Community Primary School, and Community Secondary School, both in Umuozoche, Igbodo, in Etche Local Government Area of Rivers State are begging for attention as the two school leave sour taste in the mouth.
The two schools are in deplorable situation unfit for human occupation, talk less of teaching and learning.
It was late former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, who in one of his famous quotes aptly underscores the value of education when he said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
And taking from the above, it behoves on every government, be it federal, state and or local to give topmost priority attention to the education sector.
But for the people of Umuozoche Igbodo, a serene community in the Etche Local Government Area of Rivers State, the state of the two schools there leaves much to be desired.
The two schools – primary and secondary – Community Primary School, and the Community Secondary School, Umuozoche Igbodo – are by far unsuitable for learning, with the roof of the classroom blocks blown away; the ceiling having fallen, while the classrooms now grow green colouring matter with overgrown weeds surrounding the premises and creeping into the classrooms.
As a result of the level of dilapidation of the structures in the primary school, the community averred that it resorted to self help by hiring a structure nearby and relocated the students as a proactive measure to forestall a situation where the students, through no fault of theirs, would cohabit with some dangerous creatures in the name of learning in the abandoned classrooms.
The situation is not different from what obtains in the Community Secondary School, Umuozoche Igbodo, which is the only one in the area.
Our correspondent who visited the school said that while walking through the narrow path surrounded by overgrown weeds on both side, clear and present danger of security for innocent pupils and students were observed.
The paramount ruler of Umuozoche Igbodo, Chief Emmanuel Aguara, who himself conducted our correspondent round the two schools, wondered if his community and people were still part and parcel of Rivers State.
Chief Aguara, a retired Assistant Superintendent of Police, who revealed that he was also an alumnus of the community primary, averred that the school is now a shadow of its old self.
He said, “This primary school is where I attended in 1976, but today there’s no school there. I am crying because we don’t have future for our children, because the primary school is the starting point of education.
“The building is off, the zinc is off, the woods are off. The children have nowhere to school. We have few teachers, but there is nobody to teach. You can see where we borrowed so that the children can manage and study. The environment is not good at all.”
The monarch lamented that despite writing severally to the state government and the state Universal Basic Education Board on the need to urgently renovate the school, no meaningful response was forth coming from the duo.
He stated, “We have three communities making up Umuezoeche, where the school is sited. In fact, when I look at the environment, I feel so disappointed, as if we are not from Rivers State.
“However, we are located almost at the boundary of Imo and Rivers State. We are being neglected. The only secondary school we have is nothing to write home about.
“We have tried all we could; we have written to the state government, we have written to the local government and the even to the state Universal Basic Education Board.
“I have visited them myself on several occasions with members of my community, up till today, we are still waiting, but no reply. The school has no building, no quarters for teachers posted here, no staff room, no laboratory, as you can see.
“The junior and the senior secondary school have nothing. We are not comfortable with this situation, but we still appeal that the state government should come to our aid, because there is no single classroom, no staff rooms, no teachers’ quarters, no accommodation for the principal.”
Speaking to our correspondent, the principal of the Community Secondary School, Umuozoche Igbodo, the UBE section, Mr. Akagbo Congo, said that he has gone on air severally to complain of the lack of infrastructure, teachers and laboratory, without any positive response.
He stated, “I was here in 2017 as a Vice Principal. I saw this place (school) deplorable when I came and then I began to shout on the air (radio). I have been calling on the state government to see what they can do.
“Moreover you can see that this school is at the boundary between Rivers and Imo states and it is supposed to be in good condition because people come from there to our big market here.
“When they are passing, they see this place, which is not even up to five kilometers from where they are coming from. If this place was in good condition, they will bring their children to school here.
“But doesn’t this look like a place they rear pigs for them to bring their children here? It is unhealthy.”
Mr. Congo said that some officials from the UBE board had visited sometime ago promising that they were going round to see schools that are deplorable in the state.
He added, “They came here and I spoke with them and they told us they will come back. Even last week, I was at the board and I asked why they have not come like they promised. They told me that the World Bank has not sent money yet.”
Noting that the school was established in 1981, he stated that currently what happens in the school was just to handle chalk and teach, nothing more.
He further said that some teachers who are posted here work their postings elsewhere when they report and sees the condition of the school.
He added, “It was just recently that we have some teachers, because the Education Commissioner said that everybody should report to their place of posting. So, I have three teachers available now, but five were sent to this school originally.
“So I am appealing to the state government through the UBE board chairman and also through the Commissioner for Education that they should come to the aid of this school, we have children here that are very intelligent.
“But there is no laboratory, no library, no water for them to drink and no light. Look at where I am staying, if it starts raining here you will run away. Rivers State cannot be answering the ‘treasure base’ of the nation and when you come here (school), you see that things are very deplorable.”
The Chairman, Umuozoche Igbodo Community Development Committee, Samuel Chukwunonye, puts it aptly when he said, “I don’t think there is any school in this condition in this state.”
Like the others, Chukwunonye appealed to the state government to renovate the schools so that “the students will have a place to study,” pointing out that no parent will be happy to send his or her child to this kind of school.
He added, “Last year that building over there collapsed. Thank God the students have closed for the day and left before it collapsed, otherwise we would have been talking about a different thing. So let the government act fast by coming to our aid.”
He also complained that the roads in the community should also be fixed and electricity provided for them.
A concerned youth in the area, Engr. Chibuike Akujobi, while corroborating the views of the CDC chairman on the deplorable road leading into the community, said, “Ordinarily, a short trip that is not supposed to take more than five minutes to access the school now take almost 40 minutes because the road is in a deplorable state.
“The facilities are not good enough for the children or the pupil to learn in, the environment is not conducive. If it rains now, it will pour directly on the children. If the sun is high, it is still on the children, because there is no shade anywhere, no roofing sheet on any of the building as you can see.”
Akujobu joined his kinsmen to call on the different tiers of government to, in his words, “do something urgently for sake of the children.”
He added, “We are even appealing to UNICEF to come to the aid of this community for the sake of our children, our sisters, our brothers, our nephew and nieces who found themselves here.
“The government has neglected us for years. So we are appealing and calling on the government to please treat this as an emergency and come to our aid. We don’t have electricity, no healthcare.
“It was not a mistake that they are indigenes of this community. It is as a function of been citizens of this country, Nigeria.”
When contacted on the situation, the state Commissioner for Education, Prof. Chinedu Mmom, said that the state government was not oblivious of the complaints of the people, saying that steps are being taken to address the issue.
Prof Mmom said, “Government has taken note of that. I have received complaints and something is being done.
“As we speak, government is working and attending to everybody gradually. Government will also attend to them. A number of schools are being renovated and with more facilities and it will surely get to that community.”