Of course, unless the authorities do the repairs, the pupils will be made to sit in their classrooms without roofs over their heads.
At the football field and other places in the school, children, for now, can be seen playing football and other round objects that came handy.
A particularly aggressive storm raged in the afternoon of Wednesday, April 23, picking off the roofs of 14 out of the 16 classes that make up Baptist Primary School, Dorowa Babuje, a rural community in Barkin-Ladi Local Government Area of Plateau State, about nine kilometres outside the council headquarters in Barkin-Ladi town.
“Fourteen classrooms have been badly affected by this storm,” headmistress of the school, Mrs Helen P. Bacheng said.
Mrs Bacheng who spoke while receiving Daily Trust reporters inside the only surviving block of two classrooms, added that “We have just this block where we sit that we can use now; the other blocks, containing 14 classrooms in all, cannot be managed.”
The result is a grim one for the innocent hundreds of pupils whose future the school exists to mould. “We will have no choice but to teach the pupils under the trees, and we will have no choice, either, than to send the pupils away when it rains,” the headmistress said.
This would imply that the third term which the pupils resumed Monday, April 28, would be a most disrupted one. At a wet season such as now, the rains are to be expected to fall frequently. Apart the times that the school would have to make the pupils go home upon sighting a rain-gathering cloud, similar hints of rain at dawn would be all that parents would require to ask their children to sit back at home.
A parent, Mr Bitty Botson, chairman of the school’s PTA, lamented recently, while on a visit to the school: “Of course, we want uninterrupted session at the school for our children, but this problem is beyond the financial strength of the Parents Teachers Association (PTA).”
The school, owned by the Plateau State Government, was established in 1944 by the Baptist Christian Mission. It is to the mission that the school now intends to go for a reprieve, although it would be only a small reprieve.
Mrs Bacheng gave this indication when she said: “Part of the roof of the new Sauke Baptist Church (located in the school premises) was also blown off by the storm, so the new church will not be much use to us, but we can use the old church nearby, a much smaller church building which could contain only two classes, but we are only considering the decision to approach the church management. We don’t even know if they will grant the use of the church building to us. If they do, then we will have assurance that pupils of two classes will have temporary roof over their heads.”
The urgency of the needed intervention lies not only in making all the 16 classrooms of the Baptist Primary School habitable again but also in the need to preserve what remains of the badly damaged school. The benches and tables at which the pupils sit to receive lessons now lie in water-lodged classrooms and under gaping roofs that admit rain water freely. Both the benches and tables are beginning to develop bended knees and tops and would most likely be fit only to be discarded in no distant time, unless intervention comes quickly.
Mr Stephen Bagins Chungyang, a former head teacher of the school who lives in the community, said the authorities could only avoid the destruction in future by using roofing materials that are of superior quality to the materials destroyed.
“The roofing must be done using completely different materials; these roofing sheets are not robust and require a complete change if the roofing is to withstand future tests of harsh rainstorms,” Chungyang said.
Apart from church buildings, private residential quarters and shops, some trees and other usually solid structures suffered consequences of varying degrees during the rainstorm. St James Primary School, another school some seven minutes’ walk from the Baptist Primary School, had a block of three classrooms now in tatters. The roof was substantially blown off and some of the walls have collapsed.
Headmaster of the school, Mr Thomas Gyang, indicated that the destruction caused the school by the rainstorm of April 23 was unimaginable.
“That new block right next to the damaged block is in almost the same bad shape as the damaged block that you can see,” Gyang said, pointing to an apparently unaffected block right besides the clearly ravaged older building.
Continuing, he said: “We cannot use that block until it is renovated because it will be risking the lives of the pupils to put them there. The next rainstorm could take off the roof and cause unpredictable damage to the pupils if we allow them in there.”
When you add the two classes of the faulty block to the three of the clearly inhabitable block of three classes, you get five classes that pupils of the St James Primary School can no longer use, leaving them with seven classes. To try to redress this, the headmaster said he might be pairing two classes in one, with attendant inconveniences.
He explained: “We are considering the option of putting primary one and two pupils in one class and primary three and four pupils in one class. The nursery class will have to remain on their own because they have too little in common with other classes and primary six will have to also be on their own because they are preparing for their final examination.”
He added that even for pupils in classes 1 to 4, pairing would not serve them right.
“We don’t like the idea of pairing them since they are not running the same lesson schemes. So, even if it is doable, it will be undesirable, but we have no better option for now.”
The Plateau State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) has shown interest in the repair of the destruction caused not only to schools but other structures by the rainstorm of last week.
Executive Secretary of the agency, Alhaji Alhassan Barde, said recently that part of his efforts had been to alert other relevant organs of government on what needed to be done over the schools, houses and other destroyed by the storm.
Barde said: “We were at the Barkin-Ladi LGA Secretariat only yesterday (Tuesday, April 29) to discuss with council officials on how to alleviate sufferings of people resulting from that incident, and to provide lasting solution. So, we are aware of the needs of the affected people and we are working out the necessary solutions.”