23rd June, 2011
The death of young Lawal Buhari, who fell into a pit latrine in his school has once again brought to the fore the decay in our infrastructure and our uncaring attitude towards the less privileged.
Primary schools which fall under the care of local governments have been left to rot, save for a very few that have been touched by non-government organisations or old students associations.
Most local government officials, both elected and public servants, often play politics with the lives of the pupils by refusing to do their jobs the way they ought to. Contracts to repair or renovate facilities in primary schools are most often than not given to friends and cronies who most times do shoddy jobs or nothing at all and they share the money.
While the officials blame the contractors, the contractors complain of not being paid and the buck passing continues.
The death of Lawal Buhari is not the fault of just one person or a group of individuals. The seven-year oldâ€™s demise is a result of our neglect of whatever does not directly concern us.
The Education ministry, the local government education authority, the Federal Ministry of Education, the state government, the Federal Government and even the media must share the blame for the death of the pupil.
Those whose job it is to inspect the schools periodically have failed in their duty to do so. The contractor who abandoned his job and even those at the local government level, whose job it is to periodically inspect the schools, must be blamed for shirking their responsibility to do so.
Agreed, the state government cannot be everywhere, which is why the ministries are there, but who checks to see if those responsible for primary education are doing their jobs?
Local governments all over have become theatres of the absurd where fights often break out over the sharing of money. In some cases, there is so much confusion that no job gets done because those who ought to do the jobs are busy fighting each other over who gets what.
Chairmen of local governments are often kept busy by their political cronies and often times the staff are unable to table matters of importance to these big shots. Nobody seems to care about primary education anymore. It has been left in the hands of local governments that have refused to be responsible while the custodians of those schools are often helpless and thus look the other way.
Those whose job it is to inspect these institutions have also refused to do their jobs while parents cannot but patronise these schools due to lack of funds to send their kids and wards to private schools that are better equipped.
The avoidable death of that seven-year old is a result of our collective irresponsibility, our quest for material wealth and our lack of faith in our nation state.
Like we always say, mega city, mega challenges, this is a challenge to all lovers of humanity. We cannot afford to become inhuman because we think it does not concern us. The parents of Lawal Buhari are in agony. They have lost a precious sapling that could have grown into an Iroko tree. Their loss must not be allowed to be in vain. Others must not also lose what is most precious to them because people refuse to do the right things.
Agreed, decades of military rule have left our nation in shambles. We must now begin to rebuild and reform. We cannot afford to be a laughing stock in the comity of nations. Primary education must not be left in the hands of those that cannot handle it well because it is the bedrock of education.
We sympathise with the family of the young Buhari. We pray that God would help them bear the loss. Nobody deserves this kind of agony and we hope the concerned authorities would wade into primary schoolsâ€™ premises to carry out on-the-spot assessment to know what can be done to salvage the situation.