By Bayo Oluwasanmi
I don’t have the words to describe the rot, the stench, the inhuman condition of the Lagos State school buildings. Shame on Governor Akinwunmi Ambode for allowing our children to learn in pig puddle buildings. Shame on the governor for ignoring and neglecting our children and for denying them the best learning environment that our children deserve.
Hundreds of school buildings in Lagos and across Lagos State and throughout the country are literally falling apart. Majority of students in Lagos attend schools under conditions that are unhealthy, uncomfortable, and unsafe. Conditions in school buildings are so bad that it poses health and safety hazards ranging from crumbling buildings, leaky roofs, with rodents and other crawlers roaming freely in classrooms. All over the place, aging buildings are not getting needed repairs or being rebuilt. Money meant for maintenance and construction of school buildings ended up in private pockets. As a result, the climate in which our children learn and teachers work is deteriorating and its taking a toll.
Dilapidated facilities hurt both students and teachers. Research shows classroom environment and climate, environmental hazards, heat, and other pollutants, adversely impact students’ ability to learn and their short and long-term health. The life of students and teachers are under serious threat as teaching is conducted in old dilapidated buildings with visible cracks, leaky roofs, falling ceilings, bare dusty floors with no furniture. Students have no access to desks, they have to sit on floors. Many are compelled either to carry benches or chairs from their various homes to school daily.
Lagos public schools are falling into disrepair at a time when the children they serve have greater needs, with more low-income students, underrepresented poor students, and students with intellectual and developmental disabilities enrolled than at private schools. The state of dilapidated Lagos school buildings creates a perfect storm. You have children who are already vulnerable, children who are already at risk for a variety of factors, and you put them in buildings that are falling apart, it’s hard to get both academic, attendance, and achievement scores up in that situation.
The body of evidence from across the world validates the fact that the condition of school infrastructure has a strong impact on learning outcomes of students. The World Bank reports says that learning outcomes in Nigeria are below par on students learning in other parts of the world. This means there’s even greater need of addressing the infrastructural challenges in Lagos schools. The US National Clearinghouse for Educational Statistics notes that the condition of a school building may have a stronger influence on student performance than the combined influences of family background, socioeconomic status, school attendance, and behavior. The report adds that students who attend schools with better buildings have test scores ranging from 5 to 17 percentile points higher than students in substandard facilities.
It’s also disturbing to note that despite hefty allocation of N92.4bn for education in 2107 Lagos State Budget, many school buildings are still uninhabitable for human beings. Every year money is being earmarked for education. However, a visit to the schools present a sorry state of affairs where no such utilization was made. The prevalence of damp, leaky classrooms and asbestos ridden buildings means students and teachers are struggling to learn and teach in conditions damaging to their health and education. How can you expect Lagos students to compete with the world’s best when the school buildings are substandard? Performance of students under the current school buildings are not meeting the basic standards that Lagosian taxpayers and Lagos State economy expect.
School infrastructure investments are important to the Lagos State economy because apart from creating jobs and directly providing resources for school repair, it will increase students’ performance and motivates teachers to give their best. More importantly, it’s the only real means to eradicate the gaping disparities between school buildings in private schools and in wealthy communities like Lekki and in areas like Gbagada. Appeals by community activists and education advocates to the governor to repair the buildings yielded no positive result. Mr. Ambode should fix dangerous and dilapidated school buildings and replace them with new buildings so that our children can have a safe and sound learning environment where they can focus on their studies rather than cracked roofs, walls, rodents, and other infrastructural problems.