Magnus Eze, Enugu
January 17, 2020, has gone down as one of the worst days for the people of Amagunze, an agrarian community in Nkanu East Local Government Area of Enugu State. That fateful evening, a strange fire gutted critical instructional facilities at the Community Secondary School, Amagunze, the only post-primary school in the area.
Facilities affected in the building were the library, laboratory and offices, including those of the vice principal, the dean of studies, and the staff room. With a population of 875 students, the school is jointly owned by four autonomous communities, Ohuani-Amagunze, Okeani-Aniyi Amagunze, Isienu Amagunze and Onicha-Agu Amagunze. Some students from neighbouring communities of Akpofu and Amaokpala also attended the school.
Daily Sun was told that at least 180 students who enrolled for the Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination (SSSCE), which comes up in a few months, would not have access to the laboratory for their practical, unless something was urgently done to replace the laboratory equipment.
Eyewitnesses said the fire started around 6pm, about four hours after teachers and students had left the school compound. They ruled out bush burning because, according to them, crops in a farm bordering the building were not affected at all.
One of the teachers, Mr. Emmanuel Nnamani, said he rushed to the school when some villagers alerted him of the development: “I was at Eke Market when some people said that our secondary school was on fire. I ran there to see one of the buildings engulfed in fire.
“One end of the building was in serious flames and a lot of people fetched water from the stream to put out the fire but to no avail.
“What Neighbourhood Watch group and vigilantes did was to clear the grass around the already burning school block so that it would not get to nearby buildings, and that was what saved other buildings.”
The school’s dean of studies, Mrs. MaryRose Nwatu, whose office was affected, lamented that all her textbooks, lesson notes, personal belongings were consumed alongside those of the vice principal and other teachers: “I have no office now, I loiter from one place to another. I only teach out of experience because we lost everything to the fire.”
On the destroyed school laboratory, she said: “See the students are getting ready for WAEC exams. I wonder what will be their fate when it comes to practical because the lab was burnt to ashes.”
A community leader, Ozo Francis Nnamani, said their people were greatly concerned by the magnitude of destruction, especially as it is the only secondary school in the community. He urged security agencies to unravel the cause of the calamity that befell the rural community:
“We don’t know the cause of the fire yet, but from residual observation, the fire did not come from the bush as the crops close to the burnt building were not burnt. We know security agencies, especially the police are investigating the matter; investigation is in progress.”
Traditional ruler of Okeani-Aniyi Amagunze Autonomous Community, Igwe Emmanuel Nnamchi, expressed sadness over the incident. He pleaded with the state government to urgently come to their rescue for the sake of the students whose future was being threatened: “My worry is that this is the only secondary school serving students from our four autonomous communities. What is a secondary school without a library and a laboratory? It is almost useless. How will our children cope with the situation?
“This is why I appeal to the Enugu State government and Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi to come to our rescue.”