Restoring the Lost Pride of St. Charles

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The deplorable state of St. Charles Grammar School, Osogbo, has received the attention of the old students of the school, as they recently came together to brainstorm on how to restore the school’s lost pride. Sunday Ehigiator reports

Dilapidated school buildings are a sight for sore eyes. This anomaly is often seen in public schools and has continued to be a source of concern to Nigerians. When the government took over the educational system in the 70s under the regime of Gen. Yakubu Gowon, nobody ever envisaged the steady decadence that will later ravage the educational system, as opposed to the original purpose of the takeover, which is inclusiveness and separation of religion from school.

But four decades after, we find ourselves at a crossroad of inquiry; questioning the essence of the takeover if maintenance can’t be imbibed. This is part of the reasons why St. Charles Grammar school Osogbo; which used to be the pride of the state in the late 70’s, has deteriorated.

Just recently, the Old Boys Association, ‘Stanza 789’, embarked on a capital project to refurbish their alma mater. Stanza 789’, which stands for the set of 1978/1979, as part of the celebration of their 40 years anniversary since leaving the school, have decided to carry out a total renovation of the school. This is said to include replacement of dilapidated roofing sheets with metal ones, and replacing all the louvre windows with steel ones.

Speaking at the briefing, the chairman of the ‘789 Stanza’, Mr. Olufemi Olusola was keen to point out that replacing the louvers with steel ones is pertinent and is now common in almost every model school today, because the students of today are mischievous and would take out the louvers just to sneak out during school hours. He added that they will also carry out necessary masonry work and finally, paint the interior and exterior walls of the school.

Enhancing Learning

According to Olusola, “Infrastructural facilities are the physical and special provisions made to enhance teaching and learning in schools. The importance, need and relevance of physical resources towards the success of every educational programme can never be over emphasised.

“The availability of adequate school buildings, classrooms, chairs desk and other facilities are necessary for the attainment of educational objectives. Educational facilities are major factors contributing to academic achievement in the school system. These include the school building, classrooms, furniture, libraries, laboratories, recreational equipment, apparatus and other instructional materials.”

Zero Maintenance Culture

“It is necessary that efforts should be made to renovate dilapidated school buildings in the country as experience has shown that bad educational system and structure would inherently lead to bad academic performance of students in national examinations, encourage truancy, immoral conducts and behaviors.

“Today in Nigeria, few if any, of the public schools can boast of good infrastructure. Most of the public schools are full of decaying infrastructure. The equipment of yester-years is still the same equipment being used now. In some places, they are grounded and the facilities are not there any longer.

“Routine maintenance, which is a way of ensuring that facilities and equipment are serviced regularly and that they attain their maximum life span by preventing breakdown before they occur are abhorred .

“In Nigeria, there seems to be no culture of facility maintenance. Once a school building or other physical structure has been commissioned, every other thing about the structure is usually forgotten. Thus, it is not unusual to find that most schools built over several decades ago have had no renovation, even when it was obvious that such structures have dilapidated or become obsolete”, he lamented.

Downward Spiral

Another pertinent issue is the downward spiral of the Nigerian educational system, especially in structure and learning. It virtually has become totally dysfunctional. Today, it has become increasingly difficult to match content with practice. The poor performance of students in public examinations, such as the West African School Certificate Examination (WASSCE), National Examination Council (NECO) and Joint Admissions Matriculation Board (JAMB), speaks volume.

In an analysis of the results of the WASSCE), the Assistant Registrar, West African Examination Council (WAEC), Mr. Collins Uduh, revealed that the candidates who obtained credit passes in at least five subjects including English Language and Mathematics, within 2005 to 2009 was lamentable. According to Uduh, “In 2005, 27.53 per cent was recorded; in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009 respectively, 15.56 per cent, 25.54 per cent, 13.76 per cent, and 25.99 per cent apiece, only made the five relevant subjects including Maths and English in the exam”.

The above distressing statistics captures the fear of parents, governments and employers of labour about the enormity of the problem at hand. Though the situation has not always been this bad, but things got worse when societal values began to be eroded by crass materialism, corruption, bad leadership and abdication of responsibility by political jobbers, posing as political leaders. More worrisome is the virtual neglect of the educational sector by all the stakeholders.

Giving Back

To ameliorate this anomaly, the Old Boys Association ‘Stanza 789’, as part of measures to give back to the society and improve the education sector, decided to start with their alma mater, by also awarding scholarships to deserving indigent students and registering 50 final grade students for WASSCE free of charge; as would be decided by their performances in a mock exam conducted by the school authorities.

According Olusola, “in times past, we have sponsored the WASCE of final year students, but the effort most times have gone down the drain because majority of the recipients were not serious academically. The scholarship would only be offered to outstanding indigent students. Some of the students who are academically qualified to further their education, most times fall short because of poverty. This would be an opportunity for them as well

“Stanza 789 Old bous Association have earmarked a sum of N15 million for the projects and also other activities that would take place like awarding scholarships and payment of WASSCE fees. We appeal to associates, family members and people of goodwill for support in cash and kind as the case may be. The project embarked upon is a capital project and not a recurrent project. Our hopes are that the project would be ready by May, when we would be celebrating our anniversary and class reunion.

“While the government have a major role to play in reforming education, for reformation to occur, I think we should stop being overly dependent on the government. If people can do likewise, they would have taken a very big step in reforming this peculiar sector.

“We have always blazed the trail in a lot of philanthropic gestures in giving back. And if other stanza either before us or after can engage in some projects, St. Charles would surely be a better place again”.

There is no denying the fact that education constitutes a vital component of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which will shape the nature of social and economic progress in Nigeria for the foreseeable future. For young people, their need is education. It is important therefore to develop the young ones physically, mentally and psychologically because they are the future of the country.