Promoting safety in FCT schools

Penultimate week, a school pupil, four-year old Master David Jacob, was killed when a part of his school building collapsed. Other of his school mates escaped with bruises with some still in the hospital and others since back to their homes.

The school, Monsouri International Nursery and Primary School, Kado village, is not far from the official residence of the FCT minister, Malam Muhammad Bello. The proximity to the minister’s residence is telling; that even under his very nose, danger to our kids looms large!

But for sheer mother luck, the number of casualty would have been on the high side as the pupils were on break when the school building came crumbling down.

Following the sad development, the proprietor of the collapsed school, Mr. Ogbonna Uba, was detained by the police at the Life Camp division.  

Regrettably, the collapsed school is not registered, and it is among the over 556 illegal schools that have been enlisted to be closed by the Education Secretariat of the FCT Administration having failed to meet the standard set out for private schools in the territory.  

While on a visit to the scene, Director in charge of Quality Assurance Department of FCT Education Secretariat, Mr. Ayuba Didam, described the tragic incident as unfortunate.  

Didam confirmed to journalists that the school was actually sealed off by the government, but the school proprietor removed the seal tag and went on operating until the unfortunate incident occurred. 

He revealed that the decision to close down such schools was to eradicate the dangers posed to the academic, emotional and psychological development of the pupils,  
No doubt, the proliferation of unregistered private schools in Abuja has become a reoccurring decimal, and it is high time the FCT Administration scale up action on the process of shutting them down.  

The question which the Federal Capital Territory Administration needs to provide urgent answers to its inspectorate effectiveness. It is not enough, as the Monsouri tragedy has shown, to close down an illegal school without the necessary mechanism to ensure that such school stayed close.

It has become apparent that the FCT Administration must endeavor to go beyond mere rhetoric of grandstanding in terms of quality assurance and implementing its orders to avoid other disasters that might be waiting to happen.

Also, the administration should devise a means to have more schools in the face of dire economic challenges to cater for the ever growing population in the territory. 
The fact is that there are not enough public schools at the basic level across the territory. The administration should therefore intensify efforts towards building more schools in all the districts because most parents and guardians consider proximity as one of the factors of sending their wards to such mushroom private schools.  

More importantly, the Department of Quality Assurance charged with the responsibility of accreditation and inspection of both public and private schools should ensure that its monitoring and evaluation of schools is a routine process and also ensure that minimum standards are met in both public and private schools in terms of physical planning and infrastructure, staffing and curricular and extra-curricular activities.  

On the other hand, parents are advised to always verify the accreditation status of private schools before enrolling their wards because parents also share in the responsibility of ensuring quality education for their children. 

No doubt, there are pockets of quality public schools all over the FCT that can meet the educational needs of children.  

It is a sad commentary to state instances where parents will prefer to take their children to clearly dilapidated and unapproved schools simply because they are tagged as “private” rather than enroll them at public schools that are within walking distances of their homes. 

It is, therefore, the view of this newspaper that it takes two to tango - both the FCT Administration and guardians should build synergy to ensure the safety of schools in the territory to avert such tragic and other occurrences.    

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