By OLAKUNLE OLAFIOYE
THERE is disquiet among the surviving relations of late Mrs. Clementina Ajigbeda (nee Williams) over the sordid treatment meted out to her cherished memory and legacy.
Mama Ajigbeda, who died in 1944 was a childless woman, but left clear instruction in her Will that a substantial part of her estate be used to establish a school for girls. It is instructive that she all through her life she was encouraging parents to educate their daughters. Moreover, she directly sponsored the education of indigent girls.
Towards fulfilling her last wish, and to immortalize the philanthropist, Clementina Ajigbeda Memorial Girls’ Primary School was founded in 1973, exactly 29 years after her death, and it quickly became a household name in Surulere area of Lagos as it was seen by many as a symbolic heritage to the girl child, who had been deprived the right and access to education.
Until a few years ago, Clementina Ajigbeda Memorial Girls Primary School (MGPS) stood atop an expansive land almost at the end of Agege Motor Road, Moshalasi Bus Stop, Surulere, Lagos. But the parcel of land that previously housed the school is currently hosting a new educational institution, Bethesda Home for the Blind, a development that is contrary to the vision and purpose for establishing Clementina Ajigbeda MGPS, from the estate left behind by the deceased.
Right from inception, the school provided basic educational needs of female pupils both in Surulere and Mushin areas of Lagos State in line with the vision of its founder.
But Sunday Sun’s visit to the school recently showed that the land previously housing the school has not only been taken over by the new educational facility for the blind, in fact pupils and teachers of Clementina Ajigbeda MGPS are now squatters at Jehovah Jireh Nursery and Primary School, another primary school in the neighborhood.
A former member of the school’s PTA, Mr. Okechukwu Daniel told Sunday Sun that teachers and pupils of the school were tricked to leave the school. “The information we were given was that government was planning to renovate the buildings in the school which were then in poor state. But with what is currently playing out, it is obvious that some people are up to mischief,” he said.
Bethesda Home for the Blind, which is now comfortably standing on the parcel of land hitherto occupied by Clementina Ajigbeda MGPS, is a vocational centre owned allegedly by a non-governmental organisation, NGO, set up to empower the visually impaired with skills.
Investigation by Sunday Sun indicates that learning and teaching have expectedly become extremely difficult for both the pupils and teachers of Jehovah Jireh Nursery and Primary School, which is serving as host for Clementina Ajigbeda MGPS since both schools now share the existing two blocks of classrooms, one apiece.
More disturbing, however, is the indication that pupils and teachers of Clementina Ajigbeda Memorial Girls’ Primary School may never return to their former site as there is an allegation that the land which previously housed their school may have been allegedly sold to the current occupants of the land.
Moreover, our correspondent who visited the site found out that the fence of the school has been raised and security wire mounted on it to forestall entry into the compound by unauthorized persons.
Sources informed Sunday Sun that the new occupants have continued to encroach further into the land, demolishing existing school structures and constructing new ones. “As I talk to you now the school field has been converted to fish ponds, some of the classrooms have been demolished without new ones constructed,” a source who craved anonymity told Sunday Sun.
As Sunday Sun reporter observed during a visit to the school, apart from the fish pond located at the centre of the field, there was no other pointer to support the claim that the new occupants are encroaching further while the decrepit structures which previously served as classrooms for pupils of the school still remained in their dilapidated state.
The development, according a relation of the late Ajigbeda, Mr. Dapo William, was a shocking discovery to the family of late Ajigbeda. Mr. William who described the situation as an attempt to obliterate the memory of the late Clementina Ajigbeda, said he was taken aback when he discovered that the school no longer existed where it was sited.
Speaking in an interview with Sunday Sun, Mrs. Chioma Ohakwe, Proprietress, Bethesda Home for the Blind said the land was given to the home by an ex-chairman of Surulere Local Government, Mr. Tajudeen Ajide. “The land was given to us by the former chairman of Surulere Local Government, Tajudeen Ajide. He was on the verge of giving us the requisite documents for the land following the intervention of the Vice President, Prof, Yemi Osinbajo when his tenure expired. So we are yet to get proper documents for the land,” Mrs. Ohakwe said.
Attempts to speak with the former chairman of Surulere Local Government proved abortive as calls put through to his line indicated that his line was not available.
As it stands, pupils and staff of Clementina Ajigbeda Memorial Primary School remain squatters in their current location while the only trace of the existence of the late Clementina Ajigbeda on planet earth faces a major threat of total obliteration.