By Our Reporter
There is a disquiet in Nasarawa state over the School feeding programme which has been gulping millions of naira monthly since it was introduced in the state by the last administration. Investigation by Nasarawa Eye revealed that money voted for the programme across the 29 secondary schools participating in the programme is not being properly utilized. There are complaints about poor quality of food being served the pupils and the generally inadequate manner the programme is being managed by the state’s ministry of education .The commissioner of education, Hajia Fati Sabo being rather new on her desk could not ascertain how much was being spent monthly on the school feeding programme.
Meanwhile the recent order by the State government to Parents Teachers’ Association,PTA, to stop charging levies on school children in public schools across the state is considered by critics as a move to deflect attention and create the impression that the government is serious about free education in Nasarawa state.
Investigations in Lafia, the state capital and its environs by Nasarawa Eye reveal that although education has since been declared free in the state, the government has been doing little to properly fund education particularly at the primary and secondary levels.
It was gathered that apart from classroom structures built by government, neither funding for maintenance nor for the running of the schools is being adequately provided by the government, while the number of teachers in primary schools far less than what is required.
In some of the public primary and secondary schools visited within the state capital and its environs, Nasarawa Eye discovered that although the PTA has since agreed to comply with the state government’s order, school children still pay one form of charges or the other. They include charges for examination dossier, registers booklets/leaflets for exam results, etc.
Some of the children spoken to said that they are required to pay at least one N150 for each examination, while the teachers complained that if the PTA is stopped from contributing to the running of education at the primary and secondary levels, there would be no free education in Nasarawa state in its true meaning.
A teacher at the Lafia East Secondary School, Musa Usman told Nasarawa Eye that there are so many things lacking including adequate chairs for teachers and desks for the children. “The register booklet, even chalk and other teaching aids have to be improvised by teachers” he disclosed.
Another teacher at the UNICEF Early Child Primary School, Lafia, Mrs. Juan Joshua also lamented that without the PTA levies, education at the primary level would be jeopardised.
She pointed out that it is with the little money they collect from the parents through the PTA levies on children that they effect repairs of dilapidated classrooms, improvise for certain teaching aids as government has not been able to come to their aid.
Malam Aliyu Muhammad Kwana, the Headmaster, Lafia East Primary School, enumerated some key demands of the school to include, security, which according to him is being taken care of exclusively by the schools management without any government intervention.
He lamented that without the proceeds they collect from the PTA levies it would be impossible to continue running the schools, adding that the PTA collects N2,000 annually from all headmasters, while the children pay only N200 each per annum
Corroborating, the Principal, Lafia East Secondary School, Mallam Dahiru Muhammad however expressed satisfaction with the concern being shown by the current administration of Governor A. A. Sule, reiterating that as professionals in the education sector, they would continue to give the government full support to ensure the success of free education in the state.
Dahiru Muhammad then called on the state government to liaise with the PTA, pointing out that since government alone cannot shoulder all the responsibility, there is the need to accept positive intervention from non-governmental organisations, like the PTA.
The state chairman, PTA, Alhaji Umaru Makama said in a telephone interview that the PTA has already complied with the government order to stop collection of the levies.
Umaru Makama explained that the order by the state government only affects new levies introduced by the PTA in order to support the education system due to persistent shortage of funds, pointing out that the association is now left with only the yearly levies it collects directly from every school.
The PTA chairman however disclosed that the association would continue to seek common ground through dialogue with relevant government authorities in order to find a lasting solution.
Meanwhile, the state Commissioner for Education, Hajiya Fati Jimeta Sabo confirmed to Nasarawa Eye in an interview that the state government remains firm in sustaining free education in the state.
The commissioner maintained that already efforts are being made to provide funds to all public primary and secondary schools across the state for the next school session after the yuletide break.
She stated that complaints of insufficient funding are not limited to the education sector alone, reiterating that no stone would be left unturned towards ensuring the success of free education in the state.