It was a stormy Wednesday earlier in the year at the Surulere area of Lagos when students at Aguda Community Senior Secondary School scrambled for ‘safer’ spaces within the uncompleted building where they were learning.
This resulted in the stoppage of classroom activities as their teachers could not continue teaching with the raindrops blowing in occasionally.
After each rainfall of such nature, the floor of the classes are flooded and students would have to sweep the water out before their lessons continue.
On a typical sunny day at the school established in 2013, some students would have to be under the sun or move their seats away from the sunrays before they continue their classes.
At least, five classes not demarcated were seen domiciled on the ground floor of the two storey uncompleted building when this reporter visited there.
“If we have two-three teachers at a time teaching, they are going to be disturbing each other,” a teacher, Mrs Taiwo Shonubi told EduCeleb.com.
She noted further that, “The risk (of teaching and learning) there is too much. If we had those not medically strong here, it would seriously have affected them.”
For the over 400 students in the school, learning is not literally fun.
The unconducive nature of the building makes the structure unfit to be called classroom by global standards.
The school is under the jurisdiction of Education District IV of Lagos State covering Lagos Mainland, Surulere and Apapa Local Government Areas.
A brief of history
EduCeleb.com gathered that the school complex located on Brown Road in the Aguda area of Surulere Local Government started originally with Aguda Grammar School in 1980.
Students’ overpopulation and government policy led to establishment of the four schools now occupying the space under different school managements.
Aside Aguda Community Senior Secondary School, the three other schools sited there are Aguda Junior Grammar School, Aguda Senior Grammar School and Aguda Community Junior Secondary School.
Each of the schools has at least a building of its own save Aguda Community Senior Secondary School, which its building remains uncompleted.
Aguda Community Junior Grammar School’s building houses the administrative offices, science laboratory, library, staff rooms and a few classes of the senior school while some other students in the senior school have been continuously left to learn under weather.
The uncompleted building of the Lagos State owned community senior school is estimated to be at least four years old.
Efforts by EduCeleb.com to obtain official details of the contract were futile as Lagos State government officials have a perennial habit of not responding to such enquiries.
A credible source familiar with the situation recalled that a storey building in place at inception had to be demolished during the Akinwunmi Ambode administration to construct the now abandoned two-storey building project.
Mr Ambode was governor between May 2015 and May 2019.
“When Ambode took over, they had to demolish it to construct this one. They have left it like this before Ambode left office. The classes there before the demolishing had demarcations but everything was demolished to construct this one,” the stated.
The Chairman of the school’s Parents-Teachers’ Association (PTA), Mr Lawal Balogun told EduCeleb.com that the project was abandoned following some litigation between the contractor that handled it and the state government.
This claim could not be independently verified as at the time of filing this report.
Learning amidst COVID-19
The unconducive learning situation at the school precedes the COVID-19 pandemic and has become much obvious following the Lagos State government’s directive on staggered resumption of schools, according to a teacher, Mr Tunde Ajayi.
That is aside the hitherto confirmed insufficiency of classroom furniture in the school and its neighbours.
Only SS2 and SS3 students currently occupy the spaces in the school and are spread in minimum numbers of about 30 across designated classrooms.
The current SS3 is divided into four arms while SS2 is divided into five.
Prospective SS1 students estimated to be over 140 were yet to resume for the First Term 2020/2021 academic session as at the time of filing this report.
If they eventually do so in the weeks ahead, there is no sufficient space readily available to accommodate them.
Were all students to resume massively at once, the overcrowding of the spaces would have been much more pronounced and the social distancing expected at the period would be rather impracticable.
A former student of the school, Susan Ajibade revealed that in the 2017/2018 session, a student fell off the first floor of the building where there is no wall or railings. He fortunately survived with injuries after the fall.
At the time the incident occurred, students used to be allocated classes on upper floors of the uncompleted building.
“Since then, they had jam-packed everybody together on the ground floor. Sometimes students have suffocated under the heat.”
A butt of jokes
A student at one of the neighbouring schools told this reporter that they nicknamed Aguda Community Senior Secondary School “abandoned government property”.
A student, Elizabeth Abanikanda recalled being mocked by others who said that they were “sitting under the bridge”.
Government aware but failed to act
Multiple sources told EduCeleb.com that Lagos State government officials were “fully aware” of the situation at the school but no steps have been taken to complete the abandoned building project.
In August, Lagos State Commissioner for Education, Mrs Folasade Adefisayo reportedly visited the school on her tour during the gradual reopening of schools with the easing of the COVID-19 lockdown.
However, hopes that Adefisayo who has decades of experience managing internationally standard schools, would address the situation may have been dashed. Nothing appealing came out of her visit since then.
A former student of the school, Biodun Onimole recalled that the situation had been previously reported to the immediate past Tutor-General and Permanent Secretary (TGPS) of Education District IV, Mrs Lola Are-Adegbite.
She reportedly told the students that there was nothing her office could do about it. This claim could not be independently verified.
Past and present senior officials of the school shared details of several letters written to the state ministry of education towards addressing the challenge but all their efforts have been futile.
This was corroborated by the PTA chairman, Mr Balogun who disclosed that letters had been written to the ministry as well to address the plight of their children in the school with no response ever.
In his words, “We could see clearly that they were not ready to attend to our letters. Perhaps they stopped them from getting to the desk of the governor. I don’t want to believe that government would leave our children to continue learning in this kind of situation.”
Appeal to government
Staff, students and parents in the school have appealed to government to hear their cries.
Mr Balogun who spoke on behalf of parents called on the state government to help complete the abandoned building to make the learning environment conducive.
“When they complete that building, there would be more classes for both the junior and senior schools,” he added.
On his part, Mr Ajayi specifically sought the intervention of the Commissioner for Education.
“We trust that mama is a good mother and she would not continue abandoning her children like this. We wish that she would deploy her powers to address our situation.”
Miss Abanikanda who an SS2 student, expressed concerns over the violation of their rights to education.
In her words, “We have the right to education but government did not give us the full right.”
“We hope you would help our school bring this to the hearing of the Lagos State government.”
Lagos State Officials keep mum
Efforts to obtain an official reaction from the state officials were rebuffed with ambiguous promises.
The Education District IV TG/PS, Mrs Anike Adekanye was not available in her office when EduCeleb.com visited.
After hours of waiting, this reporter was able to meet the Director, Schools Administration, Mrs Olusola Somoye whose office is said to be directly in charge of the schools.
Somoye was not willing to go record on behalf the government. She maintained that she was not authorised to comment on the matter without the “permission of the state governor”.
After nearly one hour of rebuffing the subject and praising government’s efforts in other areas, she eventually promised that the situation would be addressed soon.
Note: The names of some persons were changed to protect them from victimisation from the Lagos State government.