Neglect, Decadence of 55-Yr-Old School Draw Tears, Anger of Old Students

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Godwin Obaseki

SATURDAY VINTAGE

By Godwin Ifijeh

It was planned as a mere sight-seeing visit and an attempt to reunite with teachers and students of the school, years after many of them left. The journey was prompted by recent inquiries by old students about the school, its academic activities in particular but it turned out one of grief and anger for the visiting old students and all others that have been privileged to see the recorded pictures of the awful state of the school from the visit.

They never anticipated that the once lush and edifying structures of the about 55-year old erstwhile Church Mission Society (CMS) Anglican School would have gone under so fast to become such a gory sight.

The extensive classroom blocks, an administrative block that seated the principal, vice principal and the bursa’s offices, staff rooms, a modern female hostel block, a best equipped science laboratory in the whole of Edo North, staff living quarters, two giant male hostel blocks and a rock solid refectory built at the take off the school in 1964 are all now history and the sites taken over by unimaginable thick forests. Nothing anymore to tell the past of Edeki (Anglican) Grammar School, Otuo, but collapsed and decadent structures, depicting years of neglect by past governments, particularly those of civil administration in the State since 1999.

Barrister Kehinde Uadia Imoohi, one of the visiting old students, was short of words to capture their find but managed to volunteer: “It was unbelievable, I left the school June’ 1978, I couldn’t believe anymore that it was the same school I attended, all the buildings have collapsed, what are just there now are two recently constructed classroom blocks that are serving both the junior and senior secondary schools, there is nothing left of its past to tell its history.

How could this have happened to a school that have over the years produced such great people that have contributed immensely in all areas of life to the development of our great State and country at large, how can a school acquired by government from the Anglican Mission suffer so much neglect over the years to result in this monumental infrastructural and academic decadence? Well, thank God for MTN, as we are told, that have to provide the school with some 500 desks and benches after one of its students won its promo. The students at a point had to pay N2, 000 each to provide desks and benches for themselves, otherwise, they won’t even have seats to sit in the classrooms today. The teachers lack good chairs and tables, some sit on chairs with broken legs while some of the chairs are supported with objects to allow for use, the school had been badly neglected, the situation can’t continue this way, if it is to remain in existence, we will do everything possible and work with Government to salvage the situation.”

Another member in the entourage, Mr. Stephen Isikpoje, added in regret: “We don’t know who to blame for this, the entire premises is overgrown with weeds, the once expansive sports field has been swallowed up by a thick forest as part of the vast proportion of the school premises that is now covered by bush, and land grabbers are having a field day on the school land.

The perimeter fencing has given way and private buildings have sprouted in the school premises, taking the positions of its collapsed buildings, including the former science lab. The school has virtually lost all its prized possessions that used to make us very proud of it, it’s really sad.”

As recent as the 1980s when many of them graduated from the school, everything about it was perfect and it stood out among the many in the area in all fields- academics, sports and what have you, but today, it is not it anymore.

Formerly known as Anglican Grammar School, Otuo, in Owan East Local Government Area of Edo State, before it was renamed Edeki Grammar School in 1973, when it was taken over by Government from the CMS, the then all male school, which was also turned into a male and female (mixed) school the same year, brimmed with a student population attracted from across the state.

The teachers were celebrated and first class and they included expatriates, ranging from Ghanaians, Indians to Pakistanis, who taught the physical sciences and mathematics, graduate teachers from the South East and other parts of the country, who took great delight in teaching and demonstrated so much commitment to the profession. It is not same anymore, apart from the fact that the school population has dwindled drastically, due partly to decayed infrastructure, the school cannot boast of any seasoned teacher anymore.

An independent opinion in the school had confided that there are now just two government official teachers in the school and two National Youths Service Corps (NYSC) members.

The embarrassing situation, as it has been in the recent years, is understandably being cushioned by the complementary efforts of private individuals, all old students, in the school’s hosting community, who have taken it upon themselves to engage and pay teachers to teach in the school.

“But for that, I can tell you that academic work would have long been history here as there would have been no teachers to engage students in many of the subjects, no new teachers are posted here anymore,” the source lamented, urging the old students to work on government to refocus its attention on the school, post able and qualified teachers to the place and, if possible, restore its boarding system to make admissions into the school once again attractive to non-indigenes.

The non-attraction of the school to non-indigenes anymore and good as the recruitment of private teachers for it by individuals to ameliorate the effect of poor staffing by government is, they have unfortunately both made the school population (teachers and students) all virtually indigenes of the host community and it’s dialect almost now the language of communication in the school. The source described the development as worrisome, pointing out that it was hampering the general academic performance of students.

As disturbing as the situation appears to be, the old students are, however, enthralled by the move of the State Government as disclosed by Governor Godwin Obaseki recently to commence the rehabilitation of public schools in the State and by an official of the Government, who equally confided in them that a mini-stadium proposed for Owan East Local Government Area has been slated for siting in the school.

While appealing to the Governor to kindly ensure that the school is included among those to be refurbished and pleaded as well that he upholds the location of the mini-stadium in the school, the old students pledged to do everything possible within their powers, including partnering with the State Government to reverse the sliding fortunes of the school, just as their external wing pledged to immediately donate two heavy duty mowers to the school to halt the invading bush.