In 2017, the government of Ekiti State budgeted N30 million for termite control in Osi Community High School, in Osi Ekiti area of the state.
However, an UDEME investigation has discovered that the government made any attempt to control the destructive insects as classrooms and other buildings in the school are either in ruins or about to completely collapse.
The decrepit condition of the school is now a major concern to pupils and staff members of the school who told UDEME that the dilapidated condition of the buildings poses a serious health and safety risk.
When this reporter visited the school, the devastation caused by the insect was visible from its main entrance.
The termites had eaten almost all the trees one encounters as one walks into the school to their roots. They had built huge mud nests everywhere the eyes could see – the infestation starts from the gatehouse, to the principal’s office – no standing structure in the school had been spared.
Several classrooms in the school had been abandoned as termites had not only eaten their doors and frames, the roofs had not been spared their attacks. The school management decided it was best to evacuate pupils from them as they feared the roof of the classrooms may cave in any time.
“This is a learning environment where we keep books and other very important materials. The termites are in our staff rooms and classes. See the traces of them on the wall. If there is plenty on the wall that is cement, we don’t know what is going on in the roof that is wood. Termites mainly eat wood. The thing (roofs) can fall down anytime soon,” Lawrence Ogunleye, who teaches Biology, told UDEME.
According to Orkin, a pest control firm, termites do better in hot climates like Nigeria than colder climates.
Termites of the Formosan species can “cause extensive damage to a home in less than six months in a location with the ideal climate and other conditions,” the firm stated on its website.
Termites are responsible for serious damage to infrastructure due to their feeding activities.
Termites feed on the cellulose found in wood which can be found in the roofs, wooden door frames and window frames of buildings. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) reports that Africa has the highest number of termite species.
Though there is no credible data of the loss caused by termite attacks in Nigeria, reported cases of termite attacks are on the rise in the country.
Disaster waiting to happen
Mr Ogunleye said despite efforts by the school authorities to eliminate the pests, they have breached the structural integrity of the buildings in the school and that he feared that some of them might collapse soon.
True to Mr Ogunleye concern, this reporter observed that the roofs of some of rooms at Osi Community High School were sagging and grains of sands intermittently cascade from them.
The school had no choice but to abandon some of the classrooms, laboratories and common rooms for fear that their roof would collapse suddenly.
The principal of the school, Abiodun Aladelesi, said the termites have defied the school’s best efforts at eliminating them.
“There was a time when we fumigated the place and the rooms, but the termites are still doing their work,” he said.
N30 million termite-control budget
In 2017, the Ekiti State government budgeted N30 million for the renovation of termite infested buildings in Osi Community High School. Four years after, staff of the school say nothing has been done to eradicate the termites.
It is not clear if all the funds were disbursed.
“I was not the principal till around 2018 so I don’t know about that. There is no proof that the government helped us. We need assistance to eradicate the termites because as time goes on, it will cover all the rooms in this building. The school has a lot of certificates in the cabinets and other places. We don’t want termites to destroy it,” said Mr Aladelesi.
Gbenga Okinni, the registrar, who said he has been in the school for seven years, also claimed there has been no government intervention to solve the infestation.
“There is no single classroom here without termites and even the staff rooms are infested by termites. Our lives are at risk. What if the roof falls one day? You must have seen the dilapidated classrooms over there. So, the students cannot stay there. There are only very few classes that are still available that we manage for the students,” he said.
During a tour of the school, this reporter saw an abandoned building whose roof had caved in. The devastation caused by the termite-infestation was so severe that only a few classrooms where pupils are cramped into are available for use.
At the edge of the school stood an uncompleted building which appears to be the main habitation of the termites.
Although termites cannot destroy concrete, the pillars of the building were chipped and some broken. Termite molds could be found on these broken pillars and on the roof of the building.
Next to the uncompleted building was another deserted building which, this reporter learnt, used to serve as a block of four classrooms. Like most of the buildings in the school this building has also been ravaged by termites from its roof to its foundation.
Rather than find a lasting solution to the termite-infestation, the state government seemed to be interested in a cosmetic solution to the problem.
A newly-painted cream and brown coloured building stood out in the school premises. But upon a close observation by this reporter, it immediately became obvious that the building has also not been spared by termites.
The furniture in the building, which houses some abandoned laboratories, have all been eaten by termites and already crumbling.
“They only painted it. It is one of our old buildings. They did not treat the termites issue at all. They did not renovate the labs and stores that have been destroyed. They just painted the building and it was commissioned in 2018 by Olusola Eleka, the immediate past deputy governor,” said a female teacher who declined to say her name because she feared she will be victimised.
Mr Ogunleye said “pupils are no longer taught the practices of science subjects.”
Expert proffers solution
Meanwhile, Aina Kehinde, a principal research fellow at the Forestry Research institute of Nigeria (FRIN) noted that greed, nonchalance and lack of adequate consultation are the reasons for termite infestations especially in Nigeria.
He said contractors usually execute projects with sub quality materials and minimalist efforts. This comes back to haunt home owners later in the future.
“The first is actually to test the soil. When you test your soil, then, you will be able to know the kind of termites found in a specific area,” he said.
“The wood depends on the kind of termite. There are some wood species that termites cannot touch. Naturally, they have an extractive that makes them resistant to termites. But because people want to build houses and the contractor wants to finish the job and make his own gain, they will use wood that is not very good, that termites can eat very fast,” he added.
Mr Kehinde then proffers a solution to termite infestations similar to the one at Osi Community High School. He said the solution was for the woods in the building to be removed.
“What we need to do first is to remove it. The solution is to remove the wood. Then, we will treat the entire environment. We will treat the buildings with some anti-termite chemicals. They will either use high density wood or chemically modify wood to construct all the roofs. We need to remove the roofs entirely because if you are just replacing some, the termites will still eat it,” he said.
The Ekiti State government did not respond to a letter for comments.
The state’s Ministry of Education, Science and Technology did not even acknowledge the letter.
This report was written as part of the UDEME project.
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