EDUCATIONNigerian News Update

EXCLUSIVE: Bad Narrative of Unity Schools in Nigeria

By Val Iwuchukwu Sunday, July 18, 2021

A visit to any of the Unity Schools across the country shows gradual but constant departure from the purpose the unity schools came into being and exist. There seems to be nothing left of the glorious past and if things continue like this into the next few years, it may well be requiem for those colleges that once made Nigeria educational system thick.

Education is the bedrock of any nation and so the whole concept of unity colleges is geared at establishing a sound educational background for a viable and efficient human capital. A country with sound educational system is like a tree by the riverside. There is no mountain the country can not climb. There is no sumit they can not reach. There is no enemy they can not match and no challenge they can not surmount. In fact good education is everything.

An exclusive research conducted by Newwavereporters.com has deeply gathered some unpleasant and fraudulent narratives associated with Nigeria Unity Schools across the the nation.

For instance, in October 2020, there was a reported N2.67B school feeding fraud in Unity Schools which warranted the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, to direct a full investigation into the report of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) on how N2.67 billion released for school feeding of the 104 Unity Colleges during the COVID-19 lockdown found its way into individual accounts.

It was recorded that Mr Adamu noted that the investigation was compulsory in order to establish the veracity of the claims and to ensure that there is no diversion of public funds or misappropriation of same.

It was also gathered that the chairperson of the anti-graft agency, Bolaji Owasanoye, said investigations done by the ICPC had shown that the said funds were diverted into private accounts.

In his words, “We discovered payment of N2.67 billion during lockdown when the children were not in school, and same money ended up in personal accounts. We have commenced investigations into these findings”.

A clinical insight into any of the Unity Schools across the nation shows gradual but constant departure from the purpose of unity schools because there seems to be nothing left of the glorious past.

Walking into the main gate of the world famous Kings College, Lagos, you will be welcomed by the marble work of beautiful pictures of different generations of famous King Boys that once walked the green fields of that premiere college. Draped in the sign of the stars, their pictures appear conspicuously against their names and year of graduation. Alex Ekwueme, Sunny Kuku, Philip Asiodu etc. A constant reminder to the current students that this is the home of stars, a springboard and stepping stone for the finest and brightest Nigeria prides herself of.

The old administrative block inside the school despite the wooden staircase and wooden floors still stands ‘gidigbam’. It was like everlasting bequest of British educational legacy, elegant, beautiful and well maintained.

But that is where the glory stops. Behind these washing of the outside of the cup lies a dirty inside. I mean petrifying decay occasioned by years of neglect by the authorities. In Unity Schools, everything is left in the hands of the School management that turned those institutions to personal estates. Education ministry pays little or no attention.

The sad story in the Unity Schools was aptly captured in a petition taken out by the Parents Teachers Association (PTA) of Federal Government College Nise, Anambra State and addressed to the Hon Minister of Education and copied to the National Assembly. The PTA claimed that the hostels is over crowded with about 2,200 students, the students are malnourished. The teachers do not teach good moral but engaged in accepting any person that requested, fake pastors and prophets to take on the students in moral instructions. The school is under staffed to a ratio of one teacher to a hundred students.

Though the PTA heaped all the blame on the Principal of that school but the bottom line is the admission racketeering in that school and everywhere. For example, each school is not expected to have more than 1,200 students but they have two times the number thereby putting pressure on the existing facilities.

This over population issue makes it difficult to manage any challenge like the cholera outbreak at Queens College recently. Talking about Queens College, the cholera outbreak of July, 2019 is still fresh in our minds. It was an epidemic that resulted to the death of three students and several hundreds hospitalised, at least 900 students were exited by the school authority on medical emergency before the school was shut down.

10 out of 12 water point including the school main water factory and cafeteria were badly contaminated.

Back to Kings College, nothing works there. The water treatment plant is moribund. Students depend on sachet water from different factory outside the school for drinking. The school toilet is bad and the roof remain uncovered as we write. The ICT Center has dozens of computers and printers but only one or two are working.

The number of students they admit every year is unprecedented. Each class has at least 53 students and about 600 students in a set. This means that they have about 3,600 students instead of 1500 students in the two campuses. What they do during matriculation is to publish names of the first 200 students in alphabetical order to deceive the general public. We can now understand why Kings College remains the best school academically in Nigeria for ages now. They simply present the result of the best 200 students for evaluation. No one ask what happened to the rest 400.

As it is in Kings College, Queens College and Federal Government College Nise, so it is in all the unity colleges in the country. Some are even worse.

The easiest way to bring bed bugs into ones home is to take your children or ward’s personal belongings straight from school hostels to your home without first decontaminating them properly. Parents are not allowed to draw near the hostels at least to have a feel of where their children are kept. The last time the parents were allowed to enter the hostels, some parents took their children back home in protest. To the management, it was a mistake that must not repeat.

Unity Schools are heavily subsidized, parents and guardians pay little or no official fees. It is attractive because once your child is in, managing their studies becomes easier. The system is attractive to parents, so ministry and school management sell admission to them to the tune of at least two hundred thousand Naira (N250,000.00) per student. Schools like Kings, Queens and several others in major cities are even more expensive.

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Some old students and PTA of unity schools have tried to make things better. But when one considers the PTA levy paid every term, one will think that those areas the PTA intervene should be better.

A parent of Unity Schools gave his narrative by saying, “This is what I experienced as a parent while my daughter was a FGC Nise. Always robbing the parents blind.

“I was very blunt the day the principal invited us to pay N10,000 each because SS3 girls invaded the store to take some indomie to cook for themselves. I had it hot with the principal, drawing huge applause from other parents. I insisted she should go ahead and punish my daughter for getting involved in the act but not punish me instead by extorting N10,000 from me.

“I also threatened her that I could make that particular episode go viral.

“She later grudgingly reduced the fine to N5,000.00. I still insisted on complete removal but same parents that stood behind me made a sharp turn to plead to me to let it rest since the principal had been magnanimous enough to cut it by half. I couldn’t believe it. But we ended up paying 5k each for our children.

An anonymous benefactor who detailed his ordeal with one of the Unity Schools stated, “My brother had two children in FGC Ijaniki Lagos, when he died in 2012, the PTA said only one of the children will benefit from the ‘bread winner’ insurance.

“I had to fight them, I told them that my brother was paying the insurance for the two children individually not as a unit as such both of them are entitled to the insurance coverage.

“It was a long battle but at the end I won. If I had not fought for the right of the children somebody in the PTA will pocket the insurance benefits of one of the children”.

An ex-student (name withheld) of one of the Unity Colleges said, “Most of my experience in federal government college was good but I’ll try to remember some things by breaking them down into sectors;

‘Food aspect’ – we had the privilege of getting food morning, afternoon and night but I miss most of it cause I wasn’t a big fan of what they usually serve us as food, but I never missed Monday bread (very fresh, soft and succulent).

‘Waking up’: Well, thinking about it now I’ll honestly take a day. It’s very unfair to wake children up as early as 4.30 to get ready for school and it’s kind of like a normal thing in Nigeria. I do know they think we’re given time to rest but we don’t, when bedtime is 10pm if memory will serve me well. I hated that part of boarding school”.

Another parent (name withheld) narrated her experience stating that, “Unity Schools these days are supermarkets for the Principal and teachers.

“After fixed PTA extortions, they still involve themselves with all forms of ‘taxes’ from parents of students.

“Again, to shift from direct cash extortion, they buy too many items ranging from soaps, detergents, tissues, etc … which they resell to dealers. It’s terrible!

“School uniforms, ties, stockings, day wears are charged at exorbitant prices while they supply students with inferior materials.

“Also students are not properly monitored and counseled/guarded and guided. Junior students are at the mercy of senior ones. All items from cap to pants are stolen off junior ones including all textbooks and notebooks. It’s terrible!”.

A way out of this mess is for the government to pay attention to what is happening in Unity Schools. Admission racketeering should stop and there should be a limit to a number of students being admitted. The major problem is over crowding not even government funding. Where the population is properly managed, those students in Kings and Queens College will truly school like kings and queens. The School Board of Governors should be able to regulate and supervise every aspect of the school management. Notes should be compared and report released annually. The principals should be monitored and the circumstance where students pay cash/fine instead of serving punishment should be discouraged. One can go on and on”.

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