OWOLOLA ADEBOLA BAINES
At African Church Primary School, Mesan, Ado Odo-Ota, pupils learn under a less-than-ideal atmosphere, in dilapidated, crumbling buildings and in an open space. The school’s building had become dangerously decrepit following years of neglect by authorities in Ogun State.
Aside from the hazards of falling asbestos and planks during the raining season, pupils numbering more than 50, are exposed to cold weather and are crammed into small-space classrooms with little or no roofing.
Last year, the community agreed it was imperative to pull down and rebuild the ramshackle building. However, officials from Ogun State Ministry of Health who twice visited the school recommended either a speedy renovation or a total closedown of the school, Saturday Sun learnt.
An endless wait
The Mesan community has a population of 25, 000 residents and the African Church Primary School is the only public school they have. Built in 1993, and managed initially by the church, the school was later taken over by the government.
During a recent visit to the community, Saturday Sun encountered a school begging for rehabilitation. The walls of the four-classroom building were in deplorable condition, crumbling in some parts and caving in other places. The headmistress office had only a plastic table and a rickety chair. Even those were crammed with rotten planks that had fallen from the caved-in roof.
The collapse of classes led to a shortage of learning space, thereby limiting the number of pupils that could be accommodated inside the classes that were still manageable.
A wine seller within the area who has two of her children in the school said: “In the morning, it is very cold and the pupils are finding it hard to cope. Those who are a little mature and in upper classes are forced to study in adjourning houses because the school has no alternative”.
Decent schools out of reach
A pupil interviewed by Saturday Sun affirmed that “the school term is short” and was as perceptive as to know that “our parents are poor, that is why they cannot enroll us in private schools that have the necessary facilities but more expensive.”
While community leaders are concerned by the absolute decay that had devastated the school structure, they are, however, defeated by the magnitude of the effort needed to salvage the institution. According to a community leader, Chief Akeweje: “All that is required now is to pull down all the current walled premises, provide alternative safe classrooms and improve the drainage system to drain water.”
Another community leader, Mayor Abu, averred that beside the pupils being exposed to very harsh weather conditions, they go into the nearby bush to ease themselves whenever nature calls. “The bush around here is full of dangerous snakes,” he noted and advocated that future classrooms must adhere to public health rules and be equipped with the necessary toilet facility.
Samuel Enudi, a social commentator who recently returned from America, visited the school. Overwhelmed by the school’s sorry state, Enudi urged the Ogun State government to expedite action to ameliorate the plight of the pupils.
Nasiru Asabe, a member of the community, however, claimed that several letters of appeal had been sent to the state government to no avail.
A spiral of silence
The head teacher of the school and others took to their heels when they learnt of the presence of a journalist in their premises. “We do not have another job. We don’t want a journalist to destroy our career” one of the fleeing teachers was heard saying.
Saturday Sun’s inquiries at the Ministry of Education, Abeokuta with regards to reasons the school has been left abandoned in such a state of neglect met a brick wall. None of the officials at the ministry was ready to answer questions from our correspondent when approached. A few who responded evaded questions by simply claiming they are but mere “civil servants”.
Tired of waiting for government, parents in the community, such as Akin Gbemisola, a computer engineer, have started appealing directly to the public and philanthropists to help save the school. He especially appealed urgently for a toilet facility for the pupils to avoid an outbreak of an epidemic.