…Community sends SOS to Governor Ayade.
Danger looms at Ikot Effiong Otop in Odukpani Local Government Area of Cross River State on a collapsed school facility. There is fear and apprehension on the fate of the over 1500 primary school children still learning in the facility.
The school buildings in the old Western Calabar province has collapsed and the pupils are now receiving lessons under trees and partially collapsed structures. Calamity looms as the lives of the school children are no longer guaranteed especially during this raining season.
Our Editor, ONYI OGAR, who is just back from the dilapidated school writes that the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) should apply emergency measures to prevent the impending disaster, from happening.
The dream of Ikot Effiong Otop Community in establishing the primary school in 1958 is dying. The community is not happy that the number of children enrollment in the school has dropped due to the infrastructural decay, dilapidated buildings and general lack of basic facilities. What is more worrisome is that the children receive lessons under trees and collapsed facilities. The danger of the raining season typified by thunder storms and strong winds could collapse building and fall trees put the lines of the pupils at great risk.
The community said that the future of their children and the development of the area was bleak. Chief Bassey Ekpenyong, the community leader as well as head of the school committee told The Lens at the visit that he no longer recognize the place as a school.
The school itself is in danger and unfit for human habitation. “We have cried to the state House of Assembly, the Ministry of Education and the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) to rebuild and upgrade the facilities but no response”.
“This school had no rival in the Old Western Calabar. It’s academic performance and sporting strength was unrivaled even down to Creek Town where the Scottish missionary, Mary Slessor settled in 1895. Today, teachers refuse posting to the school due to the poor state of facilities in the School”.
The Head Teacher, Mr. Bassey Okon Ekpenyong, informed our reporter that the school was founded in 1958 by the community and it was handed over to the then South Eastern Government in 1972.Narrating the plight of the school, he said “the school needs total renovation. All the classrooms are bad. The wind storm that affected even the old block meant for the primary three pupils that was hit by wind storm is equally suffering the same fate. We appeal to the Cross River State government to come and rescue us”. He explained further that Community efforts is for the renovation of primary three classes and pointing to one of the collapsed building he said “they renovated that block which was in used by the pupils. The community he said has also made some efforts to buy more zincs to replace those that were destroyed by the windstorm! Even the office of the Head Teacher is leaking as well. Lamenting, he said books have been destroyed by leaking roofs and we sunned some yesterday and now looking for a safe place to keep them. The school library is equally not spared of the leaking roof.”
This raining season we do not know where to go as pupils sit outside under these mango trees to receive lessons. “Before now, the school population was about 1500 with 35 teachers but now we have 23 teachers only. The school enrollment is now gradually falling below 1000 he lamented.
“We do not have security and perimeter fencing. Not enough desks and tables. When I came here pupils were sitting on bare floor. The present SUBEB Chairman, Dr. Stephen Odey has tried by giving us 65 plastic chairs in the first batch of intervention – 2012 – 2015 and 23 chairs in the second phase of the intervention. This is not enough. We are sending Save Our Souls (SOS) to the State Governor Ben Ayade to rescue us.”
The SUBEB Chairman, Dr. Stephen Odey, told The Lens in his office that the Board was aware of the poor state of the school and that UBEC intervention project was a continuous exercise. SUBEB would address this matter when the renovation of projects exercise begins. The level of damage caused by infrastructural decay in schools was far too great when we came in 2015. In the last exercise we provided desks”.
A member representing the people of Odukpani Constituency in the state House of Assembly, Hon. Bassey Akiba and who is also from that community confirmed that he was aware of the poor state of the school when The Lens contacted him.
“Yes, I am very much aware of the condition of Government Primary School, Ikot Effiong Otop. I have visited the school and also spoken with the community. I have also written to SUBEB that is responsible for the renovation and construction of schools. and I am waiting for SUBEBs reaction and hope that the response would be positive”.
Commenting further, he said “let me hear from SUBEB first. The next line of action is to bring it as motion in the house calling on government to intervene. I warned the school management of the danger. There should be some control measures to ensure that these pupils are not in danger until remedial measures were offered by government.” I would continue to call on government to address that problem because we should not have this kind of thing in our state. We would not allow pupils to suffer in that manner.
At the Ministry of Education when The Lens approached the state Commissioner of Education, Mr. Godwin Ettah on this matter, he asked the director of schools in the ministry to write officially to the State Universal Basic Education Board for appropriate action, and to communicate with him within one month since primary education is not within his jurisdiction.
The Lens investigation revealed that the poor situation in most schools in the state was pathetic and horrible. children were seen sitting and learning on bare floor while others under trees. It was further learnt that the infrastructural decay in schools was caused by previous administrations who abandoned and neglected them for over a long period of time probably handicapped by funds.
However, reports said that Ayade has accessed the 2012 – 2015 and the 2016 UBEC Statutory Intervention Funds and that Basic Education the foundation for the development of any society was now experiencing improvement in all fronts, across the eighteen Local Government Areas in the State.
Published in maiden edition, Lens Newspapers Vol. 1 No. 1.