5 January 2013

Nigeria: North's First Primary School Suffers Neglect

Lokoja — Bishiop Crowther LGA Primary School which is the first in Northern Nigeria, was established in 1865 by the Anglican missionary in Lokoja. Weekly Trust reports on the current state of what ordinarily should have been a historical edifice.

Kogi State capital, Lokoja, no doubt was the headquarters of the north during the colonial era as evident in the structures abound in the state. The first primary school in the northern Nigeria, the Bishop Crowther LGA Primary School, Lokoja is one of such colonial structures in the state. Like the others, this school has been abandoned and almost becoming nonexistent.

Weekly Trust learnt that since the school was established by the missionaries, it has never had any new structure built either by individuals, or any tier of government.

The same dilapidated structure left behind by the missionaries are still the same in use in the school after about ten decades, it was also learnt.

The school located around the Kabawa area in Lokoja has three blocks of about seven to eight classrooms with about 400 pupils. Of the two blocks built by missionaries, only one is still standing.

Some of the classrooms have no windows while the zincs are pulling off, creating unfavourable conditions for learning especially during raining and harmattan seasons.

The school is still located in the same premises with the Anglican Church of Lokoja.

The Headmistress of the school would not give her name, just as she also refused to speak; " I am a civil servant hence I cannot talk to you on any issue concerning the school so you have to go to the local government secretariat to meet with the Education Secretary

Weekly Trust learnt that several pleas to the government to come to the aid of the school had failed, a source said, adding that "the school has written to the council severally on the state of the school, but help was not forthcoming. During former Governor Ibrahim Idris' era, education officers had visited the school severally, but they never come back and we never hear from them," he said.

He said the only structures in the school are still the ones put up by the missionaries, adding that all that they have been receiving in the past was empty promises, adding that since the present Liaison officers took over the affair of the local government, no officials of the council has visited the school to see the state of things, adding that "we are just at the mercy of God."

One of the old boys of the school, Kabiru Yusuf, condemned the state of the school. He said the school being the first in the north should have been kept as monument but only one of the two blocks built by the missionaries is still standing as the Anglican Church housing demolish one when they want to develop their land.

He advised the government to negotiate with the church so that the remaining one could be kept as a monument.

Meanwhile, the Lokoja Local Government Education Secretary said the school was not abandoned by the government as efforts are on to improve on the infrastructures in the school.

According to him, sometime in the late 90s, the government, some banks and SUBEB wanted to construct some buildings there, but the then Bishop of the Anglican Dioceses of Lokoja, Bishop George Bako drove the people away.

"There are supposed to be two schools there, but as at the time the Bishop drove people away, he ordered the demolition of one of the structures. The demolition was done at night and it almost caused religious uprising in the area. It is not that it was completely abandoned," he said.

He said the new Anglican Bishop, Bishop Emmanuel Egbunu is cooperating with the government and has given the go ahead to construct new structures in the school, adding that arrangement to give the school a face lift has reached advance stage .

"We have informed the State Universal Basic Education Board that will award the contractor for the construction of blocks of class rooms. It is not that we are not doing anything about it. Even the local government has asked us to give names of some schools that need repairs, the school was among the ones listed for repair. If not for the disagreement, the school would not have been in this state. It is the first school in the north, so we are serious about it," he said.

He said "on our own we have agreed to do some minor repairs with the little resources at our disposal and as soon as we have fund, the school would be give facelift."

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