PHOTOS: Inside 59-year-old Osun grammar school where students and reptiles compete for classrooms

Ebenezer Grammar School is located in Ijeda-Ijesha, a community in Oriade Local Government, Osun State. The school was established in 1963 by a native of the community identified as late J.M.O Fasheun. Owing to availability of facilities and necessary academic materials to make learning easy as at the year of establishment, it was ranked to be one of the best grammar schools in South-West, Nigeria in the 1960s to 1980s.

Gradually, the only state-owned secondary school in Ijeda-Ijesa began to lose relevancy and credibility in the early 2000s as a result of negligence, poor maintenance culture and non-challant attitude of its new owners. The school began its journey from greatness to obscurity and absolute mediocrity in early 2000s and it got worse from 2007 till this present moment.

Photo I: One of the abandoned buildings in Ebenezer Grammar School

In October 2013, the state government under the leadership of Rauf Aregbesola introduced unified school uniforms and schools reclassification policy leading to the merger of schools, abolition of gender and religious-based sentiments. This new policy also affected the school like every public school in the state. Ebenezer Grammar School changed to Ebenezer Middle and High School.

Five years after the new policy effected change of name and existing framework of the school, people especially parents and guardians expected that it would be a genuine move to rescue the school from obscurity but they were rudely disappointed. The policy only brought about change of name and existing framework but the expected resuscitation of facilities such as laboratories, library among others in the dying school did not come to pass. UBE-SUBEB under Aregbesola’s administration in 2014 constructed block of six classrooms while students continue to learn under such despicable conditions.

Photo II: Library of Ebenezer Grammar School in despicable condition

In September 2022, Oyetola led administration announced the complete reversal of educational policies introduced by his predecessor, Rauf Aregbesola. From the single school uniform to reclassification of the public school system to abolition of single-sex schools, everything, they were all reversed. Barely two years after the complete reversal of these policies, Osun public schools especially Ebenezer Grammar School is still gasping for breath of growth and development. The facilities of the school have gone from bad to worst. Teachers, students including guardians decry bitterly about the moribund state of the school.

Photo III: A classroom with broken roofs in one of the abandoned buildings

Four weeks ago, a video depicting the despicable condition of the school which captured a young student who made a section of the bush his ‘comfort station’ went viral. In this video, the young student (name withheld) told his interviewer that the school has no toilets and students usually enter the bush to ease themselves. The video showed the moribund state of the bushy school and it also captured old, worn-out facilities in the school.

Days after the video went viral, a state legislator representing Oriade State Constituency who doubles as a native of Ijeda-Ijesa, host community of the moribund school, Desmond Ojo alongside council chairman of the local government, Bunmi Obeisun visited the school. In a press statement released by his media office, they debunked details of the video and revealed that there are new buildings in the school. They acknowledged that there are some structures within the school that need immediate attention but they were not worse as captured in the video. They vowed that these structures would be attended to.

Three weeks after, WITHIN NIGERIA visited Ijeda-Ijesa, the host community of Ebenezer Grammar School. The host community is not far from Ijebu-Ijesa, the headquarter of Oriade Local Government and shares same ward with Iloko-Ijesa.

When this reporter alighted from commercial bike, a cement-made signpost which read “EBENEZER MIDDLE & HIGH SCHOOL IJEDA IJESA” erected infront of block of six classrooms graced his eyes. This reporter toured the entire school and observed that aside new block of 9 classrooms built by UBE-SUBEB in 2014, the school is truly an eyesore.

Photo IV: A cement-made signpost (Ebenezer Middle and High School)

This reporter also observed that some classrooms in the abandoned buildings alongside block of 9 classrooms built by UBE-SUBEB in 2014 are currently under use. WITHIN NIGERIA gathered that junior students from JSS 1 to JSS3 make use of new buildings while senior students make use of some classrooms in the abandoned buildings. As at the time of visitation, students were on holiday and school has not resumed its activities.

Photo V: A cross-section picture of the new building built by UBE-SUBEB in 2014

The 59 year-old school is characterised with broken ceilings, broken window louvres, abandoned and collapsed buildings. The school is truly in a terrible state. Classrooms in abandoned buildings are without doors or windows even tables and chairs but writings on blackboards show that they are under usage.

These classrooms are characterised with broken floors. One of the classrooms is without roof while those ones with roofs are leaking. The school environment is bushy. Most classrooms in abandoned buildings are surrounded by thick bushes.

This reporter saw a lone, old and derelict building surrounded by bushes. On top of this building characterised by broken ceilings lies an inscription “WELCOME TO THE SCHOOL LIBRARY. MAINTAIN ABSOLUTE QUIETNESS”.

Photo VI: One of the broken ceilings of school library

Beside the school library, there are abandoned buildings left to ruin. A resident of the community disclosed that students use abandoned buildings for lectures and sometimes serve as meeting places.

Speaking with WITHIN NIGERIA, a woman in her fifties and parent of a student identified as Mrs. Awodunmi complained bitterly about the moribund state of the school.

The woman who also graduated from the school disclosed that besides the classrooms built by UBE-SUBEB during Aregbesola’s tenure as governor, the school is in absolute ruin.

“The school has no hall or public toilet. Some classrooms mainly used by SS2 and SS3 have collapsed and they have not been rebuilt. The moribund state is caused by negligence of the government. The community is trying its possible best to fix somethings but they can not do it all”, the mother of four added.

Photo VII: One of the abandoned public toilets in the school

When the roofs of staff office got removed, old students of the school in conjunction with some platforms in the community fixed it. Infact, the only borehole in the school was constructed by sons and daughters of the community”, she added.

Another parent in his fourties simply identified as Remi told WITHIN NIGERIA also decried the despicable condition of the school and marvelled at the rate of decay which has received no or little attention from the government.

Photo VIII: One of the classrooms under use in the abandoned building

Remi who is also a native of Ijeda-Ijesa said the current state of the school is annoying and very ridiculous.

“I graduated from the school in 2001. Before I left the school, we were exposed to debates, quiz, technical tasks and others which helped us greatly. As at then, we had physics lab., chemistry lab., introductory tech. lab., among others. When I visited the school lately, I discovered that all these laboratories are gone. The school no longer have functioning laboratories or library. Honestly, the level of decay is alarming”, a rather sad Remi narrated.

The 45 year-old father of three while calling on prominent sons and daughters of the community to rescue the school from ruins asked government to rise to its responsibilities. Remi while decrying the level of decay stated that the community will gladly accept the government with open arms if they are ready to rebuild the dying school.

Photo IX: Another classroom currently use in one of the abandoned buildings

For Adeyinka from Oyiyo Compound, he expressed his concern over the moribund state of the school.

Adeyinka told WITHIN NIGERIA that as at year 2000, the school was the best in the entire Oriade Local Government. No public school has the kind of laboratories in its custody in Oriade Local Government but how it lost relevance and became an eye sore still baffles me till date.

He said, “The buildings that housed laboratory equipments and academic materials are nothing to write home about. Besides few outdated equipments loitering around, the buildings meant to house these equipments are in despicable conditions”.

Photo X: One of the collapsed building in the school vicinity

“The school library only exists in failing structures. The available books are outdated. In our days, teachers would force us to go and read inside the library. Only brave students who does not care about reptiles or attacks can read inside the library. The school hall is no longer in existence. Visible cracks everywhere. It is not possible for someone who schooled in Ijeda-Ijesa not to shed hot tears if he or she visits the school again. It is indeed an eyesore”.

Speaking with WITHIN NIGERIA, a student of Ebenezer Grammar School simply identified as Ayooluwa who was roaming around the streets when this reporter visited disclosed that the broken ceilings, broken window louvres and doors does not help situation at all.

Photo XI: One of the empty classrooms currently under use in the school

“Sometimes we learn under leakages with reptiles like lizards and snakes. As a result of the bushy environment, we kill snakes atleast twice in a week. Besides the UBE-SUBEB buildings, there is no classroom in our school that is not close to bush”.

“Most students have abandoned the school and moved to Ijebu-Ijesa Grammar School or private secondary schools in Ijeda or Ijebu-Ijesa. Students like me are still in this school because our parents does not have the capacity to take us to another school”.

“Shortage of teachers, absence of writing materials like chalk among others. I heard that government officials visited our school and vowed to fix our facilities. If they fulfill their promises, we would be happy and glad, a visibly sad Ayooluwa said.

WITHIN NIGERIA made several attempts to speak with the principal or any top official of the school but these attempts were not fruitful. It was discovered that the school is on break. This reporter could not reach the principal via telephone too.

The Commissioner for Education in Osun State, Hon. Folorunsho Bamisayemi in a telephone interview with WITHIN NIGERIA said the video of Ebenezer Grammar School that went viral was masterminded by the opposition.

Photo XII: Back view of an abandoned storey building in the school

“They convienently ignored all the good buildings there and focused on buildings that have been abandoned for over 20 years. Buildings that are totally in disuse. They wanted to create the impression that the school was in total ruins which was not true”.

Please come around, let me see you and discuss. If you want me to cooperate with you, we have to see. I do not like to speak with someone I do not know or have not seen. Till then, no comment”, he clearly stated.

When pressed further, Hon. Folorunsho Bamisayemi further stated that you need to understand the people behind the Ijeda Grammar School situation.

“It was clearly masterminded by the opposition party to create a non-existing impression. Go to other schools, you will see good buildings where students learn. They only showed abandoned schools nobody has used in the past 20 years and showcase the whole world as if that is the level of decay in the school”.

He said, ‘If an administration spent N16.5 billion on building of new schools for 8 years, it will not be a sudden flight for us. It will be a gradual process. We will begin to turnaround the dilapidated and deplorable state of the remaining schools. Aregbesola built new schools including 11 mega schools. Give me N8 billion today, I will renovate all dilapidated secondary schools in the state.

“But that was not done then and we are trying to correct the mistakes of the intervention. It is very clear that such move was a misplaced priority because I would not have advised to spend heavily on 11 schools when I can convienently renovate with N2 bn. Luckily for us, the federal government has recently established National Senior Secondary Education Commission (NSSEC). This commission is under UBE (Universal Basic Education) and we would have State Senior Secondary Education Boards too. This is an intervention from the Federal Government. If tapped, we will now begin to renovate the deplorable schools in the state’.

“We want to renovate all schools in Osun. We want to make them conducive for learning. We want to boost the security of schools through fencing and put more teachers in schools. Aside our interventions we had done within the little resources available. You know the state of Osun before. This was a state that could not pay full salaries for two years. We are trying to take care of all sectors within leaving any. We want to renovate schools without making workers to suffer. We are trying to equip school laboratories and still be able to pay salaries and pensions”, he added.

When asked if the government has plans to destroy these abandoned buildings and construct new ones to accomodate more students in the school, the education commissioner did not give a clear response.

He rather insisted that the abandoned buildings have been there for over 20 years.

“We need to prioritise. The state is not financially buoyant. We need to pay salaries and pensions. We also need to run the government efficiently too. We are building new schools in collaboration with UBE and now by God’s grace in collaboration with NSSEC. Go to Ijeda-Ijesha, you will see a recent intervention of six-block of classrooms. The project was done in 2014 during Aregbesola’s era and APC government”, he said.

“If a rural community like Ijeda-Ijesa could feel our touch as a government, it shows that we have not abandoned our schools. The video was masterminded by the opposition party and they were planning to misinform the public which has failed”, he concluded.