Founded in 1980, Okpokhumi Emai Grammar School in Owan East appears to have never been renovated. Doors and windows have gone. Substantial parts of the roofs are gone too, while the remaining parts are perforated.
In the rainy season, the classrooms form a pool of stagnant water and grow grasses. And during harmattan, wind piles up dust and debris in the classrooms.
“I am afraid for the students,” said Augusta, a parent who wished not to disclose her last name. “Whenever it rains, the wind can pull down the building.”
But rain is not the only worry. “My daughter takes water to school to sprinkle on the floor to reduce dust in her classroom,” Augusta said. “How can these students learn well in this environment?” she added after pointing at a dusty and doorless classroom.
Emai Grammar School originally had six classrooms, a library, a hall, the principal’s office and a staffroom. Now, most of these facilities have deteriorated. The wind has blown off the roofs, and large cracks have appeared in the walls.
One of the teachers in the school, Mr Ideho, said the local and state governments had neglected the school since 1992.
Jacob Odion Ahamisi, principal of the school, said that members of the School-Based Management Committee (SBMC) of the state’s government came from Benin last year to take pictures of the building but no renovation had been done since the visit.
A community leader and chairman of SBMC in the local government, Samuel Izeyon Afenge, described teaching and learning in the school as pathetic, adding that lack of desks and chairs for the students worsen the poor infrastructure in the school.
“We arranged by ourselves on the welfare of youth ‘corpers’ that are attached to the school,” Afenge said. “To ensure learning continues in the school. We cut down trees to improvise chairs and desks for students.
“All these are not enough because we do not have the means to reshape the school,” he continued. “The government should come to our aid.”
He said the commissioner of Education in Edo State is from Owan East, the local government where Okpokhumi Emai Grammar is located, wondering why the school had been abandoned when the local government has such a representative in government.
Another school in a deplorable condition in Owan East is the 73-year old Eweva Primary School.
Despite the appalling state of the school, Eweva Primary School has 463 pupils but lacks teachers.
Gloria Ekpeakhena, the acting headmistress of the school, said that the school’s conditions are outrageous.
“I wrote a letter to the local government around March through the council chairman requesting assistance over the school condition, but I have not gotten feedback from them,” said. “You can see that the classrooms are in bad condition, including the ceilings and doors.”
She said that a nongovernmental organization once constructed a building for the school some years ago.
“We do not have libraries, toilets and facilities for recreational activities,” said. “There was a time textbook were distributed to schools and plastic chairs for the staff, our school wasn’t captured. Our pupils defecate in open bushes around which is not nice.”
Ekpeakhena added that the school needed to be fenced to prevent miscreants from having access to the school premises.
One of the teachers in the school, Friday Aidengbon, lamented the poor state of the school, adding that he often sat on the window whenever he was teaching the students.
“During the school hours, we see cattle rearers grazing their cattle on the field, causing distractions for the pupils in the classrooms,” Aidengbon said. “Therefore, there is a need for the school compound to be fenced, and more structures should be put in place to facilitate qualitative learning.”
The same infrastructural decay is visible at Owato Primary School in Owan West Local Government Area of the state.
A former teacher at the primary school, Odion Esemuze, appealed to the government to renovate the school to improve learning outcomes as the school building had deteriorated with rain falling into the classrooms.
“Sometimes the teachers have to hang around since they have no offices,” she said.
A mother, who identified herself with only her first name, Bridget, said she was concerned about the future of the pupils.
“I am afraid for our pupils,” she said. “The atmosphere is not conducive for them to learn. Sometimes pupils are asked to go fetch water from the stream.”
Across the public schools in Owan East and West local government areas, the students are being subjected to learning under appalling conditions. Most of the teachers and community members who were interviewed said they had given up hope of any interventions from the government.
Schools Reports is an initiative of the Civic Media Lab to check corruption in necessary education administration and demand accountability from the state and local governments.