The Scourge of Uncompleted Schools

The official blog of the Lagos State Ministry of Education mentions that the state has 1001 primary, 339 junior secondary and 319 senior secondary schools. Given the daily population increase in Lagos state, it is difficult to tell if more schools or facilities have been added since that post was made.

Almost ten years before that post, the World Bank had given support to the Lagos Eko Secondary Education Project in its bid to improve the quality of public secondary education in the state. The project proposed the extension of school development grants to 667 schools for improving education quality and student learning. It also aimed to cover professional development for teachers, strengthen monitoring and evaluation and improve student performance in external examinations like the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) and the West Africa Senior Secondary Certificate Examination (WASSCE). The project was approved on June 16, 2009, and completed on August 31, 2016.

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Open Data Research Centre, SMC

Given the fact that no substantive data about the beneficiary schools is available, one is left to assume that some the schools visited for this story were included in the project. Therefore, given the project’s official timeline, it is safe to suggest that construction works such as the 18-block classroom in Ajara Senior Grammar School, Badagry, St. Patrick Senior Grammar School, Epe, and Community Senior Secondary School, Baiyeku, Ikorodu benefitted from the World Bank cash.

On a visit to Badagry in mid-2018, it was clear that the construction of the classroom block at Ajara Senior Grammar School – awarded on the 14th of December, 2013 and proposed to be delivered in 8 months – was far from completion. A total sum of 165 million naira (456,000 USD) was invested in it.

The building sits at the extreme left corner of the school compound. Looking beyond the entrance gate, the scaffold hugging the building is still visible albeit dilapidated, apparently waiting for a simple nudge to completely topple over. The walls of the building are unpainted with rough plastering laid over them. Inside, the classrooms resemble the interior of a brick factory, with building blocks arranged everywhere on the bare rough floors.

Standing there and wondering why the project had been so delayed, a few questions came to mind. Were these unplanned projects? Unlikely, because it was included in the list of projects in the year 2013. So, was the contractor – M.B. Projects Limited – the right choice for the job? Perhaps, but a more definitive answer can only be had after assessing other projects awarded to them. Then did they run out of funds during project implementation? Again, maybe. But this should have been avoided by efficient monitoring and evaluation mechanisms set up by government agencies involved and other third-party stakeholder groups (including representatives of the community where the school is situated). Unfortunately, the absence of public procurement data and records has made it practically impossible to trace the immediate cause of abandoned projects like this one. One can only shudder to think that there were eight of such school contracts awarded that same year. If this ended up like this, what hope is there for the completion of the others?

Meanwhile, discarded projects litter Lagos state. Most of these projects remain abandoned and do not outlive the government that initiated them. Thus, it has become easy to associate these projects with the unwillingness of incoming governments to complete them because they were initiated by their predecessors. Since they seek self-gratification through public approval, new governments use available funds to start new projects in order to claim all the credit for themselves. This is a common phenomenon particularly when there is a change in the ruling party.

For this reason, the continuation and completion of all inherited projects is recommended n the upcoming administration. The old ones should be cleared off before new ones are embarked upon. This way, taxpayers are sure to get value for their money. Government is continual, so are projects.

One solution to this anomaly is to make public data more available and accessible to everyone. Since data is neutral, it supports continuity regardless of who is in charge. The openness of government data is becoming the norm everywhere and Lagos, the sixth largest economy in Africa, cannot afford to lag behind. A leader who will make Lagos a real smart city must have openness and continuity as a watchword.

About Sodiq Ajala