A story on the dearth of good furniture in Ikeja Grammar School, Lagos, published by Saturday PUNCH last Saturday drew a wrong chord with the Lagos State Government.
Last Monday, it suspended the school principal for allowing this writer to gain access to the school premises and take photographs of classes where pupils sat on windows and concrete blocks while learning.
Even though it was reported in the story titled, “Lagos school where pupils learn sitting on windows, concrete blocks” that the principal was not around when this journalist visited the school, Saturday PUNCH learnt that her superiors have decided to hang the blame of the scandal on her.
Efforts to speak to the principal as the news of her suspension broke on Monday, were unsuccessful as she was nowhere to be found in the school. Teachers are not allowed to speak with the press in the state.
But an irked teacher, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the principal was removed from her position as a punishment on Monday.
The teacher said, “This is more serious than you think; you have put this school in trouble. The education ‘oga’ (commissioner) and other state officials summoned the principal on Monday and she has been removed from her position.
“She was asked to start reporting to the office of the permanent secretary of the ministry of education as from Tuesday.”
Our correspondent, who paid an undercover visit to the school on Monday, noticed that the issue had put all the teachers in the school on edge as many of them were seen holding copies of the published report.
It was also learnt that the state government’s education top officials had gone a step further by querying a teacher who was teaching a class when photographs of an array of broken furniture the pupils sat on were taken.
Our source within the school said another teacher, a head of department, is also facing the ministry’s ‘fire’ in connection to the said publication. The Commissioner for Education, Mrs. Olayinka Oladunjoye, had last week Friday admitted that her ministry was aware of the issue of the bad furniture in the school.
“Thank you for your observation; we are not unaware. As I write, chairs are being supplied and before too long, it will go round the schools,” a text message from her said on Friday. But by Monday when this correspondent visited the school, no new chairs had been supplied.
This correspondent got in touch with the Lagos State Chairman of the All Nigeria Conference of Principals of Secondary Schools, Mr. Babatunde Philips, to find out if the state of furniture in secondary schools in the state had been a subject of discussion in the conference’s deliberations in the past.
But Phillips said he could not comment on the issue at the time.
“I heard about the suspension of the principal (of Ikeja Grammar School). It makes me very sad that she had to be suspended. But we are planning to make our findings about the issue. I cannot say anything about the issue right now,” he said.
The state government’s action after last Saturday’s publication seems to have become a trend in the way it handles issues relating to its responsibilities.
In August 2013, after Saturday PUNCH published a report on the state of an orphanage located beside a house owned by the Deputy Governor, Mrs. Orelope Adejoke-Adefulire, operated by Mrs. Rose Nwachukwu, the state government closed down the orphanage and arrested the woman even though experts said officials should have monitored the orphanage’s activities in the first place.
When a text message was sent to Oladunjoye on Thursday on the report that the principal was suspended, Oladunjoye replied simply, “Which report is that please? I know a report is already in the public domain.”