From PAUL OSUYI, Asaba
It is named Anioboshi Demonstration Primary School and was founded in 1940 by the Catholic Mission. It was established to serve as a training ground for students of St. Thomas Teachers’ Training College which was also founded by the Catholic Mission in 1926.
As its name implies, the school was meant to be a model of what an educational institution should be. It probably was in the past. Not anymore! Now, it is a caricature depicting the sad tale of neglect and rot that is the lot of schools Ibusa in Oshimili North Local Government Area of Delta State.
The school has all the sordid features of neglect like its neighbour, the Ibusa Girls Secondary School- decrepit infrastructure, lack of furniture and overcrowding. Most of the classroom walls and roofs have caved in. As a result of the dearth of furniture, pupils in the kindergarten department sat on bare floor.
Head Teacher of the school, Mrs. F. Adigwe, told Saturday Sun correspondent “The situation here is pathetic. I have written to the authorities times without number, but we are yet to get any favorable response from the appropriate quarters. The environment here is far from being conducive for learning. But we can’t do much. We can’t levy the pupils because education is free in Delta State. Most of pupils are from homes that are at the lowest rung of the economic ladder. Any attempt to impose any form of levy, what you may likely get is children withdrawing from school.”
She said that due to the overcrowding of the available classrooms, sitting arrangement had, had to be adjusted, such that each pew now took up to six pupils when the school was fully in session.
According to her, the pupils had been very lucky on several occasions that the roof caved in, as this often occurred at night. Her words: “When the class for primary six caved in, we were lucky not to have human casualties. It happened at night and we only came in the morning to see the open sky from the classroom.
Worse still, the school has turned into an operational base for miscreants and criminals who scaled the dilapidated wall fence to hold nocturnal meetings. The hoodlums choke the neighbourhood with the smoke of Indian hemp while they also defile the classrooms with smelly defecations.
Mrs. Adigwe appeared helpless in the situation as she lamented that all efforts to draw the attention of government to the deplorable state of the school and the plight of pupils have yielded no fruitful results.
The Ibusa Girls Secondary School fares no better. Prominent old students produced by this school, said to have been one of the best in the locality, observers note, would cry at what has become of their proud old school. The degeneration is visible right from the school entrance, where the school signpost erected by Bank PHB has been uprooted. It lies on the ground near the gate. The major access road has also gone bad, as the contractor to which it was awarded has refused to execute its rehabilitation. The alternative route is riddled with potholes. The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) working on it sometime ago, had abandoned it for unknown reasons.
Saturday Sun learnt that most of the buildings were donated either by clubs/associations or philanthropic Nigerians. However, most of them are now in deplorable state, without ceilings, roofs, doors and windows. Students learn in the classrooms at the mercy of the weather.
As a result of the exposure, the floor of several of the classrooms have pools of water as rains fall directly from the skies to the once cemented surfaces, washing it off in the process. In the pools of water are plastic bottles, sachet water bags and other rubbish.
The walls are cracked, another sign that the buildings had lived out their days. Added to the eyesore is an offensive odor always oozing out of the rooms.
The pathetic situation led to the abandonment of two blocks of classrooms, worsening the crisis of overcrowding. Students were evacuated and crammed into the few available spaces, with few or no desks and chairs. When it rains, the students cluster around the cracked walls.
Until last year, students sit on the worn-out floors to learn. Now, students have to bring their chairs and desks from home. In fact, it is a standing rule for new entrants to bring their personal lockers as a condition for admission.
According to one of the teachers who has been serving in the school since 2007, empty classrooms have been reserved for the in-coming JSS I students. The teachers said: “I was transferred here in 2007 and I met a situation where students were sitting on the floor to learn. It was only last session that the now retired principal directed that new intakes should resume with their desks and chairs. That is how we have been able to solve the challenge of lack of chairs and desks. As you can see, these empty classes are for JSS one. When they are coming to resume, they will bring their lockers, and they will transfer such lockers to their next class by next session.”
Before that policy, students were bringing personal plastic chairs into the school, which they also returned to their respective houses on a daily basis.
Besides, the infrastructural decay, security in the school is very lax and porous. The school has multiple entrance and exit points, even as the perimeter fence has collapsed in several areas. This has exposed the school to the twin menace of invasion by herdsmen and miscreants, said one of the vice principals, Mrs. Ajufoh, who lamented that the school premises was now “a rearing ground for cows and a breeding place for criminals and cultists at the same time.” He added: “Anytime we resume for a new term, the whole place is littered with cow dungs. As you can see, we are still clearing, trying to take out the faeces. The school is so porous that cult activities take place here. Even villagers do come in here to carry our tables and chairs to make fire, it is so porous, entrance is from here and there.”
Mrs. Ajufoh said that nobody was allowed to collect money from students as this would contravene the free education policy of the state government. “For the new intakes, we can’t collect money from them, because government says it is free education, it is zero collection.” she said.
Also, the laboratory where science students do have their practicals is in total state of disuse. The equipment and apparatus are obsolete.
This is even as the Examination Hall that was gutted by fire some years ago has not been reconstructed. The hall which was a constituency project of the member representing Oshimili North at the state House of Assembly, is now overgrown with tall grasses.
Although, the number of prominent Ibusa daughters baked academically in the school could not be ascertained, Saturday Sun learnt that the community has eminent personalities who can turn the fortunes of the school around.
Ibusa, as it were, is not the administrative headquarters of the locality, but it has 50 per cent of the political wards, besides being the determining factor in elections in the area, apparently as a result of the influence of its illustrious sons and daughters.
However, Saturday Sun gathered that this political advantage has not translated into infrastructural development in the education sector. In fact, the only primary school in Ward 05 where the incumbent Senator representing Delta North, Mr. Peter Nwaoboshi, hails from is in ramshackle state.
Regrettably, the situation, it was learnt, may remain like that for a long time considering the dwindling revenue of the state government which is claiming that other sectors, apart from education, are competing for attention as well.
The authorities said most of the 1, 293 primary schools and 432 secondary schools in the state were in need of rehabilitation. According to the state Commissioner for Basic and Secondary Education, Mr. Chiedu Ebie, it is not only the infrastructure in the schools that need total overhaul, the over 25,000 teachers also need to be motivated.
“It is not going to be easy, but with proper planning over a period of time, we should be able to improve the quality and standard of education in the state. This administration is very passionate about education. Expectations are very but the most important thing is getting it right,” Ebie said.
With such hardly promising picture, the road to recovery for both Anioboshi Demonstration Primary School and Ibusa Girls Secondary School may not be in sight so soon, unless well meaning individuals, corporate organizations, clubs and associations come to the rescue.