Despite being among the three existing secondary schools in Yenagoa as at 1996 when Bayelsa State was created, Gbaranowei Grammar School Okolobiri has continued to be a shadow of itself.
The school, which was among one of the best and popular post primary institutions in Old River State, is now left without even school desks for students to receive lessons, not to talk of other learning facilities.
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When Daily Trust visited the once popular secondary school, it was observed that for many years, the state government has not provided the school with common desks for students to sit on, just as staff are left hanging around without functional staff rooms.
Established in 1973 by the Old Rivers State government as Government Grammar School Okolobiri, it was later changed to Gbarainnwei Grammar School upon the creation of Bayelsa State in 1996.
The school has produced prominent Nigerians from all walks of life. The current Minister of Transportation and former Governor of Rivers State, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, graduated from the school in 1982. Also, the present Commissioner for Information and Strategy in Bayelsa State, Ayibaina Duba, is a product of the school.
Several prominent personalities, especially from Rivers, Bayelsa and neighbouring Delta State also passed through the citadel.
Daily Trust learnt that since the creation of Bayelsa State, the state government has not showed interest in upgrading facilities in the school.
Some staff told our correspondent that parents have contributed so far through the Parent Teachers Association (PTA) for the school to exist up till date.
When Daily Trust visited the school, students writing their promotional examination were seen being compacted in one classroom due to lack of desks.
Most of them were sitting on the bare floor to write an examination, while the few plastic chairs, which were not up to 100, were the ones donated by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) since 2016.
The teachers informed Daily Trust that the last time the school had government intervention was during the immediate past governor’s first tenure in office, when he selected the school as one of the model schools in the state, and some new structures were built, while few dilapidated ones were rehabilitated.
Today, the condition of the school is bad, with dilapidated classroom blocks without ceilings, seats, doors and windows.
The school currently has a student population of over 2,000, who receive lessons on bare floor. In SSS2B classroom, there were just 11 seats that could contain three students each for 79 science students and 35 arts students.
The staff room is no better with not more than eight tables and chairs with majority of the teachers having to stand due to the same challenge of lack of school furniture.
Several schools in the state are also suffering from infrastructural decay and lack of learning facilities.
Bayelsa State government under Governor Douye Diri budgeted a total of N27 billion for education during the 2020 and 2021 fiscal years.
Reacting to the development, the Commissioner for Information, Orientation and Strategy, Ayibaina Duba, who is an old student of the school, said the government was aware of the situation and something was being done to address the situation.
He said: “What I’m hearing is shocking to me because I have not been there for a long time, so, I would not know the present state of the place. Several years ago, when I was a student, there was a walkway and good learning facilities. The school was properly fenced, and you walk straight to the dinning from the gate. On both sides of that walkway, you have the boys and girls’ hostels; it’s like a quadrangle of four hostels each, with the teachers’ quarters. The school was properly built, so I’m surprised to hear that there are buildings that are unoccupied.
“But, when the present government came in 2020, despite all that happened, one of the first things the Ministry of Education did was to do NEEDS assessment. They moved round all the schools in this state, both primary and secondary schools, and came up with all the issues that the schools had. Yes, we did not declare an emergency on education, but these things you are saying are not strange to us because the ministry of education had gone round the state to take stock of everything. Although, I’m not in charge of the ministry of education, but I know the ministry is working on the whole range of things, both infrastructures and others.
“I think recently chairs were bought for certain schools. If the Government Secondary School Okolobiri that I attended is in that sorry state, I’m very sure the government will do something about it.”
Although the Commissioner for Education, Dr Gentle Emelah, declined comment on the issue of Gbarainowei Grammar School Okolobiri, but in January during an interview with newsmen, the commissioner confirmed that the state government was aware of the problem confronting public schools in the state and is working to resolve them.
He disclosed then that the government has awarded contracts for schools’ rehabilitation across the state.