WITH JOKE ADENIYI-JACKSON
It was Monday morning; first day of schools’ resumption for the 2018/2019 academic session. The array of school uniforms worn by pupils in Ilorin, Kwara State, was a sight to behold. The uniforms were in various colours, patterns and styles, indicating that schools abound in the state capital. Given the rapid growing population in the state, the springing up of schools to meet demand is a welcome idea. However, what is disturbing is the unbridled proliferation of private primary and secondary schools in the state.
The problem with the schools is that most are unregistered and therefore not regulated. I was astounded sometime ago to see a structure that formerly house an eatery converted to a school in Ilorin. There are also in large numbers mushroom schools with structures that do not depict them as an educational institution. Some uncompleted buildings are used for educational purpose with some situated in unsanitary environment.
Mushroom schools are springing up astronomically, which poses grave danger to next generation Kwara future. 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 pupils and teachers alike. There are schools that operate from flats, shops and even improvised wooden structures, as confirmed by a staff of the state Ministry of Education and Human Capital Development, who was in the team that clamped down on the schools operating illegally sometime ago.
These schools lack basic facility requirement of standard schools. 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 educational institutions. 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 has impaired the standard and integrity of education system in the country.
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 recession in the country and the erroneous belief that the worst private school is better than the best 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 daycares and lesson centres and later converted 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 last year , in recent time, the existence and opening of more illegal schools almost on daily basis should be of great concern. There is a need for stiffer sanction of 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 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 adjudicate in his responsibilities in 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 Governor Abdulfattah Ahmed must deliver upon.