The future of any society lies in the level of education of its citizens. That is why it is said that education is the bed rock of any society. Most important people in the society today got their greatness through education. There is what is called formal and informal education. Informal education can be gotten from the immediate environment, while formal education is gotten from the school environment. In this part of the world, in the creeks of Niger Delta Bayelsa State, formal education was once taken as a priority, making former Governor Henry Seriake Dickson declare free education immediately he came to power. His restoration government was giving out school uniforms, sandals and other necessities free to students in schools at various levels. But in recent times, especially during the second tenure of the restoration administration, all those stopped till today.
Situation in Gbarainowei Grammar School
Taking a look into the case of Gbarainowei Grammar School, located in Yenagoa Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, a school prominent for having produced many great men and women in society today, including former Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly, former governor of Rivers State and now Minister Of Transport Rt. Hon. Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi, the current Commissioner of Information, Orientation and Communication in Bayelsa State, Ay-ibaina Dubai, Preye Wariowei and so many top professionals, it has been a tale of sorrow, tears and blood as the school’s environment is now a sorry sight to behold, with almost all facilities either vandalised and rotting away. Established in 1973 and produced its first set of graduands in 1975, but today, it is not rosy for the school as almost all the students have left the school because of the deteriorating state of infrastructure. The school was rated high, but due to abandonment and neglect over the years by successive governments’ things has gone really bad. Situated in a very massive piece of land of about twenty hectares with more than twenty solidly built blocks and not more than twenty minutes’ drive from the Government House, just along the road to Okolobiri General Hospital and very close to SUBEB office, before it was moved to the current place, the place is almost lying desolate now with just few students attending the school. Ironically, with very solid and neatly painted buildings, one begins to wonder what is going on there. Just in parts of the buildings, there are concrete surrounding which may have been done when the school was in full gear, but looking at the whole environment now, it is in a very sorry state. When New Telegraph visited the school on a very rainy day, students were seen writing their promotional examination sitting on bare floor with many of the students jampacked in the few chairs and desks that were available. The very slippery walk way was over grown with bushes and grasses taking over everywhere. Some of the students were seen moving out of the school premises as early as 12noon without anybody bordering to know why and where they were going. At the supposed staff room, teachers were seen standing outside, most of them selling their wares.
A Management Team of the school speaks on state of the school:
“I am from Ogboloma community here. The school is over forty years. It was established in 1975, the official time, but it existed two years before that time. This is where I schooled also. When I joined this school, because all along I have been elsewhere until early this year, I and the principal were transferred to this place. “On reaching here, it was so bad, because this is not the school I attended. Back in those days, although it was government approved system then, but we decided to board because the facilities were there. “As close as Ogboloma is I was forced to board. What we did was that we only cooked for ourselves then. Our parents bought stoves and then we cook inside the school. And we never lacked anything, sitting desks, all those things, laboratories, in fact a lot of things were here.
“Until when I was transferred to this place, I was so surprised that the school I graduated from has deteriorated to this state. “The principal too is an understanding type. We met and we started planning what to do. Some staff now took us round and we asked where the lab is.
They took us there and when we got there, there was nothing. Some of the equipment have been left to spoil and they were very bad. “Even the tables too rotten. So what we did was to at least manage to make out some funds to prepare some tables.
We were able to prepare about ten tables for the laboratory where they can set these items. At that point, NECO wrote to us that they were coming for accreditation because they said every five years they do accreditation before they allow the school to register for exam. That became a problem to us. “We decided to set up a laboratory. Then the next challenge we had was this sitting desk for students, because like particularly the junior students, they are small children.
They sat on the floor taking lessons, while the senior because they are grown up so for them to sit on the floor was difficult, so they sat on the windows because the windows too have no lock. “Some were standing to take lectures. ‘I said sir what we will do we will do’.
The first step we took was that we visited our king to tell him the state of affairs of the school. Since I’m from here, I know some of our brothers and sisters that are working at SUBEB. So, I now met them and told them the state of the school and I told them that I know they bring chairs for them to distribute to schools. “I pleaded with them to use their office to help us. They said we should make it official and write them. We raised a letter to them. We wrote the first one, no way. We wrote the second one. In fact we have written I think two or three, but we see SUBEB carrying chairs to other schools.
There was a time even some of our students came to us that they want to go and collect chairs. That how can they be sharing chairs to schools and they will not give us. We said no, we can’t use violence because if we allow you to go, the whole blame will be on us. “That has been our plight since they refused to give us chairs, we said we cannot sit down like that. We decided to invite parents through PTA meeting. In the meeting, parents now agreed that they will contribute the sum of N1000 each so that we use to work some chairs. Even at that too, most of the students have not been able to pay.
But we were able to get some money and so we have about fifty chairs. It is those fifty chairs that we are managing now. “This school has been on but I don’t really understand how it got to this Level, but from the information that I gathered, that there was once they brought some plastic chairs, but even at that they said it was not enough. Those chairs are not strong, but now the chairs have gone bad.
“It’s like the former principals never helped matters. They had this I don’t care attitude which was also part of the cause of the problem of this school. If the past administrations were working the way they should, things, especially the tables that we met were not supposed to be so. You see your lab is deteriorating like that and you don’t even care.
“They are writing WAEC in the school up there now, but what really made the children to sit on the floor to that level is because this time around the promotion exam is coinciding with the WAEC and of course you don’t allow WAEC students to sit on the floor to write. So when we give the required number to the WAEC candidates, the majority of the students what do they do, they sit on the floor. “Some will manage to sit two, three in an examination situation.
It is very easy they can copy one another. If we have enough chairs, we can separate them so that real exam situation can be observed. But there is nothing we can do, so we jam pack everybody. “The students don’t pay school fees. The school is funded by government. Free education that is not even free. Although they don’t pay school fees but they pay other fees. Do you know that the government has not even provided common chalk, even lesson notes teachers buy and come and write their lessons, but before this time, it wasn’t like that.
“Every year, they pack note books, sometimes it will even remain. We share to students, during Alamasieghai, Goodluck, Sylva time and it ended. You see their faces on those note books. Even Dickson during his first tenure did it when he shared school uniforms and Sandals, but that was the last time. “From his second tenure till today, nothing like school chalk, no note books, even the uniform that they gave free, no uniform from that time till now. “They said one of the federal lawmakers drilled bore hole here, but it is not working, even thieves have come to vandalise it. There is light if they bring.
“Another problem we have is that we have just one security personnel, even that one too the principal has written severally to them, they said there is embargo on employment. “Both night and day only one person. The man will only manage to come and stay till at the close of school and he will go and sometime come back to stay for a while and go. He cannot guard the whole of this compound alone. We have more than 600 students. “Before this time, this school was recording more than 1000 but now, it is steadily losing students to the other schools.
We have almost 40 teachers out of these, some areas are more favoured particularly arts, like economics, commerce, home economics we have more arts teachers than the sciences, like now we have just one Chemistry teacher, Mathematics one, we had two, they have transferred one. Then English we have two, physics one, Biology two, Agric science, three. “We only wrote to SUBEB, but we have not written to the ministry. By right, this school supposed to be one of the model schools, because it is big enough, the hostel facilities are there. It is just a question of bringing beds and foams.
“We need state government’s swift intervention, particularly in the area of provision of desks for our students and then this walk way is another problem, then rehabilitate the already dilapidated buildings. If they do that, it will bring back the students.
“Administration wise we are trying. Before this time a lot of people complained and that made most of the parents to take their children out of the school, because cultism among students was very high here, but on resumption as we came because this is my place I don’t play with anything like that. “So, when I stroll within the community a lot of people come to meet me that they heard that there are a lot of changes in the school. They said the next session they are going to bring back their children. Things are gradually taking shape. If government can assist, this school will bounce back. “This school have been writing WAEC and NECO continuously. I can’t really tell where they do their science practical. That was one of the reasons why we decided to make sure that this place is in order, like this burglary proofs were not there. It was we that fixed them so that vandals cannot come and vandalise the things again. “I have called my year mates that are now in government to come and see things for themselves. They only promised that they will come, but they have not actually come,” he said.
Another teacher who took New Telegraph round speaks:
“These are SS1 students, they are supposed to sit highest three per seat, but see how they have jam-packed themselves. Two classes are here now writing their exams, because of lack of chairs. A minimum of 40 supposed to be in a class, but right now we are combining them. They are up to 100 students here. You can see the level of noise going on. “Some of the chairs here were provided by the parents to the school. During PTA meeting, we compelled the parents to contribute money and that was how we got these few ones.”
Another teacher speaks:
“The few plastic chairs here were donated by NDDC so many years ago. We have written to Bayelsa State Government and there has not been any response yet. We had up to 2000 students. Initially we had boarding houses. At that entrance half buildings are there. Those are the ones that supposed to be renovated. They started it, but they abandoned it. “We have even begged the state government to come and construct a walk way for us from the gate to classes, no way, when it is rainy season we normally suffer. Luckily we want to go on vacation. That is why we are even rushing the exams.
A student of SS2, Isaac Egbe, said: “We are sitting on the windows because of lack of chairs. There are no ceilings and since I came to this school right from JS1 that I came to this school, I noticed it. More than three years now right from SS1, we have been like that and we have no choice. “We want to call on government to provide chairs for us. We also need cutting machines to cut our field for our sporting activities.” Another student, a female, Ebi Kpun said: “For me, I don’t like it. We are girls and we are not supposed to be sitting on bare floor, but what can we do. We are begging the state government to please help us, at least with chairs first, then other things will follow.
The State government reacts:
All the calls and text messages put across to the Commissioner for Education, Gentle Emelah were not responded to, but the Commissioner for Information, Ayibaina Dubai in his reaction said: “What you said you saw is shocking to me, because first of all, I have not been there for years, so I won’t know the present state of the place, but what you are telling me is shocking. “Several years ago, when I was a student, there was a walk way and the school was fenced some years back and then I remember vividly while as a student there was a walk way.
“You walk straight to the dining hall from the gate. On both side we had boys and girls hostels. With teachers’ quarters and storey buildings. The school was properly built. So, I’m even surprised that you are saying that there are buildings that are unoccupied. It is something strange to me, however let me come back to government. “When we came in February, 2020, despite all that happened, by August when the executive council was constituted, one of the first things that the Ministry Of Education did was to do a NEEDS assessment and I know that they went round all the schools in this state, both primary and secondary and came up with all the issues that the schools have.
“Yes we didn’t declare an emergency on education, but these things are not things that are strange to us, because the Ministry of Education ably manned by Gentle Emelah has gone round the state to take stock of everything. So you know when you carry out an assignment like that, you need to find solutions to the problems. “It is a daunting one, but I know that government haven set the foot on that part will make sure that things are right. It is not under my direct purview, but I know that the ministry is working on whole lot of things like infrastructure, school buildings. I think recently, some chairs were bought for certain schools.
Now that you mentioned it, even Gbarainowei Grammar School, which is Government Secondary School, Okolobiri that I attended is in that state too, I’m very sure that the government will do something about it. “That school is just here, so there is no reason why it was not captured in what government did because I know that they went round all the secondary schools. We promise that something good is going to get to them soon.
“We did a NEEDS assessment even for teachers and as I speak, the government knows the number of teachers that need to be employed. What I am saying is that the issues you found out are not unknown to government because the ministry went round even with photographs. “It was the exco that mandated the ministry to go round so that we know what exactly the issues are in the education sector. I’m sure that ministry after that exercise is not resting. Even if you talk with the commissioner for education, he will tell you that these are things they are conversant with. Mind you there are so many secondary and primary schools in this state. I can authoritatively tell you that these issues are not unknown to the government. “If the way you are painting it is what you saw then all of us wouldn’t have gathered there. Apart from Chibuike Amaechi, there are some more who are veterans in their own field from that place. We have several professors from that place who are lecturers in NDU now. “It was a very serene place as at when we were there as students. It was green, trees everywhere in that school, when the Rivers State Government at that time stopped feeding, the parents decided to continue with the feeding programme by paying boarding fees on behalf of their wards. “From what you are saying now, may be some of us will take a stronger look at the situation, because the school has produced many great people, some of them are strong lawyers today,” he said.