The lamentation by the Minister of State for Education, Mr. Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, on the poor state of Federal Government Colleges or unity schools should deserve serious attention. The minister, who spoke in Gombe at the 2021 Annual General Meeting of principals of Federal Government Colleges, described them as dilapidated community secondary schools
Nwajiuba observed that although the Gen. Yakubu Gowon administration established unity schools to foster national cohesion and unity among Nigerian children of school age at the end of the Nigerian civil war, the schools have been mismanaged over time by those he described as parochial actors.
The minister also pointed out that “visionary leaders, trailblazers, good mentors and proactive principals were needed to maintain unity schools as centres of excellence.”
There is no doubt that the minister has stated the obvious on the deteriorating condition of the schools. The poor state of the schools might have equally affected the quality of teaching and their products as well. Many parents and guardians are aware of the ugly situation in the schools. However, comparatively speaking, they are still better than most state secondary schools.
The situation in most private secondary schools is nothing to write home about. It is sad that the decay in the schools has affected the quality of their products. Besides the collapsed infrastructure and dwindling discipline in the schools, the lopsided admission policy in the schools, in favour of students with lower marks from certain parts of the country, has invariably lowered the quality of their students.
It is public knowledge that most of the schools lack basic amenities such as potable water and steady power supply. The sanitation in some of the schools is deplorable. Regrettably, some of the schools do not have adequate teaching staff and administrative workers. Moreover, the teachers are not adequately motivated. That is why some of them are not committed to their jobs. These shortcomings seriously undermine the vision for the establishment of the unity schools.
The reason for the creation of the unity schools is to give Nigerian children a conducive atmosphere to learn and at the same time ensure national cohesion. Sadly, this vision is being vitiated by the decay in these schools. While we commend the minister for his forthrightness, we also decry the poor maintenance culture in the schools. It is good that he has identified the challenges facing the schools. However, it is not enough to bemoan the situation.
There is urgent need to address the rot in unity schools. The Federal Government should tackle the challenges facing the schools by increasing budgetary allocations to them. The federal ministry of education must diligently carry out its oversight functions in the schools. We say this because some of the lapses in the running of the unity schools might be administrative. We call on the minister to initiate moves to reverse the ugly trend in unity schools. The dream behind the establishment of the schools should not be allowed to die.
Since education is the greatest legacy the government can bequeath to Nigerian children, let there be sustained effort to enhance the maintenance culture in these schools as well as the quality of instruction. We believe that the products of our unity schools should compete with the best in the world. Let the unity schools be revamped in terms of staffing and equipment. The Federal Government has enough resources to address the problems facing the schools. Let the government muster the political will to bring back the past glory of unity schools as the minister has assured.
All the same, there is need for adequate funding, strict supervision and evaluation of the unity schools. Beyond the unity schools, Nigerian teachers, especially those in primary and secondary schools, need enhanced welfare package. The sagging morale in the teaching profession can be addressed if teachers are well paid. For higher productivity, the teachers must be adequately motivated and remunerated. This is, indeed, the right time to restore the dying prestige of the teaching profession. Above all, let the government return the schools to their enviable status.