Archbishop Aggey Memorial School rots, as church waits on government
• Hoodlums, Miscreants Takeover School
• Residents Seek Govt Intervention
Until it was taken over by the Lagos State government in 1975, Archbishop Aggey Memorial Secondary School, Ilasamaja, in Mushin Local Council, effectively contributed its quota to the educational development of the state.
Founded in 1959 by the Catholic Church, and taken over by the state government in 1975, the school’s list of alumni, lends credence to the fact that over the years, its efforts have not been in vain, as far as raising tomorrow’s leaders is concerned.
Speaker, Lagos State House of Assembly, Mudashiru Obasa; former member representing Mushin Constituency II in the House of Representatives, Ganiyu Oladunjoye Hamzat; Commissioner of Special Duties and Intergovernmental Relations, Lagos State, Mr. Oluseye Oladejo, and former Commissioner of Transport in the state, Dr. Muiz Banire, among others, are on the school’s alumni list.
Now, that same school is a shadow of its former self. Not only is it out of business, the structure is falling apart, and whatever is left of it taken over by miscreants and sundry hoodlums. They now use the run-down facility as a base, where they take-off for their nefarious activities, or engage in endless hemp-smoking sessions.
The dilapidation that the school has witnessed, further finds expression in the fact that fittings, including electrical and wood works have either been vandalised or broken down, while weeds, pet bottles, empty packs of sachet water and water pools jostle for space within classrooms.
More disturbing to residents of the neighbourhood is the rising security concerns occasioned by the fact that homeless Nigerians are taking shelter in parts of the school, where the roofing is somewhat intact.
This explains why the aggrieved residents are urging the state government to rehabilitate the school and provide security in the area in order to safeguard them and their property.
According to Vice President of the Archbishop Aggey Memorial Secondary School Old Students Association, Kunle Adedeji, the state government handed over the school to the Catholic Church in 2008 after the last set of students passed out.Because the school was already decaying, the Catholic Mission needed government’s assistance to renovate the buildings, but that never happened despite the state government presiding over the rot.
Adedeji said: “The struggle to take back the school from government took a very long time before we even got to this level. However, in 2010 the old students association intervened to see how the dispute between the church and the state government (condition given the government by the church) can be finally sorted out. We met with the church officials and wrote several letters to the state government. Then in July 2016, the Lagos State House of Assembly invited official of the old students over for series of meetings and at the end of the meetings, the Assembly made a pronouncement that school and the structure built on the football field by the state Ministry of Youths Sports and Social Development should be returned to the church. Since then, we are yet to see government’s action regarding renovating the school, even after we wrote to the Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Obasa. We also recently wrote to Governor Akinwumi Ambode, reminding him of the lawmakers’ pronouncement. So, I believe that by the time government does the needful, the church will be ready to take back the school. The executives of the alumni are relating with the church to give them information on what is going on in the school presently, and also find solutions to the problems.”
Adedeji, also a resident of the neighbourhood pointed out that abandoning the school poses dire security challenges to its neighbours and members of the community, reason they always resort to cutting down shrubs and other such plants around the school. “On many occasions, we do not know who goes in, or who comes out of the school because it has turned into a hideout for miscreants and Indian hemp smokers. There are also homeless Nigerians who shelter themselves in the school too.
“So, I am suggesting that the state government should come to the aid of the school and that of the people living in the community. Once government renovates the school, the church is ready to come in and take over the school. When the church was running the school, it maintained a high standard of learning until government took over and the depreciation started setting in. Presently the church wishes to run standard education that will benefit every member of the community, irrespective of their religious or financial status.”
Assistant Director, Ministry of Education Lagos State Adesegun Ogundeji, is of the view that since the Catholic Mission applied for the return of the school and the request was granted, it should be able to invest in it and re-start learning
Ogundeji said: “I thank The Guardian for seeking government’s view to balance the story. I appreciate the efforts. So, to the Catholic Mission, I want to advise that since they have taken ownership of the school, they should invest in the school and make it the citadel of knowledge that it was intended ab initio. If they feel they can no longer cope, they still can revert to government and government can then take ownership and responsibility.
“The community should protect their environment, while parents should counsel their children against vices. Lackadaisical attitude to supposed public property, without thinking of the implications on the society, the youths, and the future of the children is a disservice.”
Director, of Education Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos State. Rev. Jerome Oduntan, lamented that a school, which has produced many great Nigerians, and was running smoothly and functioning optimally under the church could be in such a pathetic state. Oduntan said: “In 2009 Governor Babatunde Fashola, out of his magnanimity, decided to return the school, after the first part of the missionary schools that his predecessor, Ahmed Bola Tinubu returned. When the school was returned at the initial stage, the church embraced the gesture and asked the government to allow the last set of students to pass out before it would finally take over.
“But each time we went there while the students were passing out yearly, we discovered the school was dilapidating and we noticed that government was only interested in the teachers and no more interested in taking care of the school building. We discovered that people were just coming to take away school facilities, just as parts of the building started decaying.
“In 2009 the state Commissioner for Education/deputy governor, I and then Archbishop of Lagos Archdiocese, Cardinal Anthony Okogie, we went to the school, which
was porous and locals used the football field and the environs for purposes of recreation.
During the visit by the government and church teams, the community youths informed the church that they would still be using the field to recreate, and this did not augur well with the school, which promptly complained to the government.
“We complained about this to the government and it promised to intervene, it was after that development that the Ministry of Youths and Culture erected a structure in a part of the football field and we are not happy about it. After the government officials left, miscreants started coming into the school, including homeless people, who shelter themselves there and each time we plan to enter the school compound, miscreants would challenge us. As I am telling you today, if I want to go there I have to disguise myself to avoid been attacked by miscreants.
“We also visited the state Assembly and met with the Chairman, House Committee on Education, Michael Lanre, and had discussions with him. He asked us what we wanted before taking up the school. We gave our conditions, which included the government building a new structure for us, and providing security to avoid miscreants flooding the place and the total release of the football field to us.”
“This conditions were given to them in June 2016. Up till now, we have not heard from them, but we have decided that there is no how we will take over the school if the football field is not released to us.” “Once government does the needful, we are ready to take over the school because when they took over the school, there were blocks of classrooms that were functional, but those blocks are in very bad shape and we cannot afford to take over the school in that condition because it is just like asking the church to start building the school afresh.”
“Community members should join us in pressurising the government to rebuild the school because they are the ones to benefit from the school project. When the school was under the missionary the standard of education was higher and when government took over there was big difference, as there was no more seriousness in the teachers, the structures were never cared for, and the moral standard among students went deep down,” the cleric stated.
Oduntan listed that other Catholic Church schools returned by government that are been successfully run to include, St. Gregory’s College, Obalende; Our Lady of Apostles Secondary School, Maryland; Sacred Heart Secondary School, Apapa; Marywood Girls College, Ebute Meta, and Bethlehem Girls College Abule Ado.”
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