Abia’s community school choked by decay
Absurd! Unbelievable! A harvest of dilapidation! There couldn’t have been better words to describe the rot at Community Secondary School, Nsirimo, Umuahia South Council, Abia State. Following years of neglect by government, the words punctuate the lost glory of the school, a bond for the five villages – Umuako, Umumba, Umuezu, Umuerim and Umuaha that make up Nsirimo.
The premise is full of decay. At the gate, a visitor is greeted by a broken down security post. Dotting a forest of weeds are classrooms and offices whose roofs have vanished, while walls have become weakened by exposure to the elements. The laboratories and libraries are in advanced stages of deterioration. The chairs and reading desks are scattered and ramshackle. The roofs also leak.
The boarding facilities of the school and quarters for the principal, vice principal and teachers have become extinct. Once, the school boasted of pipe borne water. Once, it had functioning pit latrines. Today, students and teachers are forced to defecate anywhere.
Investigation by The Guardian revealed that the school currently has a combined population of over 150 students at its junior and senior levels. Because the students receive lessons under leaking roofs, the end of a day’s work is often determined, not so much by time, as by the vagaries of weather.
One teacher, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: “What we have, here, is a sad story of neglect. It shows how seriously secondary education is taken. I don’t think the situation here exists in any part of the country. But for the signboards, it will be difficult for anybody to know that this is a secondary school.”
He said the school, now an eyesore, was conceived with the best of ideas, and used to have facilities such as dormitory, football, basketball and volleyball pitches, quarters for teaching and non-teaching staff, library for arts and science students, pipe borne water, and a decent environment.
“We had students from Ubakala, Old Umuahia, Ngwa, and other neighbouring communities. There was a time the old Imo State government even wanted to convert it to a technical school. Some machines were brought. But these were later removed. This school, which has become a thoroughfare today, once had security men, paid by the government monthly. It was really a place to be in the 70s and 80s.”
Showcasing how much decline the school has undergone, the teacher said majority of the students now are from poor parents who cannot afford the high cost of sending their children to private schools.
The school, established in the 1960s, was the brainchild of the paramount ruler of Nsirimo autonomous community, His Majesty Dr. Moses Iromaka Akpaka, and was fondly called ‘College Akpaka’. It received government recognition, following its takeover by the then East Central State after the Civil War in 1970. With boarding facilities in place, it admitted students from all over the state; its first batch of graduating students sat for the West African School Certificate Examination in 1979. Since then, it has continued to register students for the same examination, with many of its former schoolboys and girls now working in different fields of human endeavour.
Governor Theodore Orji had handed the school over to the Anglican Diocese of Umuahia in 2013. According to one resident, the government took the decision with hope that the Anglican Communion would salvage the situation. “But the reverse has been the case. Nothing has changed. I don’t think government was right in doing this because of the massive dilapidation that had already set in before handing it over to the church,” he said.
He also disclosed that the community sent a letter, backed by pictures of the school to the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), with the aim of getting assistance.
“Nobody responded to this appeal. It is over two years now. The students of this school are the future of this community; they are the future of this state and country. It is unfair that a school, as big as this, should be so neglected. There is urgent need for government to think about these children and what to do with this place,” he said.
The President-General of the community, Chief Callistus Agomuo, noted that the school’s state of dilapidation is beyond what the community can possibly reverse through self-help.
“We are appealing to organisations and all people who value education, to come to our rescue. This is about the only senior secondary school in this community. As a community, we have tried to salvage the place, but our best has not been good enough,” he said.
The Abia State Commissioner of Education, Prof. Ikechi Mgboji, blamed previous administrations for doing little to turn around the fortunes of education in the state. “What we inherited is enormous. I was wondering what the previous administrations did to give these children hope, going by the level of decay we have noticed in these public schools. I cry over what I have seen,” he said.
The commissioner, however, said the government has started addressing the issue, with a view to rehabilitating public schools.
“We have, so far, renovated 14 public schools. We have sunk boreholes in six schools, to improve hygiene. We are trying to pattern our schools in such a way that our students will be equipped with technical skills, so that they don’t come out and begin to look for what to do,” he said.
The commissioner also chided some philanthropists, especially those who attended public schools in the state for failing to aid schools’ development. “I see it as a crime against humanity that our people neglect the schools they attended. There are only few persons, today, above the age of 30 that attended private schools. So many persons attended public schools, yet they find rendering assistance difficult.”