Located near Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, Gbaranowei Grammar School, Okolobiri was founded in 1973. The school is well known to have produced technocrats, top politicians, federal ministers including Bayelsa State commissioner for Information, Orientation and Strategy, Ayibaina Duba, and a former Rivers State governor who is currently the minister of Transportation Rotimi Amaechi under President Muhammadu Buhari administration.
During a visit to the school, LEADERSHIP Weekend observed that the school environment had been taken over by weed, while its structures are weakened and cracked without basic facilities for learning, badly deteriorated without ceilings, seats, doors, and windows.
It is more pathetic for the secondary school teachers and students during the rainy season. The school is currently wallowing in its worst form due to leaky roof, dilapidating infrastructure, lack of instructional materials, learning facilities, lack of chairs, desks, and overcrowded classrooms.
At the moment, the students sit on the floor for lectures and also exams. The school with a boarding school facility for both boys and girls has deteriorated to two dilapidated classroom blocks without ceilings, seats, doors, and windows.
When LEADERSHIP Weekend observed that the walkway to the classroom was in bad condition due to erosion, adding that over 100 students were writing their examinations with over 20 students sitting on the floor.
LEADERSHIP Weekend also gathered that the challenge of lack of seats started in 2012 due to flooding. However, a few chairs and tables found in the school’s classrooms were donated by the Parents Teachers Association (PTA).
In SSS 2, for instance, there were just 11 seats in the classroom that could contain three students each in a row. The school has a total student population of over 2,000.
The staff room was no better with not more than eight tables and chairs, most of the teachers were seen standing while carrying out their daily tasks due to insufficient furniture.
NUT decries poor condition of public schools in Bayelsa
Reacting to the development, the state chairman, Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) Pastor Kalaama Tonpre, decried the deplorable poor condition of most public schools in the state.
He, however, said only a few, out of the schools have a decent look and conducive learning environment.
On the current state of the school infrastructure and facilities, the chairman said structures in the school were dilapidated and yearning for renovation and additional classrooms.
He alleged that the Bayelsa State Government always politicised the issue of education, hence meaningful progress could not be achieved in the sector.
Tonpre noted that there is an acute shortage of teachers in the state, adding that there are some schools that have only one teacher that teaches primary one to six.
According to him, “If you travel to some of our remote villages, you will see that the situation is far worse than what you have seen in the school.
‘’There is a community where a generator house serves as a school building. Earlier, the government declared a state of emergency in the education sector but in the end, the efforts were haphazard and did not improve the standard of education in the state.”
He lamented that primary education in the state is in a mess. “Currently, primary education is in a sorry state. I am very sorry to say that Bayelsa State politicised the issue of education. The truth is bitter but must be told.
He continued: ‘’There is an acute shortage of teachers, we have only few teachers, and some schools have only one teacher taking from primary one to six. In some schools, it is only the headteacher and headmistress that teaches. This is the funny situation we find ourselves in Bayelsa State. That critical sector (education) is totally neglected.”
All hands on deck to address challenges – commissioner
Reacting to the development, the commissioner for Information, Orientation and Strategy, Ayibaina Duba said the government is aware of the situation, and all hands are on deck to address it.
Duba disclosed that the Ministry of Education had carried out an assessment visit to evaluate and address the challenges facing public schools in the state.
He said the recorded challenges include lack of furniture, teachers, and the poor state of infrastructure.
As a panacea to tackle the menace, he said the state government had purchased some desks. He, however, expressed shock that Gbaranowei Grammar School did not get any.
LEADERSHIP Weekend, however, gathered that successive administrations in the state have promised to rebuild new schools or renovate existing ones without fulfilling the promises.
It would be recalled that the Bayelsa State Government under the administration of former Governor Seriake Dickson declared a state of emergency in the education sector. They also claimed to have spent about N6 billion to renovate, upgrade and reconstruct schools’ facilities in the state as part of plans to revitalize the education sector. Sadly, the agony of Gbaranowei Grammar School and others continued.
The State commissioner for Education, Mr Gentle Emelah, said the government is aware of the challenges confronting the education sector in the state and efforts are ongoing to address them. He further said the problems in the sector cannot be fixed in a day.
On infrastructure decay, he asserted: “These are the things we are addressing. You are aware that contracts have been awarded for the construction of new schools and renovation of existing schools. It is an ongoing process, and it is not something that can be done just in one day, we are aware, and we are working on it.”
Parents lament deplorable condition for learning
Parents and teachers have reacted to the deplorable and poor state facilities at the Gbaranowei Grammar School, Okolobiri, Bayelsa State.
They urged the state government to come to the school’s aid by overhauling its infrastructures to make it conducive for learning.
Some of the parents, who spoke with LEADERSHIP Weekend, said the school structures are dilapidated, and its classrooms are already leaking and flooded when it rained.
A parent, Mathew Ake decried the appalling condition of the school, saying it is just too alarming especially now that students are writing exams.
Speaking on the dilapidated condition of the school facilities, Mathew said the school, like many others in the state, has become a shadow of itself and even posed a big threat to the lives of students and teachers.
According to him, “It is so sad that in this 21st century, the education sector in Nigeria will still be at this stage. The deplorable condition of the school is just too alarming, especially now that students are writing exams. Most parents allow their children to attend this school due to a lack of finance.
‘’The high school, like many others, has become a shadow of itself and even posed a big threat to the lives of students and teachers.’’
Meanwhile, a teacher in the school, who spoke to LEADERSHIP Weekend on the condition of anonymity, told our correspondent that they had written several letters to call the attention of the Ministry of Education in the state to the plight of students and the condition of the school.