It is said that the people think of today while it is the responsibility of leaders to think of the future. In many cases, this maxim is true. The people are usually interested in what they will eat, what they will wear and where they will live today. Leaders are expected however to look at things in a holistic manner and make the necessary decisions to guarantee the future while not neglecting today.
It is therefore an appalling failure on the part of any government when the most fundamental of things concerning the future is neglected, left to run down and go into a dilapidated state. The state of our government run primary schools is an eyesore. I live in Lagos, and so cannot speak for the rest of the country. But here in Lagos, most of the government run primary schools are no better than rundown buildings which stand precariously on the edge of collapsing. I cannot understand why our leaders take their eyes off the most fundamental of things and bandy growth figures, glossy pictures of this or that project and build Potemkin cities like Eko Atlantic when the lowliest of their responsibilities doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Our future, our children, our leaders of tomorrow are educated in contraptions that are almost no better than colonial rural schools that I see in ancient videos of Nigeria. In fact, in many cases, it is an insult to compare them to colonial schools. Those colonial schools had better infrastructure, ambience, and were much better staffed and run than our current primary schools in Lagos.
I grew up on street called Femi Adebule in Fola-Agoro. There are two public primary schools on the street, Modupe Primary
School at the beginning and Adebule Primary School further down the road. These schools have not always been top drawer, but at least in the early eighties they were not so far off from the private schools around. Today, the roofs have caved in, they are still the old Jakande buildings with open classrooms, pupils have to provide their own chairs and table and teachers ask pupils to bring all manner of things from tissue paper to brooms and canes. English language is hardly spoken and much of the communication is in Yoruba or what the teachers attempts to pass off as English. The only building in Adebule Primary School that is somewhat decent is the Administrative Block that was built sometime during the Tinubu administration from some intervention fund. Whilst many of my own friends went to those schools when we were growing up, no sane parent who can afford one of the two private schools on the street would send their kids there.
Primary schools are the responsibility of Local Government chairmen. Every single one of them must hide their heads in shame in Lagos State at the state of our primary schools. I have repeatedly said that while there is failure of the government at the federal level to do much, the failures that are most perilous are those of the Local and State governments. I have advocated for a closer scrutiny of these two tiers of government. It is for example not the job of the Federal Government to provide pipe borne water. The failure of the government closer to us means most homes in Nigeria do not have pipe borne water. In the same vein, public primary education is not the responsibility of the Federal Government. This all important foundation of our children’s education is given abysmal attention by the local government responsible for it. What I know for sure is that the foundation that is laid for an individual’s education has a long-lasting impact on the rest of that individual’s education. The problem of that graduate that cannot speak proper English started in such primary schools. A culture of low expectations and adopting a “let us endure the bad situation instead of changing it” is ingrained in the children that learn in such environments. The formative period of our kids is spent in these dilapidated schools and their mental growth is stunted, requiring supreme personal effort on their part to break out of these limits in future when they realize their disadvantages. This is in the context of the fiercely competitive global environment where nations are increasingly equipping their children with more cutting edge knowledge for future dominance.
The election season is here again and most of the newspaper reports and opinion pieces you will read will be about the race at the center or at the state level. And since the media will drive what people fixate on, we are carried away with these and lose sight of what goes on in our Local Governments, State House of Assemblies and other grassroots politics. The state of our primary schools is a metaphor of many of those little things that are around us and are not the responsibility of the Federal Government which we must pay closer attention to in this election and beyond. I will ask whoever campaigns in my area about Adebule Primary School and Modupe Primary School. We should all make up our minds to do the same.
Tunde Leye @tundeleye is a fiction writer. He believes that the stories written form a priceless resource that is the basis of society, all the other arts (film, music, theatre, visual arts) and hence he is committed to telling stories out of Africa that show it as it was, is, and is going to be