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Prolonged regime of poor quality public education has been consistently linked to the strings of failure by Nigeria to attain its full development potential.
Directly linked to this, is the evident failure of schools to provide basic opportunities for learning due to the poor state of infrastructure in schools, especially the public ones. Buildings and facilities are inadequate, teaching standards are low, and teachers receive inadequate training and have little motivation to improve on their jobs.
These issues have attracted various interventions, one of the latest being the establishment of the School Based Management Committee (SBMC) by the government.
SBMC is intended to move education forward especially at the basic level through a combined effort of the government, community, teachers and the children.
Explaining the essence of the SBMC, Access and Equity Specialist of the Education Sector Support Programme in Nigeria (ESSPIN), Mr. Abiodun Fowomola, said it encourages community participation and boosts demand for quality education services, adding that it represents community interest and it is a voluntary group which comprises community leaders, market women, artisans, school head teacher, pupils and religious leaders.
“The committees are established by government to act as a bridge between schools and the communities they serve and the purpose of their establishment is to achieve effective community participation in the management and governance of primary, junior and secondary schools.
“These committees are intended to contribute to school development planning and decision making at the school level for improved learning outcomes,” he added.
Some of the SBMC chairmen who spoke to Daily Independent, in Lagos revealed that they have been able to lend their support towards better quality in the various schools they represent by making sure that teaching and learning is done at the right time and under the right condition in schools.
According to the chairmen, part of the things they do is to create awareness on the need for parents to know the importance of education and to bring their children and wards to school since education at the basic level is free.
Our reporter learnt that the SBMCs take it upon themselves to go to the schools on regular basis to monitor how teaching and learning is done and to check notes of the pupils to see maybe they are really learning what they are suppose to learn in class.
According to Mrs. Omotayo Omoyele, a retired teacher who is the chairman of SBMC of Ahmad Memorial Muslim school, Oke- Koto Agege, the committee meets with parents once in a month to discuss and give them feedback on what they have been able to do within that month and probably share their problems with them and see how they can assist.
She said the pupils now perform better in their academics than before because the teachers have sat up and are now more committed and dedicated to their duties since they go to the school almost everyday to see how they carry out their duties.
“The teachers are now more committed to their duties because we go there everyday to see how they are doing their teaching. It is not that we are witch-haunting them, but we only want them to do their work,” she said.
She also remarked that the SBMC contributes money among members to do minor repairs in the school. In most cases, the condition would have gone worse if they had waited for the government to intervene. In the past, she said, series of letters have been sent to people in the community seeking help with some good results.
She also said they carry out regular awareness in market places, churches and mosque on the need for parents to enroll their children and wards to school.
“We met and appealed to the teachers in the school to assist the Primary Six pupils who are preparing for their common entrance examination to organize special classes for them which they are now doing within 7am and 8am,” she said.
Pastor Oluwole Osoba, a retired school teacher who is the Central Chairman of SBMC in Alimosho local government said before now in Community Primary School, Egbe, almost all the classrooms in the school were in a state of disrepair with some nearing collapse, causing constant fears among the pupils.
Osoba said the committee mobilized themselves and did some minor repairs like re-plastering of walls and floors and that the Rotary club in Egbe provided water and toilet facilities and classroom furniture for the school.
On the state of the school, he said the committee approached the local authorities but without result.
“We thought about what other steps we could take. Then I thought about making a case to the Governor. I attached the pictures of the dilapidated school structure and appealed to him for total renovation of the school,” Osoba said.
He said two weeks after the email, repair works started in the school, adding that the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) also started to construct a new block of 14 classrooms in a school next door.
He disclosed that the pupils of the school are now learning in a safe environment and are enjoying a newly renovated block of classrooms, new furniture and improved toilet facilities.
SBMC chairman of Anthony Model Nursery and Primary School, Adeniran Ajao Estate, Odeyemi Richard, said one of the challenges faced by the school is that it is situated in a gated estate, which makes it hard for them to solicit for assistance.
Richard also disclosed that the members of the committee are divided into three groups which include membership drive, information and research. All the three, he said, come together to share experiences when filing reports.
He said the committee meets with people within the community to solicit for assistance, with mixed outcomes. Sometimes, he said the outcomes are positive while they are not in some others.
So far, according to him, the school has received six ceiling fans and a fancy cabinet as donations to the school.
Odeyemi further disclosed that a church in the estate donated a gas oven and cylinder for the home economics department of the school, adding that one other church wants to furnish the home economics laboratories.
He added that Greenspring School also came to the rescue of the school by donating 25 computers, and that they are also working on furnishing the computer room for the school.
Speaking further, he said Simon Lion Club donated two blocks of classrooms for the school, adding that a member of the SBMC always releases his bus on a daily basis to convey pupils to the school and another who is a fashion designer sew school uniform free for indigent pupils of the school.
He also said there is increase in the performance of the pupils that many people who can afford to send their children to private schools are now bringing their children to the school because of the things they see in the school.
Odeyemi also recalled that a man sponsored the pupils on an excursion to Lagos Television (LTV) and the Federal Radio Corporation (FRCN), stressing that all these are results of the series of letters the SBMC member wrote to individuals and corporate organisation within the community the school is situated.
Mr. Akinwale Ganiyu of Expressway Primary school II Ketu also said they go to the school almost every day to monitor the teachers and the pupils to ensure that they are rendered assistance where necessary.
“There was a time we noticed that in a class there was over population we wrote to SUBEB to come to our aid and they gave us additional classrooms that we now spread those pupils to and they are learning better than before,” Ganiyu said.
According to him, “The era of pupils roaming about during the school hours is no more.
“If we see any student roaming about during the school hour we make sure that we take him or her to school. We also create awareness in the church, mosque and market places to parents on the need for them to send their children to school and the benefit they would derive in sending their children to school,” he said.
Speaking on some of the challenges facing the committee he said lack of finance to do some capital projects is one of the major problems they are encountering, adding that they have distributed series of letters to people around the community to come to the aid of the school as government along cannot do it.
Mrs. Sikirat Ganiyu of Akilo Primary School, Ogba, said the teachers now face their work and do their teaching at the right time unlike when they just did whatever they chose in school.
She also said the incidence of some pupils selling or roaming around during school hour has drastically reduced since the existence of the SBMC who monitors and makes sure pupils get to school at the right time.
They are therefore calling on well meaning Nigerians and corporate organizations to come to the aid of schools within their community, see what their needs are and assist where necessary.