This investigation is supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the International Centre for Investigative Reporting
It has just finished raining and it is cold this Tuesday morning in July 2017. This reporter is visiting the Annang Peoples Primary School, Ikot Iyire, Abak, in oil-rich Akwa Ibom State.
Three pupils between the ages of three and four lay fast asleep on bare floor inside a classroom. The doors and windows are wide open and the sleeping kids are not even covered with blanket, despite the cold wind.
It is such a pathetic sight. The kids are visibly shivering, teeth chattering, and bodies shaking. They coil themselves up ostensibly to conserve whatever heat remained in their bodies.
A few other kids sit idly on two desks. They aren’t looking cheerful at all. At a corner, in front of the classroom, sits a lonely woman – their teacher.
A teacher told our source the pupils are part of the Early Education programme of the school. She says there is nothing teachers and the school authorities can do to help since the school lack even mats to spread on the floor for the poor kids.
Aside from this, the school has been in dire need of help, infrastructure wise. The two main classroom blocks are without roofs. The other remaining blocks are at various stages of decay, making them unsuitable and unsafe for pupils and their teachers.
Most pupils sit on bare floor to learn because of lack of chairs and desks. Inside the Primary Two classroom, for instance, 42 pupils are made to share only three desks.
The Early Education classroom has only two desks. There are no toys or learning materials for the kids.
The school, built around 1947 by the community before it was later handed over to the state government, has no staff room, so the teachers sit under a mango tree to hold meetings and prepare for the day’s lessons. They scamper into leaky classrooms when it rains.
Also, like most of the public primary schools in the state, it has no urinary, no toilet, and no source of drinking water.
“Whenever it rains, the pupils feel discouraged to come to school because the classrooms are flooded,” one of the teachers tells this reporter.
“We are suffering because we don’t have any godfather in government,” the Village Head of Ikot Iyire, James Akpan, says while showing this reporter round dilapidated buildings in the school.
“I have been a village head for more than 22 years now, we have not received any support for the school from any government official or any politician,” he says. “Sometimes I have to use my personal money to buy chalks for the school.”
Mr Akpan points at a minor concrete work in one of the classrooms, saying he used his personal funds to buy two bags of cement to execute the repairs.
“I have written several letters and forwarded several photos of the school to government, but there hasn’t been any response,” the village head says, adding that the school caters for the educational needs of more than seven villages around the area.
But as this reporter leaves the Ikot Uyire village head wondering why a government would allow its future leaders to learn in such a dehumanising situation, he soon happens on another school having what appeared a higher level of decay.
At Ediene II, about 20 minutes’ drive from Ikot Uyire, the only government primary school in the village is in ruins. One of the classroom blocks in the school is without roof, while tall weeds sprout from the broken parts of the cement floor inside the classroom.
At St. Ignatius Catholic Primary School, Ukana Iba, Essien Udim Local Government Area, it is a similar horrible sight – a pupil is seen sleeping on bare floor at the verandah of a classroom at 12:16 p.m. when he should be attending lessons. The main classroom block in the school is without roof, doors, and windows.
A pupil walked past a dilapidated school building at Annang Peoples Primary School, Ikot Iyire, Ukpom Abak
Our investigation, spanning more than one year and involving several schools in urban and rural communities, shows that only a handful of schools in this state can be considered reasonably conducive for learning. The rest are in terribly appalling situation. Some are not even good enough for raising animals, says Mbebe Albert, a lawyer based in the state.
At the Community Comprehensive Secondary School, Nto Osung, Ekpenyong Atai, Essien Udim, the teachers and principal do not worry much about their decaying infrastructure. They are more concerned about the regular invasion of the school premises by criminals.
The school is unfenced, allowing armed gangs to keep invading the school in broad daylight to rob teachers and students of their belongings.
For the school’s dilapidated structures, the school authorities say they had since forwarded videos and photos to the state’s ministry of education and Governor Udom Emmanuel’s aide on education monitoring. They are still awaiting response from government.
Several other schools visited in Essien Udim and in the neighbouring Obot Akara Local Government Area have similar challenges of decayed infrastructure, inadequate teachers and classrooms, and lack of functional laboratories and libraries.
One school in Essien Udim, Government Secondary School, Nto Nsek, was fortunate some years back to have an information technology laboratory built there, a rare facility in secondary schools in the state. But the laboratory has since become an eyesore. The small hall, with leaky roof and broken furniture, has now been neglected and abandoned for years. The school’s electrical laboratory has suffered a similar fate.
The school, which caters for more than nine villages in Essien Udim and the neighbouring local government area of Obot Akara and has a student population of 2,414, no longer hold science experiments due to lack of laboratories, this newspaper was told.
The school is grappling with the challenge of inadequate classrooms, having shut its main classroom block – a storey building – a year ago when the 55-year-old building showed cracks on its walls and vibrated whenever students climbed its stairs.
The ensuing accommodation crisis compelled the school to abolish its long-established boarding system. The hostels were then converted to classrooms, officials say.
Out of the three blocks at the Methodist Primary School, Nto Obio Ikang, Obot Akara Local Government Area, one is dilapidated and abandoned, while another is without roof.
Friday Idot, the Chairman, Nto Obio Ikang Village Council, appeals to the state government to urgently renovate and equip the school. He says the school, built since 1940, is the only school in the village.
Still within Obot Akara, the Community Secondary Commercial School at Nto Edino, requires complete overhaul of its aging classroom blocks, some of which have had their roofs torn off and their walls broken down.
St. Raphael Catholic Primary School, Ndon Eyo II, in Etinan Local Government Area, built around 1930 by the Catholic Church, has just one school block which houses classrooms and administrative offices.
To make the best of a bad situation, the school authorities divided the classroom along imaginary lines, lumping Primary one and two pupils together at one end. Those in Primary three, four, five, and six were also combined and cramped at the other end, with four chalkboards at the different corners. It is a chaotic spectacle as the cacophony of sounds from the different corners remains a constant distraction for the pupils.
The roof of the ageing building is depressed in the middle, indicating that it might cave in anytime, therefore putting the lives of the 459 pupils and their seven teachers at risk.
A teacher tells our source a decaying rafter once fell from the top and hit a pupil on the head. Luckily, the little boy only suffered a minor injury, the teacher says.
St. Raphael does not have a toilet or urinary. It does not also have any source of drinking water. Teachers and students rush into nearby bushes anytime they need to relieve themselves.
Within Etinan, there are several other schools with dilapidated structures like St. Louis Catholic Primary Sch, Mbiokporo 1, Community Secondary Commercial School, Ikot Nte, and even the once prestigious Etinan Institute.
When our sources reporter visited the community school in Ikot Nte, the students were writing examinations inside a dilapidated building with leaky roof.
“Whenever it rains, we packed the students into a corner in the hall,” one of the teachers says, adding that the student population has dropped to about 200 from 350 because of shortage of classrooms.
The roofs of two classroom blocks at Atakpo Community Secondary School, Mbiaya Uruan, Uruan Local Government Area, are decaying fast and showing signs they could collapse any moment soon.
One school in Uruan, Community Secondary Commercial School, Ifiayong Usuk, is currently bearing the brunt of corrupt practices by government officials; the concrete pillars and walls of its newest classroom block, built in 2010 through the state government inter-ministerial direct labour project, are already cracking due to substandard work by a contractor.
More than 200 students accommodated in the block have been moved to safety in other blocks, thereby leading to overcrowding in the classrooms, a teacher tells our reporter.
“A classroom that should have taken 50 students, now has like 150 inside it,” the teacher says, adding that the school has over 2,000 student population.
Also, the school, which serves about seven villages, can no longer organise science experiments for its students because of lack of laboratory equipment and chemicals, our reporter learns.
At Community Secondary Commercial School, Iffe Town, Ikot Ebak, in Mkpat Enin Local Government Area, one classroom block has collapsed, while the others have broken roofs, funneling rainwater into the classrooms whenever it rains.
Other schools in Mkpat Enin that require urgent intervention are Community High School, Ikot Esen Akpan Ntuen, Ibiaku Community Secondary School, Ikot Ebak, Government Primary School, Ikot Obio Nso, and QIC Primary School, Nya Odiong, Mkpat Enin. They are all at various stages of decay.
The following schools in Esit Eket Local Government Area are in deplorable state: Government Primary School, Etebi, Government Primary School, Akpautong, and St. Theresa’s Primary School, Ntak Inyang.
At Government Primary School, Ikot Ntuen Oku, located within the heart of Uyo, the state capital, renovation work on the main classroom block awarded by the Governor Emmanuel administration has been abandoned for about eight months, by the time this reporter visited there on April 18, 2018.
One classroom of the two blocks at Government Primary School, Udi-Ika, in Ika Local Government Area is without windows and ceilings. The broken cement floor in the classroom requires some work. The school is also clearly in need of more desks and more teachers.
At Asutan Ekpe Comprehensive Secondary School, Okop Ndua Eron, Ibesikpo-Asutan Local Government Area, eight uncompleted buildings which would have served as dormitory have been left to rot away after being abandoned for several years by the state government. An uncompleted classroom block – a storey building – have also been abandoned for several years.
Ironically, there are not enough classrooms in the school for the over 1,300 student population. Pupil sleeps on the verandah of a classroom in Ukana Iba, Essien Udim. Teachers say they used their personal funds to renovate their quarters before they moved in.
Coastline Oil-Communities Worst Off…
It is quite a bizarre sight at Ntiat/Mbak 1 Comprehensive Secondary School, Itu Urban, where some female students are seen chatting freely inside a partially collapsed structure meant to be a classroom. The rafters and the remnants of the ceilings dangle menacingly above them, making the place a deathtrap.
The school’s staff quarters are dilapidated and abandoned. Same with one of its major classroom blocks.
The assembly hall had collapsed, while the library and the laboratory are in a terrible state and could go the way of other collapsed structures if not urgently rebuilt.
“Yesterday, we had to spread out books, the school records and other materials in the field for them to get dry under the sun after being soaked by rainwater,” a teacher in the school says, as he points at the leaky roof in an empty library.
Moreso, the 37-year-old school, built through community effort, is threatened by gully erosion.
Bassey Ekanem, the Village Head of Ntiat Itam, says the community is working on relocating the school.
“Since 2007, we have been writing letters to the state government to come to our aid,” he sys. “We’ve not given up, we are still expecting that government will one day wake up to help us.”
Everywhere – from Uyo, the state capital, to the hinterlands of Etim Ekpo, Ikot Abasi, and Oron – the story is the same: roofless school buildings, collapsed classroom blocks, shortage of teachers, lack of basic learning materials, and the haunting sights of poor little children struggling to learn under the most dehumanising environment.
Coastline communities within the oil producing local government areas of Ibeno, Eastern Obolo, and Mbo seem worst off, as pupils have to cross rivers to get primary education elsewhere because of lack of schools in their own immediate communities.
Government Primary School, Isotoyo, in Eastern Obolo, for instance, with its wooden skeletal structure loosely covered with dried palm leaves, can easily pass for a shrine.
When our reporters visited the school in November 2016, there were only two teachers teaching Mathematics, English, Social Studies and other subjects to its 40 pupils.
“I sometimes feel like crying,” one of the teachers, who simply gave his name as Fingesi, said about the state of the rundown school. “But you know I can’t do that before the pupils.”
Fingesi had vowed never to abandon the school, despite its neglect by the state government and the local authorities.
“The community is my own,” he had told this reporter then. “If I abandon my job, it means that this school will be closed down.”
But he couldn’t hold on. Some few months after, Fingesi and the other teachers left the school, our reporter gathered, leaving the poor children stranded.
Meanwhile, the improvised school used to serve a group of villages – the Amazaba – with over 7,000 population.
The community, like most other communities in Eastern Obolo, is cut off by a river. Access is only by water, using canoes.
Eyo Abasi is an ill-fated water-locked community in Ibeno Local Government Area. Apart from being abandoned and severely underdeveloped like most other communities in the local government area, Eyo Abasi had its only school washed away by tidal waves of the Atlantic Ocean.
A model secondary school at Atabrikang, Ibeno, started by the state government during the administration of Governor Victor Attah, has been abandoned for years now. Mr. Attah left office in 2007.
The case of the Government Primary School, Okori-Itak, is shocking. While the six-classroom block, commissioned in 2011 by the immediate past administration of Godswill Akpabio, is furnished with school desks, no activity takes place in the school, as the classrooms and the and the administrative offices are locked.
Locals tell our reporter no single teacher has been posted to the school.
Ibaka, a commercial town in Mbo, where the state has plans to build a deep seaport, has no single public secondary school.
There are other riverine communities in the local government area without a primary or secondary school. The children have to cross rivers to attend schools elsewhere.
With only five public secondary schools, Mbo Local Government Area is clearly in need of new schools to cater for the educational needs of the growing population in the area.
Some say what is happening to education in Akwa Ibom is an unbelievable contradiction because the state, with abundance of oil and natural gas, is one of Nigeria’s richest.
“What we are seeing here negates the aspiration of the UN sustainable development goals which is targeting free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education for all girls and boys by 2030,” says one teacher who asked not to be named for fear he might be punished by government
The SDGs, launched by the UN in 2016, is a successor programme of the Millennium Development Goals, MDGs, which expired in 2015.
Several education monitors, supervisors, yet nothing to show
The state ministry of education has Area Education Officers (AEOs) spread across the state with the mandate to monitor education in local communities. There are also senior ministry officials whose job schedules include paying supervisory visits to schools and submitting reports on the condition of schools to higher authorities.
Governor Udom Emmanuel has four special assistants on education monitoring alone, with three of them covering each of the three senatorial districts and reporting directly to a Senior Special Assistant, Idongesit Etiebet.
Mrs Etiebet says she is well aware of how bad things have been.
“I do drive around Akwa Ibom and I know what we saw in 2015 and how much we have intervened,” she says in an interview with our reporter.
She however says the governor is ‘doing a lot’ to salvage the situation.
“They have done renovation and new constructions in almost 400 schools,” she says. “With the lean resources accruing to the state, you cannot expect that everything will be done immediately.” But Mrs Etiebet failed to provide names and photographs of the “renovated” schools.
Infographics produced by the state government and posted recently on Facebook by the state Commissioner for Information, Charles Udoh, claims the Governor Emmanuel administration has so far constructed and renovated 62 school blocks in the state, a number far less than that presented by the governor’s aide on education monitoring.
The infographics, titled ‘How Governor Udom Emmanuel spends your money’, did not, however, identify the schools where the “constructed and renovated” blocks of classrooms can be found.
Akwa Ibom’s Trillion Naira Revenue
Akwa Ibom has multinationals like Mobil, an affiliate of the American oil giant, ExxonMobil, drilling oil in the state. And because of its contributions to Nigeria’s oil earnings, Akwa Ibom receives more money from the Federation Account every month than each of the other 35 states and the Federal Capital Territory.
This is beside the revenue the state generates internally.
In five years alone, between 2013 and 2017, the state received N1.029 trillion (about $2.8 billion) from the country’s Federation Account.
Comparatively, a state like Osun, South-West of Nigeria, receives less than one-tenth of what Akwa Ibom gets from the Federation Account.
In the first quarter of 2017, for instance, Akwa Ibom received N34.8 billion, while Osun received only N1.7 billion.
Ironically, Osun state, for the past five years, has remained among the three top Nigerian states with an unmistakable lead in university JAMB admissions into courses leading to the award of degrees in Engineering. The other two are Oyo and Ogun.
For Medicine, Imo, Anambra, Delta and Enugu have been in the lead for the past five years.
Akwa Ibom has also not been among the five best performing states in the West African Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination (WASSCE).
Billions of Naira Budgeted for Education
When Godswill Akpabio was governor, the budget for education in the state in 2014 and 2015 was N10.9 billion and N16.7 billion respectively.
Five hundred million and N450 million was budgeted for the sector in 2014 and 2015 respectively for the renovation and refurbishing of buildings, including the provision of facilities, in 124 secondary and primary schools in the state.
The administration’s plan then, as documented in the budget, was to pick four secondary schools and four primary schools for renovation in each of the 31 local government areas in the state.
The Akpabio administration had specifically budgeted N100 million (in 2014) and N200 million (in 2015) for the renovation of boarding houses in secondary schools in the state.
That was beside the N100 million and N40 million budgeted in 2014 and 2015 respectively for the provision of 2,725 beds for 62 boarding schools and the N100 million and N55 million budgeted for in 2014 and 2015 respectively for the provision of 5,500 mattresses in secondary schools.
There was also provision for N300 million, both in 2014 and 2015 budget, as government subventions to 234 secondary schools heads.
Mr Emmanuel succeeded Mr Akpabio as governor in May 2015.
In 2016, N9.8 billion was budgeted for education by the state government, out of the N426 billion total budget sum.
In 2017, the education budget in the state was reduced to N8.620 billion, apparently following the decrease in the total budget sum – N365.251 billion – for that year because of the economic recession Nigeria experienced.
It is unclear what proportion of these budgeted funds were released during the Akpabio administration, and how they were utilised.
Tijah Bolton-Akpan, the Executive Director of Policy Alert, a non-governmental organization that focuses on fiscal governance in Akwa Ibom and other states in Nigeria, says “The education sector is suffering not just from poor prioritisation in the budget, but also from poor implementation of the little that has been budgeted.”
Samuel Efuo, a lawmaker and Chairman, Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly Committee on Education, says the problem is partly due to poor contract administration by the Inter-Ministerial Direct Labour Committee saddled with the responsibility of finding quick-fix solutions to the infrastructural deficits in the social sector in the state.
“In some schools, you have enough infrastructure, while you don’t have anything in other schools. Some people just sit down in their offices to award contracts without visiting the schools to see their needs,” Mr Efuo says.
“More than half of the public secondary schools are in ruins”
Akwa Ibom, with a landmass of 7,081 km², is said to have a population of five million, as at 2016.
The number of public secondary schools in the state was about 250 in 2016, and a good number of that number is in ruins.
The four science colleges – St. Mary’s Science College, Ediene Abak, Abak; Qua Iboe Church Senior Science College, Ndon Eyo, Onna; Lutheran Senior Science School, Ibakachi, Ikono; and Methodist Senior Science School, Oron – are in shambles.
So also are the technical colleges in the state – like the Community Technical College, Ikot Akata, Mkpat Enin and the Government Technical College, Abak, which have become eyesores because of their many dilapidated school blocks.
The Government Technical College, Ikot Adaidem, Ibiono Local Government Area, built through the assistance of the World Bank, has been closed down and abandoned to rot for several years now.
A retired teacher in the state, Nicholas Luke, blames the situation on corruption among politicians.
“Most of those schools were listed for renovation under the Godswill Akpabio’s inter-ministerial direct labour projects, and because they were part of political patronage, those work were not done,” Mr. Luke says.
“The contracts were captured in the state budgets and the money released, but the politicians pocketed them. That’s why you still find most of those schools as dilapidated as they were before Godswill came to power.”
Several years back, an attempt was made to revive public education through the building of seven model secondary schools across the state. It was initiated by the then governor, Victor Attah. But the project was jettisoned by his successor, Mr Akpabio.
Big hole on the wall, Community Sec. Commercial Sch, Nto Edino, Obot Akara
A retired permanent secretary at the state ministry of education says N3 billion was needed to complete the model schools when Mr Akpabio became governor.
He accuses the Akpabio administration of suspending subventions to schools during the 2014/2015 session, a development he says led to funding crisis with ripple effects that are yet to abate across the schools.
Principals and head teachers now rely on the collection of “illegal” levies from parents to run their schools, the official says. They also generate revenues by renting out spaces in their school premises for funerals and other events during school hours.“You want to organise a send-off party for a principal of a school, the students are levied. Students are forced to pay money for brooms, cutlasses, brushes and all sorts of things. In fact, a school that doesn’t even have a toilet, still charges students for cleansing liquid,” the retired teacher, Mr Luke said.
“Now, if your child isn’t admitted into the secondary school through the normal placement examination, you have to pay as much as N10, 000 directly to the principal for admission. All these, no receipt. Then you pay PTA fees. In some schools, it is as high as N5, 000.
“If you add up all these, then you would realise that it is better for the people to be asked to pay a certain amount of money as school fees than to deceive the people that there is free education,” he said.
A school principal, who is also an official of the All Nigeria Conference of Principals of Secondary Schools (ANCOPSS), in the state, admitted that corruption indeed existed among principals, but she, however, put the blame on the officials of the ministry of education who she claimed were always demanding bribe from school authorities.
The ministry officials also expect gift items like tissue papers, mobbing sticks, and soaps from the principals whenever they visit the schools, she says, adding that the abuse of office and stealing of public funds start from the top and trickle down to the lowest public servant.
“The situation is hopeless,” she says. “If you don’t give in to the demands of the ministry officials visiting your school, be ready to have your promotion and other entitlements delayed because of the negative report they will surely write after the visit.”
Almost everyone – teachers, parents, government officials, unionists and development experts – who spoke with our investigative reporters acknowledged that the education sector in Akwa Ibom is at a critical juncture, pointing at the rate parents are now abandoning public schools for private ones and the poor performances of pupils and students in public examinations.
The situation has led to an increase in the number of private schools in the state.
For instance, the number of private secondary schools in the state was 120 in 2007, up by 106.90 per cent from the previous year, according to the World Data Atlas. The number increased to 422 in 2017, says an official of the state ministry of education.
“It is surely higher than that if we include those ones that are operating without license from the government,” the official says, adding that the number of private nursery/primary schools in the state is 699, as at 2017.
The retired teacher, Mr Luke, describes Governor Emmanuel as lacking the ability to revive education in the state.
“Udom Emmanuel administration is more confused, their priorities are not right,” he says. “Our governor is paying lip service to education.
“If you look at the budgets and also look at what they are doing physically, this government is not adding anything new to education in this state. So, they are more confused,” he says.
When our reporters met with the new Commissioner for Education, Victor Inoka, he declined comment, saying having just been appointed to office, he is still “studying the situation”.
But while Mr Inoka continues to study the situation, the Village Head of Ikot Iyire, James Akpan, is looking forward to urgent action from the state government that would save pupils across the state from learning in leaky, dilapidated or overcrowded classrooms, sitting on bare floors, and relieving themselves in bushes when nature calls.
“The situation is really bad,” Mr Akpan says as we walk past the kids sleeping on bare floor at the Annang Peoples Primary School. “I really pity these children because their future is in danger.”
This is the first in a six-part series on how corruption, poor budget planning and implementation, and outright neglect led to the near collapse of public education in Akwa Ibom, one of Nigeria’s richest states.
Almost everything – everything that makes a school a school — is in a state of decay at St. Mary’s Science College, Ediene Abak, in oil-rich Akwa Ibom State.
The ruins of the old cottages making up the boys’ dormitory can be seen a few meters away.
Blown-off roofs, partly-collapsed structures, dirty and abandoned buildings surrounded by tall grasses conjure a nauseating atmosphere around the dormitory.
Yet students live within these decrepit facilities, oblivious of the potential safety dangers.
When one of our reporter visited the school in April last year, some students were seen still living in one of the dormitories – Cottage Five. A section of the building had fallen down, and the debris were yet to be completely cleared away.
Nothing much has changed one year after, a follow-up visit this April shows.
The ceilings has fallen off in most of the cottages. For one or two that still have their ceilings partly intact, there are visible signs that they are caving in gradually. Yet the students have continued to live in that condition, endangering their lives.
The remnants of the ceilings are covered with graffiti. And the dormitory walls too. It looks like the walls have not been touched with fresh paints for decades.
Standing on the hill where the cottages are situated, this reporter can see some other buildings in the school down a valley, swallowed up by gully erosion which is threatening the school.
You can see the dormitory’s pit toilets and also perceive the stench oozing out from there.
Empty cans, dirty plates, and papers littered everywhere inside the cottages. The mattresses, as dirty and stinking as they are, have no bedcovers. The pillows too were terribly dirty and nauseating.
Garbage can be seen heaped carelessly at various locations near the dormitories.
“As you can see, the whole place is a mess,” says UbongAbasi Okon, an alumnus of the college guiding this reporter round the dilapidated structures in the school. “It looks more like a place where animals are kept.”
Mr Okon and other alumni of the college resorted to flooding Facebook with photos of the school, after making fruitless efforts to get the Akwa Ibom State government to renovate the dilapidated structures.
St. Mary’s Science College was built 65 years ago by Catholic missionaries. It was initially established for the training of Grade Two teachers before it was converted in 1986 to a senior science college by the government of the then Cross River State in line with the administration’s policy of promoting science education.
At the height of its glory, it was one of the most coveted schools in the old Cross River State. Parents from far and near scrambled to push their wards in. But today it is in ruins, and holds little or no attraction for parents, alumni say.
“This is disheartening,” Mr Okon, the alumnus who guided this reporter round the college, says with a sigh while standing atop the collapsed half of Cottage Five.
“This used to be my hostel,” he says.
Mr Okon, a web designer, graduated from the college 23 years ago.
He says with its present state of decay, he cannot recommend the school to any prospective student.
David Wilson, an expert in mental health, shakes his head in disbelief when this reporter shows him photos of the school’s dilapidated dormitory.
He advises the state government to close down the boarding facilities in the college to save the students from developing mental problems.
Collapsed half of Cottage Five, boy’s dormitory – Akwa Ibom
“It could lead to psychiatric disorder,” says Mr Wilson, a medical doctor and senior registrar, Department of Mental Health, University of Uyo Teaching Hospital. “It could also lead to conduct disorder.
“A school environment should be managed to support the child. If you are living in an environment that is emotionally unrewarding, you could be exposed to depressive illnesses.”
“It’s terrible,” he adds. “It’s degrading.”
Like Hostels, Like Classrooms
The classrooms, library and the science laboratories in the college are also in appalling conditions.
The tables, shelves, and books in the library are all covered in dust, indicating that the place may have been out of use for sometime.
The small hall used as chemistry and biology laboratories are dusty, and without basic science equipment and chemical. And what is left of the Agric laboratory is a building in ruins, with no roof and windows.
The classrooms have only few desks. Graffiti adorns the walls while ceilings have fallen off in some of them. The louvers too are gone, leaving rainwater to splash inside the classrooms whenever it rains. The toilets are non-functional, soiled and smelly.
A Boy and a Girl are in One of the Classrooms.
The girl, a 16-year old SS 3 student, says she ought to be in the laboratory for physics experiment at that time, but that she was barred because she could not provide the type of battery required for the practical session.
“I bought Tiger Head battery opposite the school gate, but the physics teacher rejected it because it wasn’t strong enough to power the ammeter and voltmeter in the laboratory,” she explains.
She does not have the money to buy the required battery, she says.
The boy, also 16 and in SS 3, had had his own time at the laboratory the previous day.
Both students have just two days to go before their West African Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination (WASSCE).
This reporter meets with the physics teacher, Iboro Dickson, in the physics laboratory as he was taking five students through the science experiment.
Mr Dickson, himself a former student of the college, explains that since the school cannot provide the materials needed for the experiment, students must be made to bear the burden.
The physics laboratory, like the other laboratories, is without learning apparatus and other materials. More so, it is dirty. The building has no ceilings and louvers.
Behind where the students are sitting, at one corner of the small hall, is a heap of computer scraps. And that is what the college calls a computer laboratory!
“When I was a student here in1996, the laboratory wasn’t like this,” the physics teacher, Mr Dickson says. “I cried the first day I came here as a teacher.”
Ambrose Useh, the Principal of the college says a government team came to inspect the school in March 2017 after he wrote to the education ministry.
The condition of the girls’ dormitory is not as bad as that of the boys’, says Mr. Useh who says he assumed duties in August 2016 as principal of the once prestigious college. This reporter, being male, is not allowed to inspect the female dormitories.
The parents-teachers association in the school has been inactive, alumni say.
Successive administrations in the state have consistently claimed that reforming the education sector remained a top priority.
In 2014 and 2015, the government specifically budgeted N500 million and N450 million respectively for the renovation and refurbishing of buildings, and provision of facilities in 124 primary and secondary schools in the state.
The government’s plan then, as documented in the budget, was to renovate four secondary schools and four primary schools in each of the 31 local government areas in the state.
Funds were also specifically allocated for the renovation of boarding facilities in secondary schools in the state — N100 million (in 2014) and N200 million (in 2015).
That was beside the N100 million and the N40 million earmarked in 2014 and 2015 respectively for the provision of 2,725 beds for 62 boarding schools and the N100 million and N55 million budgeted for in 2014 and 2015 respectively for the provision of 5,500 mattresses in secondary schools.
There was also provision for another N300 million, both in 2014 and 2015 budget, as subvention to 234 secondary schools.
It remains unclear whether these funds were released or whether the projects for which they were meant were executed. Pressed for months for explanations, education ministry officials consistently declined to comment.
What is however clear, is that a good number of schools across the state remain dilapidated and bereft of essential facilities.
Administration insiders, who asked not to be named for fear of being punished by the authorities, say St. Mary’s Science College, like most of the schools, is a victim of poor management of public funds and corruption among government officials.
Contracts for the renovation of public schools are awarded in most cases as a measure of political patronage to people who will in turn pocket the money, they say. And this, of course, happens in collusion with government officials.
The state government, in a document circulated on Facebook by the state Commissioner for Information, Charles Udoh, claim Governor Udom Emmanuel administration has constructed and renovated 62 school blocks in the state so far.
The government is, however, yet to provide details of the locations of the projects. Several requests by this reporters are yet to be responded to.
Alumni, Teacher to the Rescue
A member of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, Aniekan Bassey, who is an alumnus of the college, has stepped in to lobby the state government to save the school.
Mr Bassey, who represents Uruan State Constituency in the House, took some of the aides of Governor Emmanuel on a tour of the college.
He says he was later assured that a new dormitory and classroom blocks would be built during the next round of the state government’s Inter-Ministerial Direct Labour Projects.
The lawmaker says he became aware of the state of the school when a fellow House member, Friday Iwok (PDP/Abak State Constituency), raised the matter during a recent plenary.
Another lawmaker Otobong Akpan (PDP/Ukanafun State Constituency), also an alumnus of the college, says it was sad that the school was left to rot away.
“Why did the school authorities keep quiet for things to get to that state? What happened to the subventions given to the school by the government?” Mr Akpan asks.
Idongesit Reuben, a businessman and an alumnus of the school, tells our reporter his concern is more on the safety of the students.
“We don’t wish to have another tragedy in this state,” Mr Reuben says. “Let the government relocate the students out of the hostels immediately.”
A repeat visit to the school by this reporter on April 6, 2018, one year after, shows no significant improvement so far; saved for the replacement of the roof on three buildings, the hostels and the main classroom block are still in their decaying and squalour state.
Inside the boys’ dormitory at St. Mary’s Science College, Ediene Abak, Akwa Ibom State (Cletus Ukpong)
There are signs of reconstruction work at the library building but the students on campus, who are writing their senior school certificate examination, tell our reporter the contractor abandoned site four weeks earlier.
This reporter had contacted several administration officials on the state of the college as he worked on this story. It is unclear if the government moved in to do some remedial work as a way of preempting this publication.
Patrick Akpabio, a Catholic priest and Chaplain of the college, believes it might be counterproductive waiting for government to tackle the infrastructural deficit in the school.
Mr Akpabio, who also teaches at the school, is, therefore, mobilising personal resources to build a new chapel for the school after the first one collapsed.
“This is the only pair of shoes I have,” the priest says, pointing to his thick black boots.
“If the white missionaries travelled such a long distance to this place to start this college, then I have every reason to do my best to rescue this school.”
Brexit Plans in Turmoil, ‘Leave’ Campaign Fined for Violations
By Abdullahi Mohammed
Late last night, U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May accepted four hard-right amendments to her government’s Brexit plan, quelling a rebellion in her own party. But analysts say the concessions will destroy her newly minted “customs facilitation agreement” on the controversial issue of the Irish border. Now May hopes to send Parliament into early recess amid fears of a leadership challenge. Meanwhile, the Vote Leave campaign has been fined more than $80,000 and reported to police for breaking spending laws and illegally coordinating with another pro-Brexit group.
‘Lava Bomb’ Injures 23 on Hawaii Tour Boat
By Abdullahi Mohammed
A boat carrying tourists to watch lava flowing into the Pacific Ocean from Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano was struck by a flying chunk of molten rock yesterday. The ball of lava burst through the boat’s roof, leaving one woman with a fractured femur and others with burns and cuts. Tour operators say the sightseeing boats will keep running, but will take the Coast Guard’s new advice to stay farther away from the lava flow. Meanwhile, Kilauea’s recent eruption has created a small new island, according to the United States Geological Survey.
US Court Suspends Rapid Deportations
District Judge Dana Sabraw ruled yesterday to temporarily bar the deportations of recently reunited migrant families — another setback for the Trump administration’s controversial immigration reforms. The American Civil Liberties Union brought the case, arguing that parents who’ve been reunited with their kids should have time to consider leaving their children in the U.S. to pursue asylum claims. While government lawyers argued that swift deportations are key to making more space for detainees, Sabraw said slowing or ceasing family reunification is “not an option.” The next hearing is set for July 24.
Courtesy: Daily Briefing
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