A Much Needed Facelift

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In an attempt to improve the facades of public schools, WorldTravelShop, in partnership with Lady Painter Company, recently painted a primary school in Mushin Local Government Area of Lagos State, report Ugo Aliogo, Abdulkareem Azeezat and Saheed Sakariyah

The falling standard of public schools has remained an issue of serious concern amongst stakeholders in the education sector. Despite the funds voted towards revamping the sector, not much success has been recorded. Public schools are still lagging behind especially in the quality of learning and structure, when compared with private schools.

Ogbonnaya Obi is one amongst other stakeholders sad about the rot in the sector. His concern is that public schools should be at par with private schools in all ramifications. Obi believes strongly that this duty should not be left to only government; but the private sector and concerned individuals should play roles in restoring the lost glory of public schools. Through the efforts of his company, WorldTravel Shop, he embarked on an initiative known as ‘Grab a brush and colour a life’ in Araromi Nursery and Primary School, Mushin Local Government Area.

“Two things informed the initiative; the first was to give the children a reason to go back to school. We have been to the school and observed that the school was not in good shape. Secondly, we aim to use this medium to start an enlightening programme which will urge government to put some renewed focus and attention towards the public schools,” Obi stated.

On a larger-scale, the initiative will help develop a solid roadmap for the state government to start a pilot programme which will draw attention to public schools especially with a focus to bring them back to their rightful position.

The General Manager, Operation of WorldTravel Shop explained that the Missionaries are not in a position to handle the public school currently, noting that adequate funding of public schools will play a major role in remodelling of the schools and restore it back to its original pride of place, “government is in the right position to properly fund public schools. The missionaries may not have the financial muscle to shoulder the burden.

“We carried out this initiative with an organisation known as Lady Painter Company. We didn’t get any support from government; it was funded by Lady Painter Company and World Travel Shop. We want the media to help project what we have done, so that government can borrow a cue from it,” noted Obi.

With the take-off of the initiative in 2016, Obi is optimistic that this society centric initiative will become an annual event which will focus on one public school at a time in Lagos metropolis on every October 1. He is however hopeful that with the present success recorded in Mushin, in 2017 the state government would have focused its attention in the remodelling of public schools across the state.

He added: “My take out of this is that I can actually give a child a reason to go to school. Education is the only channel that can bridge the gap between the rich and the poor in our society. For us, Mushin is a poor neighbourhood; the kids there may not have the privilege to go beyond primary school. I was part of a church-based community project in Mushin where we met with some youths who have been deeply involved in drugs.

“The drug addicts said they lacked the motivation to go to school. While they were in school, it made less meaning to them. Therefore they began skipping classes, from there they were introduced to drugs and they ended up becoming drug addicts. If these children have an understanding why they should go to school, then we might have succeeded in saving the futures of many children.

“Education is the only way to tackle rural poverty in the society. You can be poor materially but you have great ideas inside. This will help you breakthrough difficult situations. When the children saw us, they were motivated to take after us and the only way they can do that is through education.

“If children are adequately engaged, I don’t think there will any reason for them to leave school. Though poverty plays a role in preventing most kids from going to school, but education can stamp away poverty. It’s a broad issue though, but the little we have done can be a starting point.”

In this vision, Obi is not alone. He has the strong backing of a caring friend to lean on for anchorage and hope.

Uju Udoka was the companion who provided the helping hand. The dark-skinned lady was a former banker who left the banking sector to pursue her passion of becoming a painter. For Udoka, the ‘Grab a brush and colour a life’ was beyond a society centric initiative; because it provided her the platform to reach out to the needy using her gift.

Her thoughts after the exercise were very satisfactory and pleasing. These feelings were not borne out only from Udoka’s personal satisfaction, but from the expressions of smiles written on the faces of the school pupils and parents present.

“The initiative was wonderful. The school has taken a new look when compared to other public schools in the area. I wish I could do more for the children beyond painting the school. More of these initiatives should be carried out. There is need for improvement in the standard of our public schools, so that it can look different from the private schools,” she said.

The initiative is currently yielding positive results, especially with the laudable messages and calls Uju has received from people eager to replicate what has been done.

The import of the exercise was that a lot of lives have been touched; people have been inspired and ready to volunteer their time to further drive the initiative. “This is a community service which we should be willing to do without anyone compelling us to do it. The central idea is to make the school look attractive for the pupils to attend. The standard of the environment has a huge role to play in all of these.”

The Chief Executive Officer of Lady Painter Company added: “Government should take it upon themselves to make the public schools look good. The schools don’t have to look ridiculed. It’s really sad and disheartening that this is happening. They should take a cue from this and raise the standard of our public schools.

“Going forward, this exercise will be a yearly programme. We expect to partner with other Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and corporate organisations to do this. The school head teacher and pupils were highly appreciative of the gesture.”

Towards the end of the last academic session, the head teacher of the school, Mrs. Mojisola Bakri, has been praying for the school to receive succour in certain areas, especially the painting of the school. Today, that prayer has been answered with ‘Grab a brush and colour a life’ initiative.

“I really appreciate them. In fact I’m very happy for this, God has heard my prayer. This will help the learning process of the kids. When an environment is very pleasant and beautiful, it will attract the children. When the parents saw it they were so happy. The parents also prayed that their children would grow up and pick up such initiative,” noted a delighted Bakri.

Before her transfer as the school head teacher, they have been some interventions programmes in the school; some have had far reaching effect, while others were truncated at the incubation stage, “In 2015, a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) visited the school and they planted the trees and gave textbooks to pupils. They were very helpful. We are expecting more NGOs to come,” Bakri said.

Other areas of need identified by the head teacher were the building of a new library, a functional poultry facility and planting of flowers in order to add more beauty to the school compound. “We have a vacant classroom which can be used for the building of a new library and also a room which can house the poultry.”

She explained that government has been playing its role in supporting the school, especially through the setting up of School Based Management Community (SBMC), a group of elders in the community who assist the school whenever they are in need.

She added: “They assisted us in getting furniture when we were in need of it. They are really trying their best. They hold meetings with the chairman of the education committee; therefore they have the backing of government. If any of the children is having health challenge we call the parents and tell them, we cannot do anything without their consent.

“With this painting, many parents will change their notions about public schools and register their wards to learn in public school, unarguably, the initiative has raised the standard of the public school to a private school.”