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FEATURE: Ondo community where students walk many kilometres through bushes to attend dilapidated school



Ruth Agbaje, a 12 years old student of Anglican Grammar School, Ogho, Ondo West Local Government Area, would not have been alive today, if not for God’s intervention. And the memory of what happened to her two weeks after resumption in the first term still hunts her.

Ruth, a class three junior secondary school (JSS3) student, after receiving lecture had to walk about nine kilometers under the hot sun. This resulted in her spending two weeks in the community health centre receiving treatment for malaria and other illnesses which got the better of her immune system..

“This was the usual problem we faced in the school and the community, but unfortunately, I am the only person that do walk home alone”. Ruth lamented.

Ruth, who was not happy attending the school again [after the incident] had no choice since her parents could not afford to sponsor her to a private school due to the economic situation. “These are not the only problems we face. The roof is leaking, no chair, no desk— have threatened our access to quality education. Sometimes when all students resume, some sit on the floor”, she disclosed.

Another student, Adam, blamed the absence of facilities on lack of care towards education from federal representatives and the state government. “Since I have started schooling here, there has been no intervention from the government except the Parents Teachers Association (PTA) which provides furniture and other needed materials to the school sometimes,” he lamented.

Another tale of suffering

There was a pearly glow in the sky— as the first rays of sunlight hit the eyes, the dawn chorus of students’ footsteps and birdsongs drifted along Fabusua community. As the rising sun cast a rosy hue across the morning sky, ten students dressed in blue with touches of white alongside a bow-tie around 8:49am trekked to the only secondary school (Anglican Grammar School) in the seven communities (Bolunduro, Lugbaji, Doherty, Ago-Ruth, Kajola, Modebiayo, Otagbala).

Dilapidated building of the school

James Ene, 15, was walking scary, with his peers along Otagbala road leading to his school, when this reporter asked him how he felt walking ten kilometres to school everyday.

He said, “walking all the way from Ofagala to Ogho is always scary, because everywhere is bushy and hardly you hear sound rather than that of birds and other creatures that live in the bush.”

Ene narrated how a snake bit one of his colleagues on their way home one sunny Friday. “We didn’t know what to do, if not for the help of a hunter who passed during that time, my colleague could have been dead by now,” he narrated.

Classroom block

Ogho, Bolunduro, Lugbaji, Doherty, Ago-Ruth, Kajola, Modebiayo, Otagbala are communities under Ilu-nla the political headquarter for Ward 5 in Ondo West Local Government.

Parents lament, seek intervention

Speaking with this reporter, Mr. Alu Gabriel from Ogho community expressed displeasure about the situation. “The communities had tried their possible best to ensure the school keeps running— for our wards to be educated, being the only inherited secondary school.”

The cocoa farmer disclosed that due to the poor state of the school, his children attended secondary school outside the community, adding that it was dangerous allowing his wards walk 10km along a narrow road full of bush. “The bush alone is enough to scare the children and even parents,” he said.

Some of the students

Another parent, Mr. Benjamin said the situation made him withdraw his ward from the school years ago due to lack of intervention. “The building is dilapidated and anything could happen to the building and I can’t allow evil to befall my family,” Mr Benjamin narrated with a disappointed look.

He lamented that many parents in the communities could not afford to send the kids to private schools due to the high rate of tuition being charged and they are not receiving the necessary education required.
He however said it would be good if the government could come and take the school back so as to revive the community.

He said, “look at everybody here, we are all farmers and the majority of us only received primary education but we want our children to receive beyond that because primary school certificates can’t offer a job for anybody in this country”.

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Mr. Dele who is a business man and a resident of the community said the secondary school was already in existence before he was born, which gives him little understanding of the school structure. He further explained that the present grammar school is no longer government owned after it collapse a year before it was privatized in 2014.

Students inside one of the classrooms

Lack of teachers

Mr. Adeyoriju Rufus who serves as the principal of the secondary school explains why the school is experiencing some kind of downfall. He noted that they were getting low patronage from members of the community because they take their wards to the city and this brings about inadequate teachers because they need to be paid, “but when we experience low patronage we can’t pay the teachers because they need to eat. Though, we are trying all effort to get teachers”.

Mr. Adeyoriju said they currently have only three teachers for the secondary school students from JSS1 – SS3 which are between 36-38 in number. He further explained that the management of the school had been trying all efforts to register under the state government, but were yet to meet the estimated number required by the government.

Moreso, he said the major complaint of the teachers who are leaving is absence of necessary amenities within the area which they are deprived of but they enjoy in the city.

He further explained that the staff are paid based on the school fees paid, and called for support from the government as the staff keep complaining of inadequate salary because students of the school have not paid their fees, some for as much as four years.

Community head

While speaking with Chief Akinrimade Noah, Oloja of the community, he noted that the school was first phased out due to poor enrollment in 1981-1983 when the state government sent a ZDO to the school for proper grading but due to lack of information, no proper grading was done. And the ZDO wrote a memo to Akure. But when they got to Akure the ministry directed them to the ZDO.

Between 1979-1980 the primary school had an estimated student population of 72 in pry 6 A-D.
The next academic year their parents went ahead to distribute their wards to different schools in Bagbe, Igbado and some others places. He explained further that before they could erect the six classrooms for the secondary school it was already too late for it to get approval.

The elders were then advised to construct a six classroom block so as to invite the ZDO for commissioning.

Chief Noah said the current Grammer school was again set up in 2014 and it became private due to its collapse some years back. He noted that if the parents of those in primary school and some of the community had co-operated, it’s possible the school won’t have fallen the second time.

“In the last three years the staff were about six, but now they are currently two or three. The community is still looking for teachers.

The Oloja called for assistance from the public especially the government for quick intervention so as to avoid the second collapse of the school, and to employ competent individuals as staff for the job.

The classroom

In February 2022, the Ondo State governor, Arakunrin Akeredolu SAN, said since the inception of his administration, no fewer than 600 schools had been renovated to enhance the standard of learning of pupils in the Sunshine State

“We have renovated over 600 schools. I don’t believe in mega schools, though I am not condemning it, at least the one in Owo is useful for the polytechnic. I believe in the renovation of schools. We have touched over 600 schools in Ondo State

“We are committed to tackling infrastructural deficit in Ondo State. However, funding is a big problem but we will continue to do our best”, he stated.

According to dataphyte, Ondo State, in the South Western region of Nigeria, has 948,353 public primary school students to its 1,164 public primary schools. By this, it would mean that there would be an average of 814 students to each public primary school in the state.

The high ratio of students to a school is perhaps why the state government awarded contracts for the renovation of six classrooms in 53 primary schools in the state. The contract for all the schools was worth N1.145 billion.

However, it would seem these are just tales of fantasies to communities around Ogho as they are yet to benefit from this gesture by the state government, as students still trek long kilometers under the blazing sun, braving creatures of the bushes to get to school everyday. While those who can afford it have to send their weds outside the community to get secondary school education .

By Peter Emmanuel

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