Pupils, teachers on receiving end as vandals strip Uyo School bare


Cheerful and innocent, they file out daily to their school full of determination to learn, meet, and, of course, play with their friends. 
But the sight of them sitting on the bare floor to learn evokes a multitude of emotions from a first-time visitor to the school. No thanks to vandals that have stripped their school bare, thereby subjecting the innocent pupils to learning in inclement conditions, and their teachers to the same amount of misery. 

At a time when government resources continue to thin owing to competing needs, many are still wondering how a school that was almost a “model” by public primary school standard, ended up being so vandalised that it is no longer fit for purpose. 
Today, pupils of Government Primary School, Aka Offot, Obio Imo Street, in Uyo Local Council of Akwa Ibom State, and their teachers are the ones bearing the brunt of the criminals, despite the institution being located within a residential area.

One of the vandalised classroom blocks

Indeed, things were going on well for the school before the Coronavirus (COVID-19)-induced lockdown. But by the time the lockdown was called off, what remained of the school baffled many. 
While desks, chairs, and tables provided for pupils and teachers, as well as roofing sheets, were all in place before the lockdown, they were almost gone by the time academic activities eventually resumed. 
In drawing attention to the calamity that has befallen the school situated in his domain, the Village Head of Aka Offot, Ete Idung Francis Udo, described the vandalism and brazen thievery as alarming.
He said that two suspects caught in the act were now cooling down in prison custody, while one was discovered dead in the school ceiling after being suffocated as he tried to escape.
The traditional father expressed confidence that even though some of the suspects escaped by scaling the school’s fence, the long arms of the law would one day catch up with all of them.
“The stealing and wanton destruction of school property at Government Primary School, Aka Offot in Obio Imo is very pathetic and has continued for a long time now, despite government intervention to serve the situation. Those responsible will be apprehended and made to face the wrath of the law.
“I appeal to the relevant authorities to come to our assistance. We have tried our best. Two of the criminals have been jailed as a result of the vandalism, while one died as he tried to escape,” he said.
Udo called on the state government to, as matter of urgency, erect a perimeter fence around the school to reduce the incidence, if not eradicate future occurrences.
Painting a picture of what was obtained in the school before the vandalism, a female official who craved anonymity said the invasion started in 2020 during the lockdown, and in the process, the school was rid of educational furniture and roofing sheets.
“This room was full of windows and doors when we vacated around 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown. But before we resumed, the windows, doors, and roof had been vandalized,” she began, adding, “since then, they continue to cut the roofing sheets when we close on Fridays. During weekends, they cut the roofing sheets. The headmistress had to report the incident to the Ministry of Education with pictures. The headmistress’ office was not spared; they climbed through the ceiling and packed all desks; that is why you see pupils sitting on the floor.” 
She continued: “When we reported to the ministry, the commissioner for education and the permanent secretary visited the school and promised to intervene… Last year, during the rainy season, the pupils sat on the wet floor to write their examinations. There were no desks for them, as all had been carted away by hoodlums.  
“Now, we thank God that the inter-ministerial government intervention has come to renovate one of the blocks. The village head of Aka Offot and the community are aware of the vandalism,” she said. 
She appealed to the state government to come to the school’s aid, by taking steps that would keep the thieves at bay.
For a human rights lawyer, Mr. Clifford Thomas, whose office is located on the same street as the school, the state government must be blamed for failing to provide adequate security for public schools that are funded by taxpayers’ money.
According to him: “Primary schools have been operating independently, and the administrators/managements of these schools are independent of each other. Since there is no money for the administrators to relate well with their communities, anything that is happening to these schools is a result of negligence.
“In this circumstance, the headteacher and the community leader should be held responsible for negligence; for failing to take care of government property in their domain.”
He advised communities representatives on the school’s management board to should liaise with security agencies to ensure that those that vandalised the school are arrested and handed over to law enforcement agencies, stressing that such would act as a deterrent to others with such ill intentions.  
Another member of the community, who declined his name being put in print, reasoned “a thief cannot operate within a community without somebody from the area leading the way. Therefore, I believe that youths from the community must have been masterminding the removal of the zinc, school desks, and windows.
“I repeat, thieves cannot operate in any environment without the connivance of the community, or village people because these are the people that know the nooks and crannies of the area, as well as the escape routes. Hence I cannot rule out the involvement of our youths in the damage done to this school.”
Commenting on the development, the Commissioner for Education, Mrs. Idongesit Etiebet, said that the ministry would direct the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) to intervene and address the pupils’ plight. 

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