Do you remember your old school? – Part 2
Despite the remarkable impact of the made-in-China Coronavirus on ‘glocal’ economy and politics and the self-inflected political virus ravaging the ruling party in Nigeria, which was expected to get to some head last night at the instance of Governors on the platform of the APC, I would like to conclude my sermon to all members of the political, power and business elite to remember their old secondary schools.
Just as I was reflecting on the synopsis to this second part, a professor of political anthropology (from Cambridge) and one of the leading lights of ‘League of Columnists’ in Nigeria (name withheld) lamented to me on the quality of most essays some graduates seeking post-graduate scholarships wrote as part of a series of tests for the scholarship award.
To the professor who hails from Ekiti state, ‘the trouble with the standard of our education at this moment is our rickety secondary schools…That is where most of these graduates who can’t write well were made…’ This scholar’s opinion reinforces my point, in this connection that this is not a time to lament. I would like to appeal to all who have been wailing about the state of the nation that president Buhari will run until May 29, 2023, that it is time to reflect on one thing, just one area where each and every one of us can help the nation. This is why I have chosen this context: time to help our old secondary schools, whether public or mission(ary) or private.
There are glaring problems with our basic and secondary education now. We all need to freeze partisan politics and blame game. We have to be involved. We may have been praying and preaching. It is time to migrate from rhetoric to action. It is time to return to our roots, our old grammar/secondary schools where we all began. I want all the products of what used to be iconic schools most of us could not access to remember where it all began.
I want to appeal to old students of not only the AIONIAN schools I mentioned last week to create social media platforms where they can meet to visit their old schools. Lend me your ears all old and young members of the elite! God has blessed you for such a time like this. Do not forget the ancient landmarks our founding fathers created for our greatness.
Here is the thing, where are you all old members of the following iconic schools: Barewa College, Zaria, Kaduna State, founded in 1921 by British Governor-General, Hugh Clifford; Christ School, Ado- Ekiti, Government College, Keffi, Nasarawa State, St. Andrews, Oyo; CMS, Grammar School, Lagos, St Finbarr’s College, Lagos, Government Secondary School, Gindiri, Plateau State, HillCrest School, Jos, Plateau State founded in 1942 (by ten Christian mission bodies); Kings Colleges, Queens Schools, Imade College, Owo, Ondo State, Aquinas College, Akure; Victory College, Ikare, Ondo State, Ilesha Grammar School, Ilesha, Osun State, Baptist Academy, Lagos, Katsina Middle School, etc. If your own alma mater isn’t mentioned, don’t get worried, remember it and go back there to see the state of infrastructure and quality of teachers. That is my appeal to you at this time. Don’t wait for government that can do nothing at this time. Cheers.
Now the concluding part of my speaking notes at Manuwa Memorial Grammar School, (MMGS) Iju Odo, Ondo State on February 22, 2020:
“…So, the deliverable from all this my rigmarole is that in this era of sometimes uncoordinated and unguarded colloquia on federalism, what we should recognise is Tipp O’Neil’s thesis that, ‘all politics is local”. This means we have to localise our participation to the barest minimum. We have to return home. We have to be organic in our management of expectations and priorities. We have to be involved in certain elements about MMGS so that it will be a school that will continue to produce some our top scientists, researchers and leaders in the public and private sectors.
Specifically, you should borrow a leaf in one of the best old students associations of post primary institutions in the country, Baptist Academy in Lagos: the association is deeply involved in development of the old school. Therefore, you should not rise from this your meeting this year without physical inspection of the MMGS’ library, laboratories and ICT centres. Let’s face it, in today’s world, the leaders of the world politics and economies face what they call the STEM subjects for development: Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Here is the thing, you need to know how many of these subjects are properly taught in MMGS at the moment. Do they have good teachers? You need to study the profiles of teachers the authorities post here. You are all influencers and leaders in your various spheres of life. You need to set up sub-committees to study all these elements to know where different old students who are richly blessed can step in. Let them know that the areas they develop can be named after them. Specifically, you should not rise from your meeting this year without getting a sub committee on specific areas you can intervene. You need to know how they run this school, this your alma mater. You should be ready to discuss areas you want to intervene with the Commissioner for Education in Ondo State at this moment who is as we say here ‘a son of this soil’, Mr. Femi Agagu. You can even seek to meet the Governor of Ondo State if it becomes a doctrine of necessity. Let no apostle of despair and lamentation tell you that Uncle Femi Agagu is a difficult, not-so-warm person. Let him be engaged by some of your members who have executive and social intelligence to do so. Let no one tell me that the Governor of Ondo too is difficult to meet. We all serve the God of all possibilities! Let no one tell me that because he once insulted one of our paramount rulers, nothing good can come out of him. Let’s forget about stereotypes and sweeping generalisations. Let’s plan our meetings with our leaders without prejudices. Let genuine MBA holders among you plan how to say ‘thank you’, ‘well done’ ‘I am sorry’ to some of our leaders. Let’s be less sentimental and political in engaging them. Let’s honour them and ask God for wisdom in tabling our requests before them. Let’s swallow our pride and vanity sometimes and engage our leaders to develop our institutions. Let’s learn how to be part of the 21st Century. Let’s learn to develop our old schools to produce builders of a new Ondo state and indeed a new Nigeria. Yes, let’s work for new Ikale people who will not be part of the illiterate of the 21st Century Alvin Toffler, a futurist once mused about in an introduction he wrote to a book in this age of disruptive social technologies. According to Toffler, ‘The illiterate of the 21st Century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn’.
You therefore have a responsibility to ensure that there is discipline, there is order in the learning culture of this your MMGS where it all began for you. Then this is the conclusion of the whole matter: don’t ask me about the role of government in delivering education quality at this perilous time. Today is not the time to talk about that. Today is the time to talk about what members can do robustly to ensure that there is a restoration of the iconic profile of MMGS, Iju Odo, Ondo State, Nigeria. Let’s not ask about what wealthy citizens of Ikale land would do at such a time like this. Let’s embrace what a thinker on this, Marcus Aurelius says: ‘Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be: be one’.
Let’s therefore waste no more time in asking why government has been so negligent. Let’s not condemn them: they appear irredeemable. So they need some redemption songs. Let us know that, ‘resurrection begins from the tomb’. Let’s think about our role as leaders today. Let’s not wait for miracles from Governor Akeredolu about MMGS. Let’s create conditions for our own miracles, T.D Jakes says, ‘don’t just happen’.
Let me round off with this: don’t rise from this meeting without concrete plans on how Mathematics, yes Mathematics can be well taught in this school. Don’t trivialise the place of English language too in this new world. The way most of our young ones (in this area, for instance) use English language to make some noise in the digital/social media is an indication of how teaching standards have deteriorated in our schools. You should also ensure that good teachers of English are posted here. Let me suggest a strategy that you may not like to hear because of the way we celebrate pride and vanity here. Do you know that you can be a difference maker with personal examples of how you too can take some time off to collaborate with school authorities to teach Mathematics and English too? Those of you with backgrounds in physical and social sciences and the humanities, you can take time off on weekends and during your holidays to teach these two subjects. There are very few teachers of these critical subjects in the country at the moment. The way some of our professionals including lawyers and physicians speak English, these days diminish their status. Mathematics is the language of development and even personal growth. Proficiency in English language too as the legendary S.M.O. Aka put it in those days, may not be a passport to heaven, but it remains a passport to so many heavenly places…. What else shall I say? Please, don’t look for developers of MMGS facilities at this time. You are the chosen ones. You have been blessed to be a blessing to the iconic school built by our good fathers and later named in memory of a man of God, Reverend Benjamin Manuwa, of Ilaje extraction (Itebu Manuwa) who sent his son, Dr. Samuel Manuwa to Great Britain (University of Edinburgh, Scotland) in those days to be the first medical doctor in West Africa (1926), pioneer Nigerian Surgeon who also helped in no small measure in building the once iconic University College Hospital, Ibadan, once part of the best four in the Commonwealth. Let’s not allow the memories of the founding fathers of the MMGS to die. Blow the trumpet of the iconic MMGS, if you don’t blow it with signposts everywhere, no one will blow it for you! May the God of all grace not allow us to be what Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers of America calls, “great talkers and little doers”.