27th January, 2014
Right beside Akute Bus Stop, the border town that links Ogun State and Ojodu in Lagos State, an unusual spectacle meets the eye. Students of Akute Community High School are seen clustered under a makeshift corrugated iron sheet-roofed space that serves as classrooms, attached to the compound of a primary school (Z. I Primary School 2, Akute, Ifo Local Government) where they have become undignified squatters for well over three years. Hundreds of students are packed closely together, creating an extremely rowdy scene.
The limited space occupied is without demarcation for the classes except for the positioning of makeshift blackboards facing rows of desks and chairs arranged in no particular order, with hardly space between them. During free periods, chaos reigns, with the students seizing the moment to become practically uncontrollable.
Barely protected from the scorching sun, and finding themselves in an unrestricted learning environment courtesy of the open space, they jump on desks, turning the place into a playground rather than a place of learning. Cane wielding teachers sweat, while school prefects also go around, under a continuous strain of attempting to restore order throughout the hours that knowledge should have been impacted.
Passing vehicles blare their horns along the dusty road, right by the school’s polythene covered edges. The overcrowding, coupled with suffocating dust and unsightly refuse dump nearby are enough reasons to disqualify the school as a proper place to learn.
But the students attending the school are nothing near being privileged enough to seek transfer to a more conducive place of learning. Most of them are from less than average income earning homes. One of them, a prefect in SS2 who spoke to P.M.NEWS Metro in jittery tones said that for those in his class that started their secondary school education in Akute Community High School five years ago, the present site is the third one.
From the first location where the school was affiliated with an obscure Akute school, they were transferred to another, then a new site in a valley along the Ishashi-pipeline axis about four years ago. But the well constructed school became waterlogged, with the release of water from the Ogun-Osun River Basin Authority dam over three years ago.
The movement of the students to the present location was supposed to be a temporary arrangement till the water dried up. But three sessions after, nothing indicates a possible return to the abandoned school. For now, the students at their present makeshift school remain exposed to the risk of getting killed by vehicles due to the location of the ‘classrooms’, apart from health risks associated with overcrowding and dust inhalation.
Kayode Ibiwoye, a Junior Secondary School, JSS 2 student who spoke with P.M.NEWS Metro said the passing vehicles serve as a constant distraction, making the voice of teachers almost inaudible. “When we see all manner of hawkers roaming around this place, from ice-cream vendors to food sellers, some of us sneak out to buy from them,” Ibiwoye said. One of the teachers also revealed to P.M.NEWS Metro that the staff of the school consider teaching under such conditions an embarrassment. According to her, most of her colleagues merely go through the motions of teaching daily, being fully aware of the partial attention students pay to them.
For the teachers, there is no structure on ground to serve as a staff room. They cluster along one of the corridors of a nearby primary school throughout the school hours.
P.M.NEWS Metro paid a visit to the abandoned school located off the Ishasi-pipeline road in Akute from where the students were moved to their present location. Getting to the school built in a valley off the main Ishashi road required a long trek down a steep route into a bush path that led to the school, which has been taken over by weeds and trees. Mr. Ogunkoya, whose house is located about 200 metres away from the school stated that the school and the whole area surrounding it has not been flooded in the past three years since the relocation of the students, because the Ogun-Osun dam’s overflow that led to the flood had stopped and had remained shut since the school was abandoned.
He revealed to P.M.NEWS Metro that perhaps the main reason for keeping the students in their present makeshift location is the refusal of the teachers to return to the once waterlogged school which put them through a lot of trouble in terms of accessibility at that period.
“They left at the time because of their suffering. During the rainy season and especially when the dam was opened, they had to wade through water for a long distance before managing to get to the school. And it is when they get back here to my house that they beg for clean water to rinse mud from their shoes everyday. It was really not convenient for them at all,” Ogunkoya said. Several meetings held by a committee of parents with staff of the school to initiate moves towards coming back to the school have yielded no positive results.
At the Ministry of Education in Ifo where the principal of the school directed our reporter to for information on the development, the Zonal Education Officer was not available to offer explanations on the reasons why the students of Akute Community High School have been stuck under the ramshackle shed for more than three years.