The Parent Teacher Association of the Federal Government Girls’ College, Ipetumodu, Osun State, struggles to keep the school afloat in the face of under-funding, SAMUEL AWOYINFA reports
Looking at the premises from the main gate, a first time visitor would be taken in by the newly painted administrative block, coated in cream and light blue colours.
But as the visitor moves closer to the Federal Government Girls’ College, Ipetumodu, Osun State, some visible scars of ageing infrastructure begin to manifest.
Our correspondent’s visit to the school last Saturday is an eye opener into the inner workings of the school’s management headed by Dr. O.S. Sallam. It also shows the vibrancy of the Parent Teacher Association in tackling the challenges facing the institution and the welfare of the pupils.
A few steps away from the administrative building is a disused borehole with a tank in an area overgrown with weeds and shrubs. To the left is an open space behind one of the block of classrooms that has been taken over by grasses. Another block of classrooms, which include that of SS1, paints another sight of neglect. The SS1 has most its louvres windows out of order, which leaves the space open and ugly to sight.
Yet, another one is the dining area and the kitchen. The original kitchen has been abandoned. The building so designated is bare with an old washing sink still that has gathered dust.
An extension is however added to the old kitchen, where caterers in charge were preparing meal for pupils with firewood.
A thick smoke intermittently billowed from that direction. It was the biggest dining hall next to the kitchen that the PTA meeting was held, which perhaps gave a vent to the hot arguments which followed its proceedings. But before the meeting became rowdy over an allegation of illegal collection of check-in fee, the PTA Chairman, Mr. B.O. Akande, had listed the achievements of the association to parents who attended the meeting.
The school, which has over 1,500 pupils, has been battling with inadequate physical infrastructure and dearth of teachers. But Akande said the PTA had taken the bull by the horns. The parents are not only building physical infrastructure, they have also engaged the services of 25 teachers and 10 non-academic staff when it became obvious that the teachers employed by the Federal Government were not enough to cater for the educational needs of their children. But this initiative does not come cheap.
“The PTA pays N627,670.00 as monthly wage to the 25 teachers and 10 non-academic staff that we engage for the academic and administrative development of the school,” he said.
“When we came in we inherited agitation for the increase in the PTA salary. We deliberated on this and approved the review of the PTA staff salary based on their academic qualification and experience. At present, the PTA staff strength stands at 35 and we pay them N627,670.00 per month,” he added.
The parents, who are also worried at the state of facilities in the school, have also undertaken various projects including construction of a new clinic, fencing and painting of Holy Hock hostel, provision of borehole, installation of barbed wire on the fence of BlueBerry Hostel, and construction of Ipetumodu –Ode-Omu Road in front of the school.
The PTA also painted the administrative block, refurbished the college’s generator, renovated toilets, replaced overhead tanks, and cleared bush around the, hostel among others. Akande stated that these achievements were possible because of the cooperation of the parents, the school principal and the school as a whole.
“We ascribe our success to their dedication, skill and support,” he added.
Akande’s testimony attracted some cheers from the parents. However, the tempo of the meeting changed as soon as some parents questioned the rationale for the collection of N1,300.00 check-in fee being charged each pupils per term.
According to the aggrieved parents, the N1,300 check in fee is also not receipted.
This, they claimed, was an indication that the fee was not known to the Federal Government and should therefore not be collected from pupils. At the rowdy meeting which held inside the biggest dining hall of the school, parents, one after the other, stood up to raise issues that had to do with the welfare of their children.
A parent, who preferred to be identified as ‘SS2’, in order to shield the identity of his child, was the first person to raise the issue of N1, 300 check-in fee.
“I want to know why each pupil in this school are made to pay N1,300, called the check-in fee, before they are allowed into the hostel on resumption days. We have been paying and no receipt has been issued for this, unlike the other payment we make.
“Madam, (facing the principal), we the parents want to know what the N1,300 check-in fee paid every term by the pupils is meant for, because the money is not receipted. What is the money being used for?” the parent, who said he has a daughter in the school, said.
As the man was asking the questions, other parents urged him on.
Rather than answering the question, the principal said other parents should be given the chance to ask their question, so that she could take the answers together afterwards. However, when it was time to answer the questions, she failed to react to the check-in fee issue. When she knew that journalists were in the hall, she flared up.
Raising her voice, she said, “We did not invite any journalist here and I do not want my name in the papers (newspapers).”
After the meeting ended on a rowdy note, our correspondent went to her office to seek further clarification on the issue. But a man who described himself as the secretary to the principal said his boss was not in.
Some of the aggrieved parents, however, insisted that the principal had something to hide and that was why she was not ready to talk on the issue. However, a former pupil of a Federal Government Girls’ College in the South West, who simply identified herself as Adijat, said check-in fee was not peculiar to FGGC, Ipetumodu alone. “I paid it when I was in school but our own was N900 and not N1,300,” she said.
But, some parents alleged that the collection and disbursement of the check-in due could be known to the PTA. When our correspondent called the PTA Chairman, Mr. B.O. Akande on the phone, he refused to answer questions on the fee.
“If you want to talk to me about it, call the school first. It is the school management that can direct me to speak on the issue and not you,” he said. One of the teachers, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the fee was meant for hostel maintenance. The teacher blamed the Federal Government, which he accused of underfunding the school, for the fee.
But the check-in fee was not the only issue raised by the parents. Some of them also asked questions on why the PTA was responsible for the payment of 35 workers of the school, welfare of their children, usage of bank draft to pay tuition, lack of facilities in the hostels and poor quality of food being served their children.
Defending the payment of 25 teachers and 10 non-teaching staff salaries by the PTA, Sallam noted that this was not peculiar to her school as other similar associations in other unity schools performed similar role.
She, however, told the parents that she had informed the Federal Ministry of Education on the need to employ more teachers.
“Why should parents complain about PTA paying teachers? They are teaching your children, they are not teaching me. When it comes to education, the parents, the school, the teachers, and the community must be involved,” she added.
On the issue of bank drafts, she said that was the mode of payment in all the 108 unity schools across the country and that FGGC, Ipetumodu would not be different.
Reacting to why the school would not allow parents to visit their children in the hostel so that they could determine ways by which the institution could be helped, the principal said, it was not necessary.
“Any parent who wants to know the need of the school should liaise with the PTA,” she said.
On the issue of food and kitchen, she said parents should discountenance whatever their children must have told them because the school management never compromised quality.
She stated, “We don’t cook beans with weevils here. We buy our beans daily. So, it does not have weevils. Some of these pupils have their preferences when they get home, but here we can’t satisfy those preferences.
“Some will say they don’t eat eba, some will prefer to eat rice three times daily. That’s not balanced diet. We try as much as possible to meet their needs by the list of menu we operate. Tell your wards to adjust to the life in a boarding school.”
However, some pupils who spoke to our correspondent on condition of anonymity complained about the quality of food they were being served.
“The beans we are served is always watery, while the stew is equally not tasty,” one of them said.
Another pupil said, “The cooked rice sometimes would be half done, and we must eat it like that.”
The meeting, which ran for over three hours, almost ended on a riotous note, when the issue of election was broached by Akande because it was not listed in the agenda.
It was later resolved that the PTA executive should be dissolved while a caretaker committee should be put in place.
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