From the expressway, you cannot miss the tumbledown building sitting in the middle of a repugnant body of floodwater. For motorists and commuters on the road between Ikorodu and Mile 12 in Lagos, the school is on the right, a short distance from the expressway. Community Primary School, Itowolo, Ikorodu, run by the Lagos State government, is everything a primary school in a metropolitan area should not be.
The structure is an eyesore, made even worse by the flood that remains green and stagnant for many weeks of the year. From the expressway, motorists and passers-by could get a good look at the pupils inside their classrooms.
For the pupils and their teachers, getting to school and reaching any of the classrooms daily is a tricky adventure that could end in catastrophe with one wrong step. With floodwater occupying every available space in the school premises, members of the Itowolo community have helped construct a wooden walkway for the pupils to get to their classrooms.
The only toilet in the school has been overrun by the flood. Right now, no other convenience is available for the students and their teachers.
“You can see the kind of environment under which these children are learning,” one of the community leaders told Daily Sun, “Even if your heart were made of stone, you would pity the little boys and girls as well as their teachers.”
A resident of the community, Ade Alabi, who has wards in the school, said since the Ogun River overflowed its banks, learning in the school has been a difficult task.
“Flooding happens in this area every year. In fact, all the communities bordering the river experience the problem. From Owode Elede to Irawo, Ajegunle and other communities along this stretch, up to Ikorodu, the situation is the same. If government cannot help the people, at least it should do something to help the pupils and teachers of this school,” he said.
The school authorities and the teachers refused to speak with the reporter. But it was gathered that the school management had made several appeals to the state and local government authorities in the past, begging for assistance, but such appeals have not yielded positive fruit, it was learnt.
One of the residents told the reporter: “I’m aware that the school authorities have written many letters to officials of the Ikorodu West Local Government Council Development Area and the Lagos State Universal Basic Education Board. Pictures of the pitiable environment under which the students are learning were attached to the letters. But the situation has not changed.”
Indeed, the school is not the only part of Itowolo ravaged by flood. All the communities in that axis near the Ogun River have, for the past few weeks, been suffering unmitigated trauma. The river has overflowed its banks and inundated many communities.
Particularly pitiable is the situation at Ajegunle and Itowolo, where many homes have been overrun by floods.
The reporter observed that many of the residents seemed unperturbed by the development, as they went about their duties wading through the water. But those who spoke said the situation was causing them sleepless nights.
“We are not comfortable with this situation, and there is no way to pretend that all is well,” a resident who declined to be named told the reporter. “We are not comfortable with this situation. Something has to be done by the state authorities urgently. We can hardly forget the trauma and agony we go through daily as we move to and from our different homes.”
Many of the residents said they were optimistic that the area would one day be rescued from frequent flooding. They noted that this year’s flood would soon recede, even though it might return next year.
“I have been living in Itowolo since 2003. We are used to the situation. It has become a part of our lives. It is not new to us at all,” Mrs. Ajoke Ajayi, a trader, said.
Chairman of Rich Ally Community Development Association in Itowolo, Alhaji Adeoye, said the only thing government could do to salvage the situation was to construct an access road. He stressed that such a project would demand huge financial resources.
“I was born in the riverine area and I know what it takes to develop an area like this. In Itowolo, the land is below the water level. That has been the major problem. In the past, residents of some areas like Alapere and Ogudu have had this kind of problem, but today the situation has changed for the better. Government should come to our rescue too. What we would want government to do for us is to construct an access road here,” he said.
One of the landlords in the area, Mr. Adeosun, said this year’s flooding was massive. “This is not the first time that we experienced such crazy influx of water; it happens every three years. The situation occurs when the Oyan Dam in Ogun State is opened.
“This year, the flood came like a thief in the night. We expected it, so the flooding never caught us unawares. At times like these, what we do normally is to re-arrange our household items and raise them up all through the period because we know certainly that, within a couple of weeks from now, the flood would recede and life will go back to normal. One day, we’ll surely get over it. The last time we experienced this kind of flood was in 2010. It was an agonising experience and some of our personal belongings were destroyed,” Adeosun said.
But would they be willing to relocate elsewhere, if the authorities decide to resettle them in a better location? Not at all, the residents chorused. They told the reporter that it would be unfair to the community for anyone to contemplate relocating the people. Such a move would be resisted, they said.
A resident, Mr. Tope Sunday, said: “We have been living here for decades and we are comfortable. We have no problem except for the flood and, within some days, the whole place will dry up. So the solution is not in relocating us. If the government truly wants to help us, they should re-channel the water and divert the flood to other areas. They can also provide drainages and channel it directly to the river. There are many other solutions that could be proffered. Relocating us should not even be contemplated.”
Not everyone is happy with the present situation in Itowolo, but the canoe operators are definitely not complaining. So also are the fishermen. The canoe operators ferry passengers across the water, charging N100 for a short trip.
“Residents of this community are people that are well-to-do. We have hundreds of them as landlords, businessmen and businesswomen. The fishermen and canoe operators are indigenes of Itowolo and they know how they go about their business criss-crossing the water. But those of us who are not indigenes came to the community not because accommodation was cheap as people might say, but because of the proximity to Lagos. From here, you can easily access anywhere in Lagos. There is security and there are beautiful buildings in Itowolo. Apart from this, in Itowolo, there is no dull moment. We know ourselves and we are all happy living together as one big family,” Mr. Ogunleye told the reporter.
Ogunleye, who noted that the Ogun River, known as Odo Ogun, is the boundary between Kosofe and Ikorodu, lamented that the only primary school in the area, Community Primary School, was in an incredible state of disrepair.
“The school is an eyesore,” he lamented. “As far as I am concerned, I would like the state authorities to renovate that school. It is the only primary school in our community. The school should be renovated so that our children can learn under a conducive environment,” he said.