Storm wreaks havoc on Ebonyi school, throws students out of class

From Wilson Okereke, Afikpo

Students of the junior classes of Eziokposi High School (EHS), Obioha-Okposi in Ohaozara Local Government, Ebonyi State, are in a quandary after the state government directed schools to resume from about two-week holiday declared due to the general elections.

As they returned to school yesterday, those in JSS 1 and 2 had nowhere to stay for their lessons as a ferocious wind on Sunday, March 3, wreaked havoc on the school.

The wind completely blew off the woods and zincs of one the two functional buildings in the school. The classroom block housed the JSS class while the only building standing in the school now, houses the SSS 1-3 classes.

There are about 150 students in the school with 58 of them in the senior classes. A staff of the school told Daily Sun that the returning students “won’t have classrooms for their studies.”

Neither the principal of the Junior Secondary School nor his senior secondary counterpart, Elder Okoronkwo could speak to our correspondent when he visited the school. It was gathered that Okoronkwo managed to pack the corrugated iron sheets and kept them in the staff room to avoid being stolen.

Founded in 1982, Eziokposi High School was one of the leading schools in Ebonyi South before dilapidation set in following abandonment by government. Virtually all the structures including dormitories, Introductory Technology Workshop, Principal’s House and school hall had collapsed with shrubs and weeds taking over the whole place.

Half of the Administrative Block was blown off just as erosion has almost washed away the premises. In fact, the school is a good example of abandonment and dilapidation.

Students, teachers and parents have remained helpless. Acting chairman, Parents Teachers Association (PTA), James Okoronkwo, said that they have given up. He lamented that the dissolution of PTAs in all schools in the state about four years ago further contributed to the deplorable state of the school: “It made the whole place to be abandoned.

“Even parents could not meet to channel the plight of the school to any quarters. I am just playing this role because of my interest there. My children are in the school. A few of us, concerned parents, just meet in situations like this. Truth is that the school has been abandoned.”

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He called on government to as a matter of urgency, come to the school’s rescue so as to stop the continued exposure of the innocent students to all manners of hazards.

Dr. Laz Eze, a public health specialist whose organisation, Okposi Education Initiative (OEI) has been championing educational development in the community described the situation as appalling. He appealed to government, old students and the host community to also help out:

“Since 2011 when I founded the OEI, we visit all public schools in Okposi including Eziokposi High School every year to give prizes to top three students per class. The situation of the school has deteriorated over time.

“Of the six classroom blocks, only one is usable. It still lacks windows, doors and ceilings. The rest are roofless and have become a den of marijuana smokers.  No functional library, science, technology or computer laboratory.

“Staff office looks terribly bad. No functional toilet or urinary.  No sick bay. Apart from the football field, there is no other sporting facility.  Teachers are poorly motivated.  Student population has progressively declined. Attrition rate is high especially among SS2 students.”

An old student, Basil Eze, said the school has become the biblical Ichabod, whose glory has departed, thereby becoming a desolate place: “What happened did not come to me as a surprise because I followed events in and around the school. The buildings in question are over 40 years old and without renovation.

“In fact, I won’t be surprised if I hear that the buildings have collapsed. They have been in a sorry state for years yearning for attention from government and well-meaning individuals. On the whole, I’m saddened that my alma mater that used to be one of the best in old Ohaozara has suffered this level of neglect.”

He regretted that the students were returning to a “roofless” and highly risky classrooms not good for conducive teaching and learning: “Steps should be taken to not only reroof but also rehabilitate most of the buildings in the school to make for conducive academic activities. Old students should not forget the school anthem, which charges them; ‘Remember Eziokposi High School, anywhere you may be chance to go; uphold her supremacy to do and die for the right. My alma mater; my country, we shall ever hold them dear.’

“Eziokposi High School used to be a much sought after secondary school in the old Ohaozara and beyond. We enjoyed her glory because our parents, out of nothing made the necessary sacrifices that birthed EHS.”

Eze disclosed that the old students’ association was in touch with the principal: “We had actually done estimation for some of these projects with a view to raise funds for the rehabilitation of some of the classrooms.”