To reduce the burden of illiteracy and out-of-school children in the country, the government at different levels allocate funds to education annually to upgrade facilities. In this report, investigations by Pen Press shows that despite allocation of funds for provision of instructional materials and laboratory equipment in schools in Osun State, the materials were never supplied, thus hampering seamless learning and teaching in the schools.
By Lawal Sofiyyat Bolanle
Abdul-Raheem Muhammad, a Senior Secondary School (SSS) student at Orimolade Grammar School, Ikirun, Osun State, who is preparing for his Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination (SSSCE) revealed that there are 40 students in science class in the school, and that they do not enjoy their practicals because the teachers usually lumps them into groups, each comprising between 13 and 14 students.
“We, science students are 40 in total and we are always divided into three groups during practicals. Each group enters the laboratory to perform experiments one after the other. We have not done a lot of practicals. Most of the practicals we have done so far in this session are Chemistry and Biology Practicals,” Muhammad said.
Muhammad and his classmates did not have to suffer this fate if a 2020 project for the supply of practical and laboratory equipment to his school had been executed. The failure of the contractor to supply the materials to the school, among other factors, is forcing students out of school.
The 2021 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) published in August 2022 revealed that Osun State has the highest number of out-of-school children in southwest Nigeria, with 13 percent of them being out of school.
Multiple reports have shown that the Nigerian educational sector has been facing setbacks over the years. This is evident in the 2017 report of the World Economic Forum which ranked Nigeria 124th out of the 137 countries in terms of basic education.
The country was also rated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as one of the three countries with the highest number of out-of-school children, with about 20 million children and youth between the ages of 6 and 18.
In 2022, United Nations International Children Fund (UNICEF) faulted the Nigerian government budgetary’s allocation of 5.4 percent to education instead of the recommended 8.4 percent, underscoring the its indifference to the development of the nation’s education sector.
Not only is the government losing the target to meet the UNESCO recommendation of 15 – 20% of the budget on education but also reduced its allocation on education in 2022 compared to the 5.6 percent allocated in 2021.
With the N111.79bn allocated to UBEC out of the N671.07bn budget allocated to the Ministry of Education in 2020, schools still lack basic laboratory materials and equipment due to corruption in the Nigeria public procurement process.
For example, the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) awarded a contract for the provision of instructional materials, textbooks, furnishing and equipping of technical drawing rooms and science laboratories at Amere Junior Secondary School, Amere in Ola-Oluwa Local Government Area of Osun state to Z-index Limited.
UBEC similarly awarded another project with the same description to Z-index Limited for the provision of instructional materials, textbooks, furnishing and equipping of technical drawing rooms and science laboratories at Orimolade Grammar School, Ikirun in Ifelodun LGA.
The ease of accessing quality education by children in these communities appeared to have been struck by the spear of corruption leaving the youngsters helpless.
UBEC Awards Contract to No – existent Amere Community School
A visit to Amere village in Ola-Oluwa LGA of Osun State showed that the supposed secondary school was not in existence. The school buildings which were supposed to be Amere Community Secondary have been privatized and are being used as Iwo College of Health.
In a report by Foundation for Investigative Journalism, the provost of the Iwo college of Health, Azeez Ayinde Olayinka said the school is being used with the consent of Hon. Akintayo Gafar Amere. Amere facilitated the construction of the school buildings for Amere Community Secondary School in 2017, though academic activities never started in the secondary school before it was taken over by Iwo College of Health.
It consists of five blocks of three classrooms each, two toilets and a borehole facility. Three of the blocks of classrooms had been completed and are being used by the College of Health while two of the classrooms which lie at the back are uncompleted. A signage of the school that has never exists was however found in one of the uncompleted classrooms.
Sitting adjacent to the Iwo College of Health, Amere, is a bungalow where three teenagers live with their parents. Odunola Akintayo and her elder brother, Abiodun Akintayo, could be lucky if they get the opportunity of going to school on bike, a journey that takes about 30 minutes or they have to trek for almost two hours every day to Ikire in Irewole LGA in search for knowledge.
“We are tired already, but we have no option and our passion for education would not allow distance as a barrier to come between us. We cross three different towns before getting to school in Ikire.,” said Odunola, Akintayo, a Junior Secondary School (JSS) 3 student at Community Grammar School, Ikire-Ile. Her brother, Abiodun, is in Senior Secondary School (SSS) 3 in the same school.
In a conversation with Pen Press, Abiodun said they travel several kilometers every day and that the increase in price of fuel has added to the problem.
“Most times, we solicit for free rides which take about 30 minutes or we resort to trekking which can last us almost two hours before we reach school. We leave for school by 6:00 am so as to catch up with the first class in school,” Abiodun said.
Though there is a primary school in the community, the teenagers of Amere have to travel miles to access secondary education in faraway distances. They choose between traveling to Ikire in Irewole LGA or Iwo in Iwo LGA or Ibode-Ijesa in Atakunmosa West LGA to further their studies. The youngest child of the family, Olakunle, is saved from stress by his father who takes pain to drop him and his friend to Jesmich College in Ibode-Ijesa every day with his motorcycle.
However, Mr Akintayo couldn’t afford to drop his children in their different schools across different LGAs since he also has to resume work by 8:00am every morning.
Though Abiodun is in SSS 3 and is almost done with his secondary school education, he still wishes a secondary school is constructed in Amere community.
“It would have been better if we had a school close by. I just wish someone would build a school in this community,” he stated.
Little do these teenagers know that the Iwo College of Health which is just a stone throw to their homes is meant to be Amere Community Secondary School and the government has since 2017 tried to build a school in the community but corruption and privatization of public properties are what has gotten them into this dilemma.
As if it is not enough to deprive the youngsters of this community the right to education, UBEC paid Z-index Limited the sum of N6,745,000 for the provision of instructional materials, textbooks, furnishing and equipping of technical drawing rooms and science laboratories to Amere Junior Secondary School.
“As for the technical materials, we have none”
Checks on govspend website revealed that the same contractor, Z-index Limited was paid the same contract sum of N6,745,000 on 11th June, 2020 to provide instructional materials, textbooks, furnishing and equipping of technical drawing rooms and science laboratories to Orimolade Grammar School, Ikirun, Osun State.
Though the Principal of Orimolade High School, Mrs. Abidoye T.F., was transferred to the school about a year ago, her predecessors did not hand over any property such as instructional materials, textbooks, or any technical equipment as the school has no technical drawing rooms.
It was gathered that some science equipment that was delivered to the school in 2020 was labeled SEDI-MINNA NASENI.
“I have just been posted here about a year plus but no record of such was handed over to me. The only thing the past principal told me was supplied to this school by SEDI- MINNA is science equipment in four big black bags. It was for junior schools and it was shared between Holy Michael Grammar School and Orimolade Grammar School due to the mix-up of schools during Governor Aregbesola Tenure,” the Principal said during an interview with this reporter.
SEDI-MINNA NASENI, an acronym for Scientific Equipment Development Institution – Minna (SEDI-MINNA) under the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI), which is an agency of the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology.
“The equipment supplied by SEDI-MINNA has been added to the ones in the laboratory,” the Vice Principal (Admin), who also doubled as the Physics teacher, Mr. Abegunrin K.A. said.
Responding to enquiries on the status of laboratories and technical drawing room in the school, Mrs. Abidoye said the school has only one laboratory with no technical drawing room and the ongoing renovation of the laboratory is being done by the Old Students’ Association of the school.
“Neither textbooks nor instructional materials were delivered here. We have no technical drawing room and the only science laboratory we have is being used for Physics, Biology, and Chemistry practicals. We had to solicit the help of the old students to renovate the laboratory for us and they have promised to renovate the library as well.”
“Most of these buildings were reroofed and painted by the old students and the building over there was done by Rotary Club, you can see their tag there.” As for the technical materials, we have none. The teachers have been improvising,” Mr. Abegunrin chipped in.
“I have never seen or held a drawing board or T-square before – Student
Students of Orimolade Grammar School expressed their limited practical knowledge in the major science subjects due to the poor state of the laboratories.
Adebayo Nafisat, a classmate to Abdulraheem Muhammad, stated that no Physics practical has been done since resumption of the first term of the 2023/2024 session on 18th of September, 2023.
“Having sufficient practical equipment will reinforce our understanding of the subject and it will make us feel free to interact during practicals,” she furthered.
Reactions of students in junior school revealed the impacts of lack of technical drawing room.
Lawal Waliyat and Ojo Aanuoluwapo are in JSS 3. Both joined the school in 2021 and 2022 respectively and have never seen a T-Square, drawing board and other technical drawing materials before, except in textbooks.
“I joined the school as a JSS1 student in 2021 and since then, we have not done any practical work in basic technology. We identify some materials and their uses through the notes our teacher gives to us,” Waliyat stated.
“Since I came, I have never seen or held a drawing board or T-square before. I can identify it with the aid of textbooks and the notes given to us in class and that is how I learn,” Ojo Aanuoluwapo said.
The Basic Technology teacher, Mr Oladepo M.O, stressed that practical simplifies theory and increases the understanding of the students hence he wished for a well-equipped technical room.
“Firstly, we need a technical drawing room where practical work will be done. No matter what we teach the student in class, it is better to carry out practicals where necessary. These students have been affected psychologically because the rate of which students assimilate practicals is far better than theories. They tend to remember easily when engaged with activities and they can touch, hold and practice with the equipment,” he said.
Teachers Lament on Poor State of the Laboratory
Mr. Ajiboye O.O., the Biology teacher lamented that he had been using charts as teaching aids most of the time and explained the pitiable state of the laboratory that has made him jam-pack many specimens in a single jar.
“There are specimens though it is not enough, but we need specimens’ bottles most. I have been using charts as teaching aids, in fact, the laboratory wall is dominated by Biology charts. There are no chemicals to preserve specimens. Here in our laboratory, there is a particular jar with more than 24 specimens. We could not keep them alive, but we need to reserve them for identification purposes,” he said.
The Chemistry teacher, Mr. Adejumo M.A., expressed dissatisfaction on the ineffectiveness of the laboratory.
“For Chemistry, we have very little equipment to teach the students. Instead of having an apparatus for each student, we group them and this has been affecting them as children tend to be more playful when grouped. Science revolves around practicals,” he stated
In addition, he said that the only laboratory in the school is for Physics, Biology, Chemistry and Agricultural Science and there are more than 40 science students in each senior class. “Imagine putting 40 students in that lab,” he said.
Adejumo further reminisced on how the even distribution of practical materials had helped students in the olden days.
“During our time, each student has a cupboard for his/her own equipment. With that, a student can visit the laboratory anytime to experiment things themselves and if the student is confused, he or she can fetch the subject teacher to explain better. This was what helped us.”
Aside from the inadequate laboratory equipment, he complained bitterly of the insufficient teachers and the unpleasant stress that comes with overworking.
“Lack of teachers is another crucial issue that needs to be looked into. Imagine being a Vice Principal, and I also teach Chemistry to senior classes including practical. It should not be like that. In standard schools, chemistry teachers are more than two, with each teacher assigned to a class. The stress that comes with being a Vice Principal and at the same time teaching students theories, practical and even set exam questions is overwhelming. For effective and efficient work, enough teachers should be provided.”
In conclusion, he advised Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of the Federal Government to do proper follow up of any contract awarded to companies.
“There should be a proper follow-up to ensure that the contractors should not only deliver but deliver exactly the worth of goods or services paid for. Once delivered, the school authority should be left to deal with the maintenance.”
Mr Abegurin whose primary assignment is to assist the Principal with administrative duties but also doubles as the Physics teacher at the school due to lack of teachers, explained the method employed in preparing the student for examination.
“Currently, the students are introduced to alternative to practical where they learn the theories and are shown diagrams of what is what but towards the end of the second term, they will be introduced to some practical. Most of the time, the students are instructed to draw and read further since we do not have the apparatus to show them.”
Mr Abegunrin volunteers to bring some equipment from home as teaching aids to help his students.
“Sometimes I bring some of these things from home to ensure they see it physically. The science laboratory undergoing renovation is being done by the old students and some other buildings were also roofed by them. I was not happy when I got transferred here in 2019, the state of the school was devastating.”
Z-Index Limited Untraceable
Z-index Limited is a company registered on June 17, 1997, and is currently inactive, according to a search on the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) portal. The CAC is the official agency for companies registration.
A visit to the No 29, Burma Road, Apapa, Lagos State, address of the company provided on the CAC portal, revealed that the place got burnt 12 years ago and the renovation had just been completed at the time of visit to the area.
No operation is ongoing in the building currently and the security personnel at the entrance of the building claimed ignorance of the activities carried out in the building before the fire incident over a decade ago.
“This is a new building. I was told that it was a six – storey building which got burnt some time ago,” Pa James, the security personnel said. Though the CAC website provides no information about the directors or the persons in control of the company, the names of the directors were found on an online company directory, Ng-Check.
Chi-kwu Ibe, Amechi Oluchukwu, Chi-kwu Esther, Amechi Ebube, Ike Amechi and Felix Amechi Chi-kwu are the names listed by Ng-Check as the directors of Z-index Limited. Online searches for all the directors did not yield any fruits as none of them has any digital footprints, even on social media.
UBEC Keeps Mum
When contacted, Kehinde Dada, the Osun State UBEC coordinator, said he was not around in the state. He requested Pen Press to send information about him via WhatsApp.
“I am currently in Niger on an assignment, and I won’t be around till December. Please drop the information about the contract on my WhatsApp, I will attend to it,” Dada said.
He however refused to provide information about the contracts when the reporter sent questions to him by WhatsApp. He later directed Pen Press to the Abuja headquarters of UBEC and stopped replying to the questions sent to him.
After initial efforts to obtain the reaction of UBEC through its national Public Relations Officer, David Apeh, on the phone failed, our reporter visited the Wuse Zone 4, Abuja headquarters of the agency in November 2023 upon the spokesperson’s invitation. However, the reporter was not granted an interview. After initially delaying him at the entrance, the reporter was later directed to submit an FOIA request after making him wait for hours.
Pen Press has yet to get a response to the Freedom of Information Act FOIA) requests submitted to the agency’s email address and Abuja headquarters on November 14, 2023 and 22nd November 2023 respectively. The FOIA which was directed to the Executive Secretary of UBEC requested for the contract details, the level of completion and the remarks on the projects has not been responded to as of the time of filing this report.
The Company should be Sanctioned – Anti Corruption Advocate
Suraju Olarenwaju, the Chairman of HEDA, an organization with a mandate on anti-corruption, good governance, accountability, environmental justice and human rights said the company should be sanctioned and made to face the law.
“This report deserves the attention and actions of the anti corruption agencies. The people behind it, particularly Z-index Limited and the allocated fund paid fully recovered with appropriate sanctions. The public officials in cahoots must also face the music accordingly,” Olanrewaju said.
He added that the practice is shameful while decrying the increasing trend of school dropouts and out-of-school children in the state. “With the increasing spate of school dropouts across the country, some Nigerians in public office and private businesses are unmoved to the extent of callously diverting funds allocated for development of the educational system. They have lost the sense of humanity or concern for the future,” he concluded.
*This investigation is supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the International Centre for Investigative Reporting.