The Holy Trinity Primary School located in the premises of Anglican Church in Lokoja, Kogi State, was the first primary school established in the northern part of Nigeria.
The 149-year-old school was founded in 1865 by the colonial masters with a motive to give the indigenes of the area access to early education – First primary school in Northern Nigeria, Bishop Crowther Holy Trinity School, Lokoja.
The oldest primary school in the region which should serve as a historical monument has however been neglected by successive governments at federal, state and local levels, Daily Trust learnt.
The school was left with dilapidated structure; few chairs and desks and with virtually no modern teaching and learning facilities.
The classrooms in the school, our reporter observed, were overcrowded with a 20-30 capacity classroom accommodating between 50 and 60 pupils.
Daily Trust also observed that even the two additional classroom blocks recently built by Lokoja local government after the taking over of the school are in bad shape. The ceilings of the classes have fallen off and the floors scooped out.
The school had four classroom blocks at present, including the only existing classroom constructed by the colonial administration, which is currently serving as a classroom. The four classroom blocks are completely dilapidated.
Apart from a new signboard located beside the colonial block with the inscription ‘Holy Trinity Primary School, the oldest primary school in Northern Nigeria built in 1865’ boldly written on it nothing looks fresh in the 149-year-old school.
A source in the school, who spoke to our reporter in confidence, said the school has been abandoned for too long without proper maintenance.
He said some of the colonial classroom blocks in the school were demolished by the leaders of the Anglican Church following a land ownership dispute which, he said, also contributed to the decay in the school.
He said the leaders of the church wanted the school to be relocated out of its premises after an attempt to convert it into missionary centre failed. He said it was in the course of the disagreement that some of the colonial structures were demolished.
“There are over 500 students in the school but because of inadequate classes, the school is choked up. Ideally, 20 students are supposed to be accommodated in a classroom and at most 30 but now we have between 50 and 60 pupils in a classroom,” the source said.
He said the school has written several letters to the authorities concerned about the deplorable condition but that nothing has been done.
He said officials from the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) and the Lokoja local government have visited the school several times but without positive outcome.
“We are hoping that government will come to our rescue by rehabilitating the school. Most of the repair works done in the school were executed from the little funds generated through the Parent Teachers Association (PTA). We are calling on the authorities to please come to the aid of the school so that our children can acquire basic education under a conducive environment, “the source pleaded.
Also, an old boy of the school, Kabiru Yusuf, said the school gave the people of Lokoja early contact with western education and as such it should not be neglected.
“The state of the school is very appalling. The structures ought to have been preserved if not for the purpose of teaching at least for the importance of the school but unfortunately the building is almost gone. Originally, we had four colonial buildings in the school, but now only one is existing while the rest have been destroyed,” he lamented.
Yusuf however advised the government and the tourism board to rehabilitate the school and preserve it so that it can serve as a historical relic and tourist attraction.
“The structures are not good for modern day education because my great grandfather attended the school, my grandfather went there, and my father and I also went there. So you can imagine what the condition of the structures will be by now since it is not being properly maintained,” he said.
Daily Trust gathered that the lingering land tussle between the government and the management of the Anglican Church and lack of maintenance culture have contributed to the deterioration of the school.
Trouble between government and the church leaders over the school started some years back when the latter attempted to turn the school into a centre for missionary activities.
When this reporter approached the headmistress of the school for comment on the condition of the school, she declined comments and refused to disclose her name to him. She instead referred him to the local government and the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB).
However, the H.O.D, Administration, at the Lokoja Local Government Council, Malam Abdullahi Mudi, said when the school was formerly taken over by the government almost everything started to crumble due to the land crisis between the church and the government.
He said following the dispute, the church leaders demolished part of the colonial structures under the guise of building a missionary school. He however said the local government and SUBEB have been trying to preserve the relics of the aged school.
According to him, because of the scarcity of fund, the local government has not been able to rehabilitate the entire school in the past but that it is currently working with SUBEB to preserve it.
“The board has carried out some renovation works in the school but the renovated structures were damaged again by windstorm some years ago. Now the board is looking at the possibility of renovating it again so as to continue maintaining its name as the oldest school in northern Nigeria,” he said.
He said the demands of the school have been forwarded to the local government which has promised to rehabilitate some of the structures and convert them into tourist attraction site.
Effort to get the comment of the chairman of SUBEB, Alhaji Usman Jibrin, was unsuccessful as he was said to be busy after several visits to his office.