About 350 pupils of LEA Primary School, Wuye, have been thrown out of their classrooms following a land tussle with the Federal Boys College, Apo. REGINA OTOKPA reports
Education is a priority, a must have for every child. Due to its importance, there is hardly an area in the Federal Capital Territory as well as other parts of the country where schools are not being run either by private individuals, churches or government.
Although most families, especially those in the rural areas are struggling on a daily basis to support their families to make ends meet, they ensure that out of the meagre income generated daily or monthly, their children or wards get at least a basic education, to enable them fit into society one way or the other. To this end, the LEA Primary School Wuye, a public school, has been a saviour to such families, who cannot afford the very high cost of education in the private schools operating within and around Wuye district in the Federal Capital Territory.
However, the past few weeks were not so pleasant for the families of the 350 students of the primary school, when their children were thrown out of school on a Wednesday, when the roof was removed during classes. At the time of this report, Inside Abuja was still unable to ascertain who gave the directive for the move, as the principal of the Federal Government Boys College Apo and the Permanent secretary of the Education Ministry have been engaged in a blame games.
Inside Abuja checks revealed that the land upon which the school was situated, originally belonged to the Federal Government Boys College, now in its temporary site at Apo. The principal of FGBC had earlier expressed intentions to take over its permanent site but the LEA said they could not quit the place due to security and safety reasons.
The chairman, Parents Teachers Association (PTA) of the school, Ibrahim Alhassan, who revealed that the school was caught up in a land tussle between the Ministry of Education and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Authority, said the students were all asked to leave the school premises when the roofing material were being removed.
According to him, immediately the eviction took place, he placed a call to the Principal of FGBC Apo and the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education, Arch. Sonny Echono, but Echono had denied prior knowledge of the incident until after the deed had been done.
“The Principal said he was acting on instructions from the Education Ministry but when I called, the Permanent Secretary of the Education Ministry, he also denied involvement in the whole eviction process,” he said.
But the Ministry of Education has maintained that the school and building in question was built by the Federal Government for one of its Federal Government Colleges, otherwise known as unity school.
According to the Deputy Director, Press of the Ministry, Mr. Bem Gong, the LEA school cannot lay a claim to the school or its buildings, since they were fully aware it wasn’t theirs. He added that plans were underway to ensure that the school was relocated to enable them continue providing learning without interruption of any kind.
“The school and the buildings do not belong to the LEA school. It is one of our FGC schools and buildings. It was not in use and they wrote officially that they want to make use of the building. We agreed for them to use it temporally, so that the building does not become a hideout for miscreants. Surely, it is not their building and I am sure they will not lay claim to it,” he explained.
The aggrieved parents, who minced no words in expressing their anger over the sad incident, are worried over the consequences of such actions on the pupils. According to one of the parents, Sanni Gambo, if such continues, the children might begin to lose interest in education.
Gambo, whose three kids are pupils of the school, noted that the LEA was the only school within the vicinity and if the matter was not resolved amicably leading to total closure of the school, children in Wuye district would have no primary school to attend.
“The government needs to take this matter seriously. This is the only LEA school that we have in Wuye district. We do not have any other place to put our children,” he said.
Another parent, Blessing Joel, who stressed on the need for a conducive learning environment for their children, noted that “the government should come to our aid. We don’t want our children to suffer unjustly. We want a better life for our children and that is why we are here to show solidarity support.”
The affected children were not left out in the outcry. As early as 8 am on the fifth day after the eviction, the pupils mounted stage in front of the school, clapping and chanting “Please open up our school; we want to resume learning. Federal Government please open our school.”
Speaking to Inside Abuja, Hadiza Ahmed, begged the Federal Government to open the school and allow them resume lectures. Lamenting the number of lectures they have missed within the three days they stayed off school, she asked the government to make speedy provisions for a conducive environment where the present and future students of the school could learn without threat.
“We don’t want to stay at home while our mates are in school. Our parents cannot afford the cost of private school and that is why we are attending the LEA Primary School, Wuye.
“We want to grow up as responsible adults who can contribute to the welfare of the family and nation,” she said.
After much persuasion from the parents and the resolve of the children not to leave the premises on Monday, the Universal Basic Education (UBEB) building beside the school, which was originally meant to occupy the students as temporary space for learning, was eventually opened pending when the school gets a permanent site.
However, it was disheartening to discover that the building, which was at the time under lock and key, had pots and beds signifying some persons were living in the building. Immediately after it was opened, the students eagerly went to work, cleaning the whole place awaiting resumption of disrupted studies.
Reacting to the whole drama, the Coordinator, Vaccine Network, Chika Offor, called for an end to the closure of the LEA primary school, Wuye. While lamenting that the closure could discourage some of the students, especially the girls to lose the moral to keep studying, Offor urged relevant authorities to ensure an alternative arrangement was made to shelter the student.
“The Children should not be made to suffer for discrepancies in the system. The FCT Authority and the Education Ministry should be able to resolve the crisis, and ensure the student resume back to class.
“We have to start convincing some of the students who just started schooling last term. We need to reassure the parent that the school will soon be back in full force. We had to bring them from other communities,” she said.
Even though the pupils have been given a temporary space, some parents are uncertain about what might happen in the nearest future. There is need for the government to take decisive steps and make adequate provisions for a conducive learning space for Wuye district as soon as possible, to forestall future occurrence of such threats which has a capacity to affect the pupils psychological and emotionally