Letter published in the Guardian, Lagos
The recent pronouncement by the Lagos State Government that it would spend N500 million ($4 million) for the repair of 166 public schools is noteworthy. For us in the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) this is a step in the right direction. Right from its establishment the ERC has been campaigning for a well-funded public educational system across the board as a concrete way to give quality education without tears to children from the working class.
In this respect we wholeheartedly embrace the proposal by the Lagos State Government to rehabilitate 166 primary and secondary schools in Lagos State. As the saying goes the taste of the pudding is in the eating, we consequently urge the government to translate this proposal immediately into concrete action, so that it would not become another momentary good political talk.
However, it should be stressed that virtually all the public primary and secondary schools in the state are in a state of utter decay. A situation where an average of 100 students/pupils are packed in a classroom with very few chairs and desks, without writing materials and with shortage of teachers, is nothing to write home about. This, in our assessment, demands urgent and radical intervention.
There are 1,006 public primary schools and 603 public secondary schools in the entire state. Therefore what is needed is an urgent plan of action on how to rehabilitate all the schools as well as building new ones as and when needed. And the rehabilitation that would take place should be total in terms of putting in place enough chairs and desks, well equipped libraries and laboratories, enough classrooms, employing enough well motivated trained teachers and as well putting in place other academic ingredients that will make meaningful learning possible.
The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) hereby calls on the Lagos State Government to consciously pursue a policy of reducing the average number of students from 100 to 30 students/pupils per classroom in line with UNESCO recommendation and to also provide all necessary materials (chairs, desks, books, laboratories, equipment etc) that will guarantee adequate and meaningful learning. To bring this into reality, Lagos State must massively invest more money than the anticipated N500 million voted for the repair of 166 public schools so as to completely rehabilitate all existing schools and also build more in addition.
With prudent management and masses oriented philosophy, we in the ERC are bold to assert that the Lagos State Government can generate enough resources to provide quality public education across board. And prudent management can only be guaranteed where elected representatives of teachers, parents and other groups are part of the democratic management of the resources both of the N500 million and other budgeted monies for the educational section and others.