools within the state sometime, the existence and opening of more illegal schools almost on daily basis should be of great concern. There is a need for stiffer sanction on perpetrators of this unwholesome act to serve as deterrent to others. Besides closing down such schools, the proprietors should be arrested and prosecuted. Potential school proprietors must be made to understand the need to comply with laws and regulation guiding the setting up of a school in the interest of sound education system.
The Quality Assurance Bureau (QAB) of the ministry has a lot to do in this regard to bring about sanity in this area (schools establishment). Towards this end, there should be periodic census of private schools in the state. So, also it is pertinent that the regulation is intensified in a bid to ensure that standard is upheld.
Then since mushroom schools are majorly situated in remote areas, there is an urgent need for the dragnet to be extended to interiors to discover more perpetrators.
In conclusion, government must be seen to be living up to its responsibility to the citizenry in the area of education because the menace of mushroom schools is a fallout of falling standard of government owned schools, which made people shift attention to private schools, with charlatans taking advantage of the situation. It is only when government is seen to shirk in its responsibilities of providing and regulating educational provisions that illegal schools can thrive. The state public education system needs to be strengthened to gain public confidence. Protecting the future of Kwara kids is sacrosanct and a mandate that the present administration of must deliver upon.