I believe that the problems facing education, in terms of both infrastructure and the quality of it, should never be relegated in the ongoing rejuvenation of Lagos State. The resuscitation of Lagos state public schools should now be on top of the scale of preference of both Governor Fashola and the Commissioner for Education
In the first report I made about Festac Grammar School I had stated that I will continue to write about Festac Grammar School (FGS) until something is done to salvage the school. It is my alma mater and I take this cause very seriously. In a way it will serve as a point of reference for the general decay and expose the degree of negligence that schools have suffered under successive irresponsible governments in Lagos State.
The legacy of free and quality education in Western Nigeria under Late Awolowo and former governor Jakande suffered violent extinction with the advent of military rule. It is unimaginable that public education in Lagos State especially at the primary and secondary levels will remain redundant more than 10 years into civilian rule. This is more than a shame. It is a scandal.
The Festac Grammar School Alumni Projects’ Management Group-FGSAPMG was formed in 2011 and the team is now fully integrated into the main stream Alumni group. Our goals are clear. We have set out not only complain about the near-death state of our alma mater but also to seek ways to solve the problems.
Writing from a personal note I think that corruption is the root cause of the negligence. I won’t be totally wrong to state that the person or group that were supposed to implement the reconstruction of Festac Grammar School from the Jakande temporary structures to permanent school structures in the mid-80s stole the money earmarked for the project. Governor Fashola can start by looking at the records, fishing out the culprits and marching them to the prosecutors.
In addition if funds have been provided directly to the leadership of the school then we will like to know when and how much was provided. As we seek accountability from the state government, we also need her help in providing details of financial assistance to the school. If any individual among the school leadership is guilty of embezzlement, let him or her be brought to justice.
Some members of FGSAPMG recently visited the school. Babatunde Adebisi, Dare Olaosebikan, Raphael Omorogbe, Omozele Unuakhalu and Obichie Joseph Ndubuisi met with the school principal Mrs. Olowu and the VP Academics Mrs. Efetie.
Some of their findings are:
• No Library in the School
• No Electricity in the Junior School
• Electricity in the senior School has been disconnected by PHCN
• No functional Toilet for Teachers and students
• Scrappy furniture in the staff room
• Crowded classes in the Junior School (between 70-75 pupil in a class)
• Dilapidated Buildings and damaged class room floors
The alumni representatives noted with dismay the near complete absence of government assistance to the school or misappropriation of funds earmarked for it. One of the projects that the government has executed was the so-called ECO project for a Computer room with about 30 computers. The government also provided a generator set. A prototype toilet was never completed.
It is sad how Lagos State officials have become chronic liars. Representatives of the Ministry of Education in Lagos State have visited FGS on several occasions. They have been doing so even before I graduated in 1989. They could not even keep to their promises of renovating the only storey building in the school.
The task is not just to renovate the storey building. The present conditions of a school like Festac Grammar School is a disgrace to Festac Town, a disgrace to Amuwo Odofin Local Government, a disgrace to Lagos State Ministry of Education and despite all he has done a disgrace to Governor Fashola.
Nigerians should start making authentic demands from their rulers or leaders. I have stated that this is my contribution to the ongoing process whereby the alumni association is trying all possible means to sensitize the Lagos State government on the need to rebuild Festac Grammar School. Some of the most brilliant minds in Lagos and Nigeria have emerged from this school. For the sake of the children in Festac Town and its environs, an outstanding citadel like FGS must be kept running, functional and up to acceptable standards.
Government should be responsive to its obligation without being pushed or tipped. We (as representatives of FGS) don’t need to know someone in the inner chamber of the Lagos State government before we can get this job done. The notion of using people in government to fast track the execution of government work/project is an anomaly. It does work but it shouldn’t be our prime focus.
It has been stated that the Lagos State Government will not approve the renovation of its property in the school by the Alumni Group. Therefore the focus of the Alumni Group is tilted towards the execution of projects or rendering of assistances within our capabilities and the frame of the law.
In the coming days all these issues will be fine-tuned. We will continue with our deliberations and come up with a dynamic blue-print on the way forward.
Obviously it is asking too much of us if we think that we can rebuild two Lagos State public schools simultaneously. I support the opinion that the government must live up to its responsibilities and obligations.
Education is the right of every child and it must once again become a priority. The infrastructure and the equipment needed to facilitate this right must also be provided by the state.
In spite of the harsh learning conditions and the negligence of the education authority the Academic standard in FGS remains remarkable. It is still a tradition that the teaching and administrative staffs remain committed to programs that have sustained the academic excellence of the school.
In a recent baseline assessment conducted by the Ministry of education, FGS (the only poultry school in Amuwo Odofin Local Government) came 1st in Amuwo Odofin Local Government, 4th in the district and 19th in Lagos state. We used to be among the first in Lagos State.
In the meantime, for the sake of the school, The Project Management Group will definitely look into some of immediate needs of the schools which include:
Provision of furniture for teachers’ staff room
Re-establishment of the school library
Career counseling and general reward system for students
Outstanding PHCN bill of =N=40,000.00
Provision of office equipment like Photocopier, Computers and Printers
Dr. Steve Onyewuchi Eke, an alumnus of FGS called in to the last meeting from his base in Atlanta and promised to pay the PHCN bill.
We continue to look forward to the visible presence and concrete action of the state government in our alma mater. We will not relent in all the possible ways we have set upon ourselves to achieve these noble objectives.
When the deed is done, the FGS-APMG will be quick to help out the school on the lessons of maintenance culture. We will stand by our school from now on.
Acknowledgement: This version of my monthly essay on FGS contains some of the information submitted by Ralph Omorogbe on behalf of the members of the School Visitation Committee. Their names are already in the essay.