Thursday, 4 September 2014

Exclusive: Rotting Standard of Education in Enugu State After been handed back to Missionaries

Image result for pictures of governor chimeIn 2009, Governor Sullivan Chime made history by ending the age-long clamour for the hand-over of schools to their original owners.
Before, Chime took the decision, several discussions and Memos were written over long days and nights with stakeholders who said it had dawned on all and
sundry that Education, which is key to development, cannot be properly managed by government.
The demand also emanated from the the belief that government had mismanaged schools earlier handed over to it, hence churches argued that they remained the only credible, relevant and reliable stakeholder with experience to manage its own schools within the State which at this time had virtually collapsed.
Handing over was then probably seen as the best way out for a government that had forcefully taken over Missionary properties in 1970.
Churches had accused schools under the management of government of turning moral values upside down, producing armed robbers and semi illiterates with certificates but without wisdom or character and unable to deliver.
However, although the return of schools were greeted with so much enthusiasm in Enugu State, it didn’t take long before another chapter complaint opened. The Churches lamented that many schools had dilapidated roofs, littered
and abandoned, as well as children without teachers.
Consequently, they had urged the State Government to give adequate financial support and regular Grants-in-aid to the Proprietors of these schools, to enable repairs on dilapidated physical infrastructure, address the difficulties caused by nine years delay in the implementation of the handover accord and purchase of needed
equipment to put these schools on functional status.
Enquiries by Orient Daily showed that to properly run these schools, the churches have established a joint Education body to co-ordinate and supervise the general affairs of the schools. While that of the Catholic Church is known as Catholic Education Secretariat of Enugu State (CESES), that of the Anglican Church is known as Anglican Education Board.
The Enugu State Government had seen the full return of the mission schools to their original proprietors as an opportunity and stimulant for government to emulate the church's education administration system and also have an ethical rebranding and re-engineering of the primary and secondary education obtainable in the state's public schools to desired higher standard and quality.
According to Chime, "We expect these schools handed over to transform and be model schools for our own to emulate. The event today is symbolic and a sign of blessing to come to our education in the state".
However, few years after,  crisis has not abated in the educational sector in the State.
Apart from the lingering controversies between the government and the Anglican Church, there is also the issue of quality as it does it appear the churches are having challenges restructuring these facilities handed over to them in a very bad shape.
For instance,  the eight dioceses of Anglican Communion in Enugu state had in the recent past alleged that the state government had withdrawn 54 primary schools and 10 secondary mission schools previously handed back to the church, whereas other churches have retained theirs.
The Church accused the government of what it perceived as partiality among church denominations in the state and asked the state government to
immediately resolve the impasse by returning all their original schools back to them.
While this issue lingers, the Church locked in a heated battle with the government over a parcel of land housing three secondary and five primary schools. As the day passes by, the matter degenerates and tension rises.
And unfortunately, disturbing signals emanating from both camps in the last few weeks point to the fact that none of the parties is ready to shift grounds as the claims and counter claims over the rightful owner of the massive property rages.
The three affected secondary schools are Urban Anglican Girls Secondary School; City Anglican Secondary School and Metropolitan Anglican Girls Secondary School, while the primary schools are Urban Primary School 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.
The massive compound also plays host to Christ Redemption Anglican Church; St Anthony Catholic Church; the Nigerian Institute of Hotel and Catering Services as well as residential quarters for workers of the schools.
The large population of the schools is a direct result of the dense population of the “New Layout” area, which is seen by many as the “heart” of Enugu State. Being among the areas that harboured the first set of settlers in Enugu urban, after the Coal Camp, it boasts facilities that are rarely found in newly developed areas of the state.
Orient Daily gathered that the early missionaries who brought Christianity set up the schools and its appurtenances, which also served as training facilities for young girls. It was then called the Women Training Centre (WTC), established under the name Christian Missionary Society (CMS).
The massive acquisition of land in the area was in a bid to ensure that there was enough accommodation for the trainees.
One of the senior priests in the church who is extremely uncomfortable with the treatment meted out to the church in recent times lamented that: “Government has descended heavily on facilities belonging to us, pulling down our structures and reclaiming our schools.”
However, in giving a background to the lingering feud between the church and the state government, Bishop Emmanuel Chukwuma, the Anglican Archbishop of Enugu said: “While, we were waiting and dialoguing over the issue of getting our schools gazetted, a letter from the Ministry of Education addressed to us told us that the three schools and 54 other schools including primary schools located inside the church compound are not our schools. They said they were handed over to us in 2010 in error and that government had repossessed them.”
He went on: “We are asking, on what grounds, and how did they (government) suddenly realise that the schools are not ours? In the last four years, we have carried the burden of these schools and were waiting for the management of the schools to be fully handed over to us, only to be told the schools are not ours. We are seriously suspecting that the government is not sincere and fair to us. Or why did they not gazette these schools all along? As far as we are concerned, they are our schools and we are not going to give up in the fight to get what belongs to us.”
On his part, the state Commissioner of Education, Prof Uchechukwu Okoro said: “In 2009, the state government began the handing over of schools to their original owners including Catholic, Anglican and Methodist churches.
“Following public complaints that some government schools had been handed over to some missions, the state government set up a committee to investigate the claims-the Anglican, Methodist and Catholic churches were represented in the committee.
He continued: “The committee finished its assignment and submitted to the government its findings, listing all the schools handed over in error to other owners. The committee’s findings were based on verifiable records contained in the archives of the government. Following the report, government directed the state Ministry of Education to repossess the affected schools and inform their ‘new’ owners accordingly,” adding that “consequently, schools were recovered from all the churches and not only the Anglican Church.”
Presently, observations by Orient Daily showed that these controversies have in so small measure affected the development of these schools. For instance, at the WTC Primary School, a block, which was pulled down by rain storm more than one year ago, has been abandoned, exposing the pupils to danger.
A staff of the school, who spoke under anonymity lamented that “it is so sad one year after this roof was blown off, government has refused to come and fix it.
“I know that this is not unconnected with the dispute between the State Government and the Anglican Church, but government should not abandon these kids because it has problem with the church”.
Be that as it may, there is a general consensus in the State that these schools being managed by the churches are delivering in quality more than the government owned schools, a situation that has made it cumbersome for pupils to gain entrance to the missionary schools.
For instance, close watchers say gaining admission into the College of Immaculate Conception, CIC, and the Holy Rosary College Enugu, HRC, are becoming as difficult as seeking entrance into tertiary institutions.
This is also the case with the St. Teresa’s College Nsukka as well as the Special Science School Nsukka. Most of these schools are believed to have remained sticklers to quality standard and good principles.
But their standard notwithstanding, they are are seen to have shut their doors to the poor.
An aggrieved parent lamented his predicament thus: “my son gained admission into one of these church-owned schools in Enugu but it was difficult for me to pay the over N20,000 acceptance fee. I even met the principal and pleaded with him to allow me pay in instalment but he refused; he said I can’t start begging even when my son has not entered the school.
“This particular incident is really something I will live to remember; my son cried out his eyes that day, and it has been difficult for me to recover from the shock. They should not push poor people away from these good schools, the church and the government should really do something about it”.
Be that as it may, a principal in one of the Catholic owned schools in Enugu, who prefered anonymity said they needed money to adequately fund the school.
“If we must maintain this quality, we need money; it is wrong to say that we are shutting out poor people, but we can’t run the schools with bare hands, we need money. We are also doing our best to ensure that we are fees are moderate; so parents should bear with us”.
As it stands today, there is no doubt that church-owned schools are leading the way in terms of quality in Enugu State. However, the issue of funding and access remain big issues.



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