SOLOMON UGO, in Calabar, reports on the decaying state of infrastructure at Hope Waddel Training Institution, one of the foremost educational institutions in the country, where people like Nigeria's former president, Nnamdi Azikiwe attended.
Hope Waddel Training Institution located in Calabar, unarguably a national monument, is fast fading away into oblivion with decaying infrastructure, a clear departure from the vision of its founding father, the Reverend Hope Masterton Waddel whose vision led to the establishment of the once famous secondary school in 1895 as a first secondary school in Nigeria.
The school had, during its hey days produced one of Nigeria's great nationalists, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe who later became the country's first president and many others who have found their feat among their peers globally. Today, Hope Waddel indeed waddles in a palpable state of contrasting fortunes; a far cry from Waddel's vision, even as some of its structures slide towards a serious threat that may fall on students at the slightest wind.
Its premier structure is indeed a keg of gunpowder waiting to explode. The havoc this may cause on lives around the area during a storm leaves many wondering if this had been the bastion of structural engineering training before now.
To any visitor, this relic has not been managed properly in terms of routine maintenance of infrastructure and machines that previously put the institution ahead of its contemporaries nationwide. More striking is the kind of beddings any student in its boarding house is made to sleep on. When TNN visited the school, this reporter could easily spot foams worn out as a result of overuse, loaded in a pick- up van into Hope Waddel premises.
Home to the first football field where the first kick off of the round leather game was played in Nigeria, in 1904, the pitch gives no fond memories of this historical moment as the premier football pitch is just like an ordinary pitch in any part of the country even though it is a standard football pitch with natural grasses. Nothing differentiates it from others as a relic of note.
In spite of these startling revelations, the vice principal, academics, Mrs Judith DonKing told TNN the decaying structures notwithstanding, has not reduced the quality of teaching in Hope Waddel. According to her, apart from the occasional interventions from old boys, the school is self funded from students' school fees as she believed the quality of the teachers engaged by the school was still commensurate to its drive for standard.
“The school is funded by itself apart from occasional interventions from old boys. Nothing is coming from the government. We have qualified teachers engaged by management. The structures notwithstanding, it has not affected the standard of the school because the standard of the school has nothing to do with decaying structures.”
She said the school was driven by global best practices as it was fully compliant with ICT which was facilitated by an old student. She said ”an old student just gave us 40 computers with a state of the art Information Communication Technology( ICT) complex, fully manned by professionals”.
She noted that Hope Waddel currently operates day and boarding while affirming that management would appreciate if interventions and grants could be given to the school by government and public spirited individuals to upgrade its facilities.
Mr Inyang Ndaw, the vice principal (administration), however raised the alarm on the condition of some of the buildings. “The Premier Block was taken over by the museum and this is our greatest threat because any serious wind can blow off the structure. We are constantly updating them of this threat but they only come occasionally to take photographs of the structure without any action”.
He said the Presbyterian Church has been funding the school after it approached the Cross River State government to hands off the school management. According to him, this has eliminated inter-school fights witnessed when government managed the school.
When TNN visited its creative arts studio, it was indeed a pleasant site to behold. Different creative works that required a second look by any visitor were displayed. The teacher, Idom Usor, decried that donkey benches had always prevented students from performing optimally during practical classes. He said procurement of materials for any creative work was very expensive. He also said plans to take an excursion to the visual Arts Department in CRUTECH, Calabar which could enhance creative learning, were underway, though he hinged this on funding constraints. “I am supposed to have donkey benches where students sit comfortably to perform creative works. The absence of these benches make our practical classes unattractive,” he said.
One major hallmark that keeps any visitor glued to its state of the art ICT facility is a reliance on a solar powered electricity. It is used to teach core subjects like English Language, Mathematics and other core subjects for proper teaching. Studio Technologist in the ICT lab., Mr Effunyi Nkanu said that Chemistry, Biology, Agricultural Science subjects were often taught in the lab using the projector. He noted that compliance level among student was very high because each student had a functional computer during classes.
“The students are complying as all their classes are computer based. We are happy to groom them from junior secondary classes in order to equip our students for the task ahead. We have no power outages because we rely on solar power with technicians readily on hand to detect and solve problems in the computer lab”.