By Frank Tietie
Over the years, two school associations, *Government College Ughelli Old Boys’ Association* (GCUOBA) and *Unity School Agbarho Old Students’ Association* (USAOSA) have unwittingly encouraged the Delta State Government to be profligate and irresponsible in its duty to maintain the original world class standards associated with the two secondary schools viz: Government College Ughelli and Unity School Agbarho.
This is to underscore the corruption and neglect in the management of public schools in Delta State (formerly of Bendel State) which at a time, had some of the best public school standards in the whole of Africa.
In the wake of the social media buzz over Success, the little Sapele girl who was chased out a dilapidated state owned primary school despite her preference to be flogged as punishment for her parents’ failure to pay the levy imposed by her and, actually prefers to be flogged continually so that she can continue attending classes, there is now a floodgate of frustrations over the diabolical neglect of public primary and secondary schools in Delta State.
In a period of about of 2 years, GCUOBA spent the sum of over Five (500) Hundred Million Naira to renovate and equip Government College Ughelli, a school said to be owned by the Delta State Government.
Meanwhile, to the best of my knowledge, members of GCUOBA have not, to date, asked how much the said owner of the school has expended on it, apart from teachers’ salaries in those two years.
Under a regime of freedom of information and transparency in governance, the figures of the state expenditure on Government College Ughelli should be readily made available to anyone in the public domain. Therefore, I challenge GCUOBA to call for those figures or I shall personally demand them as of right simply as a citizen of Nigeria.
GCUOBA aims to increase its expenditure on Government College Ughelli in the coming years, a gesture which it considers as complimentary to the efforts of government in the quest to provide quality education for the people. Nothing in my humble consideration can be more encouraging to the Delta State Government to be more profligate with its resources meant for the development of the school and maintenance of its original standards.
GCUOBA has continued to encourage the Delta State Government to be irresponsible whereas as an association of stakeholders in the school, it should have demanded proper statutory (budgetary) funding and professional management of the school to reflect its founding objectives.
GCUOBA by its interests and the level of money it has expended on the school not only qualifies it as a co-owner of the school but deservingly makes it a better owner.
Government College Ughelli has produced many successful and powerful individuals in the Nigerian society like Engr. J.J Akpieyi, Prof. Omatete, Prof. V.P. Diejomaoh, Mac Emakpore, Akpomudje, SAN, Alfred Okoigun, John Onwah, Ambassador Egbuson, including Prof. Itse Sagay, Festus Keyamo, SAN and many more just to name a very few.
These worthy men as mentioned above can continue their charitable endeavours towards the development and maintenance of the school but where such encourage the state government to be less responsible in the discharge of its primary responsibility of provinding quality education then there must be an urgent need to review such charitable interventions.
Unity School Agbarho (USA), unlike Government College Ughelli (GCU), is a relatively young school founded in 1974, more than 30 years after the commencement of GCU.
The current President of Unity School Agbarho Old Students’ Association (USAOSA) is Charles Monwuba, an Igbo man from Enugu State. He, including Arc. Jerry Nweke of blessed memory, Don Pedro Obaseki and many others especially from Edo State reflect the Midwestern Region’s original intention of establishing a school that would unify the peoples which make up and reside in the area known today as Edo and Delta States.
Unity School Agbarho (USA) was modelled after the concept of Federal Government Colleges which the Nigerian federal government had developed to heal the psychological wounds of the civil war and help breed a new set of young Nigerians who would think in terms of national integration.
Unity School Agbarho was given top priority by then Bendel State government as it boasted of an unusually large expanse of land of more than 6 kilometres in length by my rough estimation. There were state -of -the art class rooms, hostels and staff quarters when the school started. Also, it had some of the most qualified persons both as teachers and child administrators.
In then Bendel State, USA was every well meaning parent’s dream to have his or her child given admission between 1974 and 1979.
Today, USA is not only a shadow of itself but the decrepit condition of the classrooms and hostels that once had their windows glistening both in the day and night, calls for the prosecution of all the former and present commissioners of education in Delta State who have superintended over such a criminal neglect of the school.
When Mr Monwuba, the USAOSA President began to both assuage and barrage the consciences of the members of the association to donate money for the rehabilitation of the school, he was eloquently reminded by a member, Mr Wole Abu, that the dacedence of infrastructure in the school and the magnitude of financial resources required to fix them are not what an association like USAOSA should contemplate without the application of a sense of business and management responsibility. I share Mr Abu’s views wholesomely on the matter, especially on the fact that whatever resources the association has been putting into the school, pales into insignificance compared to the level of degradation.
Some time ago the signature gate of USA collapsed to the sadness of everyone who had attended the school. Again, the leadership began another round of fund raising campaign. Only Sammy Debekeme, to the best of my restricted knowledge has managed to give anything of significance which cannot even lay the type of foundation of the original gate.
One is not unmindful of the past sacrifices of Emmanuel Abulu, Daniel Agbofode, Joseph Otejere and many others in the attempt to restore Unity School Agbarho to its former glory but where Charles Monwuba, an Igbo man from faraway Enugu State whose children and grand children may never attend the school yet he is leading funding raising campaigns for the rehabilitation of the school, one expects that he like many others should question his altruism by first asking what the so called owner of the school, the Delta State government has contributed to the restoration of the school.
Government College Ughelli is in Ughelli town. Unity School Agbarho is in the sleepy town of Agbarho near Warri. Both schools are predominantly attended by indigenes of both towns. Have GCUOBA and USAOSA asked what the town development unions of those places done for the schools? What is often heard are cases of land grabbing by indigenes who have seized significant portions of land belonging to the schools.
The question therefore, is that, is it for want of avenues of altruism that the members of these two school associations will continue to expend financial resources on the schools without demanding responsible accountability from their government owner? Is it reasonable to expend such huge resources as GCUOBA has done and not seek control of the school as a co-owner?
Alturism or charitable work itself must be a responsible act. It must seek to achieve its noble aims which in this case is provision of quality education for the young people in those areas.
It amounts to a conspiracy with an irresponsible government by continuing to contribute money for the development of the schools without demanding responsibility and accountability for statutory allocations meant for the development of the schools in the last ten years.
Emerging facts have shown that the Delta State government has utterly failed in the management of public primary and secondary schools in Delta State. Whereas, GCUOBA has proven that with a dedicated board of governors, it is more than capable of maintaining the original standards of Government College Ughelli, including the payment of the school teachers. Nothing therefore, should stop the association from applying to take over the ownership of the school. The same may apply to Unity School Agbarho.
The application to take over the schools by the school associations has both moral and legal foundations which can only be tested when the take-over processes are initiated. Until such an intention is made clear by GCUOBA and USAOSA, they will be merely ameliorating the irresponsibility of the Delta State government by their continued financial contributions to the schools.
Considering huge oil revenues in contrast with the general state of dilapidation of public schools in Delta State, there is no doubt that some people who have operated governance and superintended public schools administration in the state should presumably be in jail by now for corruption, maladministration and criminal negligence.
▪ Tietie, a lawyer & former student at Unity School Agbarho and Government College Ughelli, writes from Abuja