By Adesola Ikulajolu
On a bright Friday afternoon, a visit to Molutehin, Ilowo, Ogungbeje and other neighbouring river bank communities in the Ilaje area of Ondo State, known also as oil-producing communities, house several equipment owned by oil companies for their oil exploration.
Despite the presence of the oil companies and their activities in these communities, they continue to lack quality education and proper infrastructure. Crumbling infrastructure and neglect are the recurring themes.
Molutehin community college is surrounded by bushes and broken wooden bridges. Without the help of a signboard and the voice of students, one would have mistaken the school building for a poultry centre.
“Education is not as important as riches”, an inscription boldly written on the wall at the staff room of Molutehin Comprehensive College screams at any one that walks by, a far cry from the bushy paths, broken wooden fixtures that litters the classrooms and passageways. This reporter almost stepped on a nail while navigating through the school building.
Molutehin Comprehensive College was established in 1980 and it is the only secondary school that serves other neighbouring communities have to walk lengthy pushy paths before they can get into their school or classrooms. For parents and guardians who prefer their wards to attend schools in neighbouring villages they will have to travel several metres by water on canoes.
Reverend Pajesi, an elder in Molutehin and the Deputy Community Leader, recounted the poor conditions of the only comprehensive college and primary school in the community despite being an oil-producing community. He explained how the community has been managing the school in poor condition and dealing with insufficient teachers, stating that the community took it upon itself to pay teachers since help was not coming from the government nor the oil companies to keep the teachers committed to teaching the students.
This reporter visited the science laboratory halls of the school and both the physical and internal structures were all in a bad condition coupled with inadequate equipment. Some of the laboratories had bad roofing which harboured insects and reptiles.
One of the teachers who volunteered to take the reporter round the laboratories said the students cannot make use of the facilities because it will endanger their lives and there is no equipment to carry out any scientific experiments.
“Since there are no equipment in the laboratories, we put them under lock till help will come to salvage the situation,” the teacher said.
Pajesi stated that the original structure of the Molutehin Comprehensive College has been abandoned by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) for several years. The abandoned school building is behind the current structure that houses the college, but it is covered with bush.The residents of the community said that the building has been abandoned for several years and it was initiated by NDDC.
“At Molutehin Comprehensive College, the classrooms are in poor condition with leaking and damaged roofs, insufficient staff and inadequate learning materials for students where most of the classes were abandoned with neither teaching board nor chairs. There is primary and secondary school but if you get there you will feel sorry for them. Everything is destroyed, including the crane (wooden bridge) and there is no repair. We have no teachers; even the corps members posted to this community did not come, most of them ran away,” reverend Pajesi lamented.
“The corps members are suffering, with no water and other basic amenities, not even teaching equipment. They promised us scholarships but nothing is coming forth. Until our children graduate before they even manage to pay one or two,” He added.
For Prince Adekanmi Eyinbo, an elder in the community, he lamented the shortage of teachers.He said “the community has to contribute to hire the services of teachers, either qualified or not, just to teach the students and they pay them at the end of every month.”Prince Adekanmi who is also the community secretary lamented how oil spillage has also tampered with the movement of children to and fro school.…Teachers, Parents In PainOgungbeje community is also located at the riverbank of the Ilaje area where fishing is their main occupation. WITHIN NIGERIA observed a more dilapidated structure of their only community primary school.
The staff quarter housing teachers in the Molutehin/Ogunbeje community. Credit: Adesola Ikulajolu
Mr. Ayenuro Kehinde, a teacher at the community primary school in Ogungbeje, while lamenting on how he had been coping with the bad situation of the school, painted a gruesome picture of children falling sick without First Aid treatment for them.
Mr. Ayenuro travels via water everyday from Igbokoda, one of the headquarters in ilaje community, complained bitterly: “We take them to the Health Center which is a mile away from here. The community primary school has no library, no staff room and no toilets.” Another major challenge according to him was that the school has no access to water except they scoop from the river flowing underneath their wooden bridge.
At Ilowo, a neighbouring community, the students travel to nearby communities on canoe because there is no government school except a private school, owned and managed by the First Baptist Church located close to the sea. When the reporter visited the school, the students were no longer in the premises but it was discovered that different grade classes were merged to share a single space. Primary 3, 4 and 5 receive lesson in the same class.
Mr. Owopebijo Omonuwa, the chairman of the Parents Teachers Association (PTA) of the community primary school in Ogungbeje Community lamented the poor condition of their only primary school with bad structure and insufficient teachers, despite being the host community of oil activities by oil multinational companies. The poor primary school which is located in Odu-Oyinbo is shared by four other communities.
Despite the poor condition, the community manages the school while some parents transport their children to another community.
“We have a government school and four communities are sharing that school. Even when this crane (he points to the wooden bridge) usually wound our children, we kept managing. We have no teachers.” a parent laments.
“Our only school here was destroyed during the oil spillage crisis. Some people were taking their children to school at Igbokoda, Ayetoro and other neighbouring communities. We went to the Education board at Igbokoda but they did not attend to us. It was one of our sons here that we called to help build the school. No attention has been given to the school,” Mr.Owopebijo added.
This reporter visited the community primary school located in the corner of the community surrounded by flowing water that has invaded Ogungbeje. The primary school built with woods has four classrooms, with an abandoned uncompleted classroom extension with two teachers handling the pupils.
This reporter also visited some of the oil producing neighbouring communities: Awoye, Mese, Odofado, Obenla, Ilepete, Oju-Imole, Odu-Oretan and the situation was the same running themes: poor structures and suffering experienced by staff of these schools and students alike in addition to the challenges experienced daily by parents.
Out of School Children
With the poor education in Ilaje communities, it contributes to the growing number of out-of-school children. According to UNICEF, one in every five of the world’s out-of-school children is in Nigeria. Even though primary education is compulsory, over 10.5 million of the country’s children aged 5-14 years are not in school. In the 2020 National Budget of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, a sum of N691.07 billion was allocated to the Federal Ministry of Education. That constitutes about 6.7% allocation for Education out of the N10.33 trillion total budget estimate.
In previous years, N620.5 Billion which was 7.05% of the total budget estimate was allocated for Education in 2019; another N605.8Billion which was 7.04% of the total budget estimate was allocated for Education in 2018 while Education budget in 2017 got N550 Billion which was a 7.4% of the total estimate.
Despite the regular budget for Education, several communities in Ilaje Local Government are without schools. These communities are surrounded with water and it will cost the residents to transport their children to another community before they would access education.
Similarly, communities like Mese, Gbagira and Odofado in Ilaje Local Government of Ondo State are also without schools. The children are transported in a boat that serves as “school bus” to and from the neighbouring community where they have access to primary school Education. Those with schools are left to loiter about, jaywalk, or exploited.
Aside the daily danger of transporting the children by improvised canoes through the rivers to faraway schools, the reality that these communities are the location from where several oil companies including Chevron, Exxon Mobil and others drill oil is sad.
It is also clear that the Ondo State government is not paying attention to these communities. Some of the mentioned areas are close to Obenla, the hometown of the Deputy Governor of Ondo State, Hon. Lucky Aiyedatiwa, where children were observed roaming the seashore when they should have been in school. Some of the children were seen trying to hunt for fish while some hawked around the communities on water on canoes with a few others trekking to other communities on the wooden bridge.
Michael Abdullahi, an education development practitioner faulted the poor access to education and learning facilities noting that education is critical to human welfare and economic change. He emphasised that “the best way to equip children for the future is to give them strong foundational and fundamental skills that will allow them to learn throughout their careers and their lives.”
Abdullahi further added that education in itself, is first, a fundamental human right which has greatly been neglected for several decades by relevant stakeholders across all boards. While advising the government on the need to prioritize education, called on the state government to build partnerships with NGOs to provide affordable childcare training to mothers in urban slums to contribute to the economic stability of the household and for the better development of children who would become the leaders of tomorrow.
“Communities should be equipped and empowered with best global practices to aid teachers in delivering quality education and learning should be highly encouraged in our schools so as to allow students to explore and engage their minds in creative ways to become problem solvers.” he added.
For a local government area like Ilaje, with communities rich in crude oil that contributes to the sovereign wealth fund of Nigeria, to lack basic education or the safety of lives of its children and citizens, is a travesty.