Friday, November 16, 2018

Who will save Nigeria’s rotting unity schools?

Who will save Nigeria’s rotting unity schools?
October 31
06:40 2017
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BY ALEXANDER ONUKWUE

You cannot read the story in TheCable about the pimping of 14, 15 and 16 year old students of Federal Government Girls College Langtang and not have something crawling up to and growing in your throat.

Even for those like me who passed through Nigeria’s Unity schools as recently as ten years ago (when it was already becoming bad), the stories from the press on the deplorable state of the nation’s most desired secondary schools are getting more rotten than I imagined. There is the awareness that the light now being shown on these things does not necessarily mean they are entirely new developments, but the spate of decay appears to be accelerating as if to say no one gives a hoot about the schools anymore.

A particularly sore, pathetic, naïve and ridiculous line in TheCable’s undercover investigation of Langtang is the statement credited to the Director of Press of the Federal Ministry of Education, Ms Chinenye Ihuoma. When the dealings of the evil security guard are brought to her attention by reporters, she goes “how can a security man in the school be pimping girls to a stranger? How can?”

Ms Onuoha’s feigned ignorance is precisely the kind of comment that entrenches such practices, ensuring that perverts like this security guard are never out of a job.

As long as someone somewhere doubts their existence, they retain their license to play. The Ministry would rather be in denial that girls, in a school without a proper fence, are being arranged for men in town, than get the school management to deal decisively with the root of such acts.

The security guard in question had supposedly got a student pregnant in a former duty post at the school’s kitchen. His punishment? Being posted to the gate, where he now has easier access to men in need of young girls for a good time. Will madam director be shocked if similar stories of staff-facilitated sexual trafficking were to be reported from other FGGCs around the country with better facilities but similar poor management? Was she in disbelief when a whole Queen’s College Lagos lost three students to terminally infectious bathwater earlier in the year?

Terrible is not the word with which to describe this unfortunate scenario. With the majority of these girls certainly under adult age, the matter of their consenting to being led astray by this security guard cannot be suggested in any way as a justification. Teenagers are adventurous and given the opportunity would take advantage to try out what they imprudently fantasize about in biology reproduction classes. But this “pimp” of a security guard (and by extension every other staff of FGGC Langtang who is aware of this but keeps silent and maybe even patronizes) is basically a child trafficker and deserves nothing less than prosecution for these crimes from which he appears to have been nicking a living for some time.

The school’s principal denied knowledge of this, referring the reporters to the Ministry to lodge their complaints. The cries about gaps in leadership in Nigeria do not focus enough on the heads of secondary schools.

With a sense of urgency, the Federal Ministry of Education must now initiate an operation to radically give the nation’s Unity Schools a massive facelift, as a place of educational formation and basic capacity development. The era of Unity schools without fences (mine, ten years ago, also did not have a fence) should definitely come to an end, so also must the trend of transfer-as-punishment be terminated. The transfer of a teacher accused for alleged sexual harassment of students at Queen’s College to King’s
College is scandalous and one might have cause to fear when such a man gets too close to the young lads.

On the infrastructure front, the corruption in the Education sector which does not allow for appropriated funds to be adequately used for their intended purposes must be checked by open disclosure, regular monitoring and reporting. Every item in the budget for the Unity Schools should be published online and the timelines of the progress of their implementation should be provided for by the Ministry.

TheCable’s reports on Langtang shows the well from which students fetch their bath waters, bearing semblance to the water source that killed three students of Queen’s College earlier in the year. Such can simply not continue; emphasis on the development and well-being of Nigeria’s school children must be demanded by everyone if the future will be anything but doomed for us all.

Secondary school education is arguably the most important stage of a child’s development. Whether as day-students or boarders, it is usually at this stage that most of us transit to puberty while making the first mistakes that lead to maturity. Living this to chance, without conscious plans, checks and balances, and mindful of the attendant dire consequences – pregnancy, disease, kidnap – is suicidal.

Will this nauseating story – a “common practice” according to the security guard, tremendously reported by FEMI OWOLABI and SEYI AWOJULUGBE of TheCable – elicit the urgent intervention it deserves from the Federal Ministry of Education?

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