Parents, alumni clash over FGC pupils’ plight
Parents, alumni clash over FGC pupils’ plight. It was accusations and counter-accusations among some concerned parents, alumni, and the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) of the Federal Government College Nise in Awka South Local Government Area of Anambra State over the plights of pupils of the school.
The concerned parents, independent of the school’s PTA had raised alarm in a petition sent to the Education Minister, Adamu Adamu, over the alleged maltreatment of their children by the school’s Principal, Mrs. Ijeoma Ekumankama.
The alumni condemned the concerned parents, describing their petition as vendetta and campaign of calumny against their alma mater and the principal.
The school’s PTA, on its part, distanced the association from the allegations, describing them as frivolous, unfounded, and laughable.
The concerned parents, in the 10-point petition, signed by Dr. Kenenna Obiatuegwu, raised weighty allegations against the principal including fraud, poor infrastructure, unhealthy environment, malnutrition, and intimidation of parents by the principal.
They described the condition of their children in the school as akin to those of the prisoners, calling for the minister’s urgent intervention.
They said they resolved to raise the alarm following threat on parents by the principal who they alleged bragged of her “high connection” to government officials.
Their petition tagged, “The Honourable Minister of Education, Save the Lives of Our Children” was copied to the Senator representing Anambra Central Senatorial District, Uche Ekwunife, and others.
It reads: “We the entire parents of Federal Government College, Nise, Anambra State, humbly wish to bring to your attention, the deplorable/unbearable living condition of our children in FGC Nise, Anambra State.
“Our children are presently living in overcrowded hostels with maggot-infested overflowing toilets. The Principal, Mrs. Ekumankama defiantly refused to improve these children’s living conditions despite all the resources channeled in by the PTA. She rather diverted the school’s funds for the building of her magnificent duplex of residence.
“Our children are malnourished due to very poor feeding in the school despite support with provisions by the parents, and these happen under Principal’s watch. Minister Sir, what the school Management does is, if they are supposed to cook three bags of rice for the students, they will rather prepare one and a half bags.
“The food becomes too small for over 2,000 students to share. So, what the porters do is lock students who came to the dining hall some minutes late. With this inhumane treatment meted on the children, they will cover for the short-fall. The remaining one and half bags of rice will be shared between the Principal and porters.
“The hostels and dining of these children are worse than prison. They are so overcrowded with a population of about 2,200 students. The principal has monetized punishment. If a student commits an offense, instead of serving punishment as a corrective measure, the principal will ask the parents to pay money as punishment or the children would not write exams.
“Indiscipline is on the rise. The reason is not farfetched, when students are not disciplined when they misbehave, rather their parents are asked to pay money.
“The principal extorts money from students and parents with reckless abandon. She has asked a particular set of SS3 students to pay for the school magazine twice, all because she wanted more money. All SS3 Students were asked to pay N5,000 each for plastic chairs to be used for WAEC Exams. These chairs were never given back to the students instead the principal took them.
“Beyond this, she asks parents to bring different types of materials ranging from bulbs, biros, whiteboard markers, tissues, detergent, brooms, cobweb sticks, etc. These items are brought every term. She claims money does not come from the ministry to make any of these provisions in the school, but after all these requirements are collected from parents, she loads them in a truck to resell in the open market. This is what she has been doing for years.
“The student/ teacher ratio in FGC NISE is about 1:100. This is totally against the Federal Government stipulated policy of a maximum of 1:40. This is due to a fraudulent admission process by the principal where admission is given in exchange for money, hence stretching the school’s limited resources. In fact, some subjects do not have teachers. This has led to a very poor academic performance of the students in both internal and external examinations.
“The clinic where the children are taken to when they are sick lacks basic lifesaving equipment. Children with diarrhea and vomiting were given Sprite mixed with salt, under the Principal’s watch.”
However, reacting to the allegations, the old students of the school under the aegis of Concerned Alumni of FGC Nise, expressed worry over the damage the petition would cause the management and the institution which, they noted had nurtured great minds for 26 years and still counting.
In the statement signed by Mr. Chinedu Aniagboso, the body argued that the poor state of infrastructure and amenities in the school did not start with the current principal who has spent just about two and half years.
The statement reads: “The malicious petition is a product of vendetta because the petitioner does not have a child or ward in FGC Nise, rather he is fighting the battle of his sister who made failed attempt to have the school adopt her hospital as a referral centre.
“We wish to state that just as the case in most government-owned institutions, FGC Nise, has its own infrastructural challenges which to the best of our knowledge, are being genuinely addressed.
“We will not allow anyone to malign and ridicule the school or its management in the name of pursuing a personal vendetta. Therefore, we clarify that the infrastructure and amenities in the school were inherited by the current management, and based on our findings, the management has demonstrated genuine efforts and commitment towards making them better.
“That the pictures and videos used in depicting the state of affairs were taken at a time the facilities were undergoing maintenance and so, no longer valid as the facilities have been fixed.
“Under the current administration, collapsed e-library was reconstructed; JS1 boys and girls hostels were tiled and painted; 12 classrooms comprising JS3 and SS3 installed with ceiling fans and painted.
“Embankment was constructed on five blocks of classrooms to check erosion, a new principal’s building was built, and a modern gate constructed; the dining hall was tiled and painted while the school toilet seats and bathrooms were repaired and new ones built.
“A number of other projects were also executed, including installation of solar-powered street lights in strategic areas, construction of school pavilion, and completion of Home Economics Department among others.
“The petitioner’s niece was admitted without paying a dime even when she did not meet the cut-off mark, this makes his claim of admission sale surprising.”
Nevertheless, the alumni called on the Federal Government to increase funding to the school to enable management to meet the educational and facility needs of the school while appreciating the capital projects and intervention projects funded through the annual national budgets.
On its part, The PTA urged the Federal Ministry of Education to disregard the petition, saying their fund was not misappropriated by the principal.
The association, in a statement signed by Dr. Chinasa Iloabueke (Chairman), Mr. Chris. Obichukwu (Secretary), and five other PTA executives, said the association was working within the limits of available resources to improve the living and learning condition of the pupils.
They exonerated the principal of meddling with PTA funds.
The statement reads in part, “We hereby categorically disassociate the PTA from the publication which contained unfounded allegations. The present PTA executive has been working tirelessly in partnership with the college management and the government in upgrading the facilities in the college.
“PTA funds have been judiciously applied in complementing the efforts of both the Federal Government and College management to ensure improved quality of the learning environment for our children, the principal does not control the PTA funds.
“Unlike alleged in the publication, the PTA responded to areas of needs such as staff needs and infrastructure upgrade.” The statement also noted that the principal’s residence was not built with PTA funds.
“PTA teaching and non-teaching staff numbering over 100 were paid as and when due including salary arrears resulting from the COVID-19 lockdown of 2020. Approval was made for a pay increase in response to the prevailing economic reality.
“Since we came on board, the entire SS2 girl’s hostel and all the adjoining corridors connecting it with SS1 Girls Hostel has been tiled, the students’ dining hall has also been tiled in partnerships with the college
“Renovation work at the SS3 boys’ hostel toilets is ongoing, ceilings in some classroom were replaced also in partnership with the college. The PTA has never signed any cheque in favor of the Principal.”
Iloabueke said the allegation was an attack on the PTA leaders while praising the principal for her contributions to the school’s development.
“The continued and unwarranted attack on the Principal and by extension the PTA executive is misguided and vindictive.
“The principal of the college has been a lady of very strong character and a disciplinarian par excellence. The college under her leadership has witnessed a meaningful transformation in areas of infrastructure and discipline with visible transformations.
“Consequent upon the above, we pray the Federal Ministry of Education to disregard the frivolous petition against the Principal. Indeed, some of the allegations are laughable.”
A student of the school, who preferred anonymity, confirmed the alleged ‘monetization’ of punishment in the school.
“They used to ask us to pay a certain amount of money for offenses we committed rather than being punished, but I have not missed writing any exam as a result.
“The one that is most painful is when everyone, including those of us that did not commit the offense, was asked to pay a certain fee,” he said.
Another student in JS3 complained about the poor medical treatment they received from the school, despite the fees they pay at the beginning of the term.
“Anyway, from what my cousin in Awka told me, I think it’s not peculiar to our school,” she said.
When asked for her response to the allegations, the Principal of the school, said she was not meant to talk to the press as an official of the Federal Government.
“Please you may need to seek clarification from the Federal Ministry of Education, Abuja. I cannot speak with you as a staff working for the Federal Government,” she said.