Climate change hits Imo community as heavy flooding sacks school children

Chimezie Amuda was agitated when Dataphyte visited his home at Abacheke village, Egbema in Ohaji-Egbema Local Government of Imo State.

He told our correspondent that he had no means of survival after the 2022 flooding destroyed his businesses.

Surviving was not his only challenge. His children had been at home since the community secondary school at Abacheke was sacked by flooding.

“The government has abandoned us. The only school my kids used to attend has been abandoned after the flooding incident of 2022. Now, I find it difficult for us. Help us tell the government to come to our aid,” he pleaded with our correspondent.

He was not alone in this. A villager, Mrs Ebere Udokwu, told Dataphyte how she had to withdraw her children from a public school after the floods sacked her kids’ former school at Abacheke.

“When the flooding incident happened in 2022, the government came here and promised us several things. They used canoe and even promised my husband many things as intervention. But since then, we have not seen anything. Even my kids had to leave the community school they used to attend and we sent them to a private school far away from here. It has been a very difficult situation,” she said.

Ohaji Egbema Local Government Area has a reported population of 182,891 persons, but most of the communities visited lamented neglect after the 2022 flooding. At Abacheke, the situation was worse due to lack of access to public education.

Dataphyte gathered that community residents had been forced to send their children to Rivers State schools which shared a boundary with Abacheke. This was due to the unavailability of public schools at Abacheke.

When Dataphyte visited the school, it was discovered that it had been overrun by grass. A resident, Mr Chibuzo Samuel, noted that the teachers who used to work in the school tried to salvage the situation but could not stay back when it became impossible to access it. As a result, he said, parents started withdrawing their children even after the flood started subsiding.

“During the flooding, many parents took their children away from the school because they had to leave their homes. When the flood went down, parents refused to send their children back to school. Those who could afford private schools in Rivers State sent their wards there, while those who could not, left their children at home. When the main teachers left, the volunteer teachers followed suit, leaving one after the other. No one has since paid any attention to the school,” he stated.

A native of Abacheke, Mr Phillip Ofia, told Dataphyte that many children were not in school because the only public school at Abacheke had been flooded.

“The situation is pathetic. I am a native of Abacheke, and I can tell you that many families have been unable to send their children to school after the only school in the community was sacked. You can imagine the damage done by the flood and the cost of sending the children to private schools. Even girls can’t go to school,” she noted.

The Abacheke community suffers neglect due to poor access to education, but the situation has been worsened by flooding.

Residents told Dataphyte that different promises targeted at flood prevention had failed to materialise.

A teacher at the school, Mrs Peace Akwaeze, noted that students had to relocate to a primary school some kilometers away.

“We begged the headmistress to accommodate us in some classrooms because of the flooding in our school,” she said.

Questions over Imo ecological funds

Between 2021 and 2022, Imo state received N1.4 billion as ecological fund—a pool of funds meant to mitigate occurrences such as flooding.

In 2022, the Imo State government budgeted the sum of N7 billion for the remediation of erosion and flood sites in the state but recorded zero percent performance. Questions have continued to be asked how states utilise ecological funds handed to them.

A climate change advocate, Mr Dare Akogun, told Dataphyte that it was important for states and the Federal Government to tackle the impacts of climate change on the education system.

“Nigeria needs to be intentional about navigating the impact of the flood on schools. That way, we can keep more people in school and ensure that they are not denied knowledge. This is also key for sustainable development goals attainment.”

He wondered why the government would ask schools to relocate when hit by floods but failed to make provisions for them.

Director of Waterwide, a climate accountability organisation, Mr Wilson Atumeyi, noted that there was a need for accountability and transparency in the management of flood-related funds.

He wondered why billions had been given to states through the ecological fund, yet, minimal impacts were being seen across sub-nationals.

Imo govt says efforts on top gear

Chief Press Secretary to Imo State Governor, Mr Oguike Nwachukwu, told Dataphyte that the government was doing all within its capacity to intervene in the crisis caused by flooding at Ohaji-Egbema Local Government Area, where Abacheke is located.

The governor’s spokesperson said palliatives running into millions were being distributed to residents to help them cushion the effects of the flooding.

Credit: Dataphyte

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