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True picture of our public schools: Challenge for govt, foundations

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Teacher/student ratio is 1:80
Shortfall of 1,150,000 classrooms nationwide
Pupil toilet ratio is 1:600 — UNICEF

DO you know that six million of the 36 million girls who are out of school globally are Nigerians?

Statistics revealed that 40 per cent of primary school teachers in Nigeria are unqualified, just as we have 10.5 million Nigerian children, representing 14 per cent of the 70 million Nigerian children that are out of school globally.

It is of great concern that children under age 15 make up 44 per cent of Nigeria’s rising population.

While the recommended teacher-pupil ratio is 1:35, there is an average of 49 pupil per primary school teacher in Nigeria. In a public school in Lagos where this reporter visited, it is one teacher to 80 students in a class.

Pupils of a primary school having their lunch, provided under the school feeding programme

According to UNICEF, over 58.3 per cent of pupils in Nigerian schools are not learning effectively, while 50 per cent of grade six pupils cannot read at all. UNICEF notes tat the “net enrolment rate at primary school level is 56 per cent for girls and 61 per cent for boys.”

Twenty million of 22 million Nigerian children aged 0-5 years do not have access to early childhood education.

Apparently attracted by this downward trend, many private sector organizations and multi nationals have over the years, contributed their quota to the development of the Nigerian education sector.

In their quest to see a positive change in the sector, many of them have established Foundations to cushion the effect of this downward trend. Also some non-governmental organisations and faith-based institutions had at one time or the other initiated some schemes to boost standard of education in Nigeria.

Education standard

While the MTN  Foundation  focuses on tertiary education by introducing Science and Technology Scholarship scheme, it seeks to attract high performing full-time second year students studying in public tertiary institutions. On its part, the UBA Foundation promotes essay competition among students in secondary schools and winners are rewarded with scholarships for tertiary education.

For Oando Foundation, it focuses on adopting public primary schools in Nigeria and providing access to basic quality education.

The Foundation, on its website pointed out some issues in public primary schools that needed urgent attention. It noted that dilapidated school infrastructure, inadequate and obsolete equipment in public primary schools and lack of library facilities are the causes of poor learning and enrolment. It lamented the present shortfall of 1,150,000 classrooms nationwide.

It also identified inadequate water and lack of appropriate sanitation facilities as  deterents to students’ enrolment in public primary schools.

UNICEF had reported that in some primary schools, pupil to toilet ratio is 1:600. Closely related to that is overcrowded classrooms in public schools. There is severe shortage of classroom space resulting in class sizes that sometimes triple the prescribed teacher-pupil ratio for Nigeria which is 1:40.

In what could be described as out-of-school children scourge, over 10.5 million Nigerian children are out-of-school. Only two million of 22 million children aged zero to five years in Nigeria have access to early childhood education.

Bothered by the data and the effect on the children, Oando Foundation has adopted 88 schools across 23 states of Nigeria.

For Oando, its target is to get 60,000 Out-of-School children enrolled and retain them in school.

The Foundation has also vowed to renovate 46 schools in nine states, provide 100 schools with enhanced educational infrastructure and improved learning environments. According to the data on their website, it would establish 46 ICT centres, employ 1,600 teachers and train 100 head teachers.

Apart from targeting 1,500 scholarships for students from its adopted schools, it would also strengthen the capacity of 1,500 members of the School-Based Management Committees, SBMC and local government education authority.

Meanwhile, records have revealed that the Foundation has enrolled 33,639 Out-of- School children, renovated 40 schools, supplied teaching and learning materials to 74 schools with over 80,000 pupils.

Besides, 33 ICT centres have been established, 2,169 teachers trained, 79 head teachers and 1,133 SBMC members have been trained just as a total of 1,123 pupils have been awarded scholarships across the 23 states.

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