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Old students rally to rescue their Alma Mater

In the wake of the neglect and under-funding of education sector by the government, some old students have come in to restore the decaying infrastructure in their Alma Mater, writes SAMUEL AWOYINFA

Worried by neglect of their hitherto vibrant schools, old students’ associations of some prominent institutions across the country recently started rallying round to uplift their schools from the abyss of decay and academic degradation. Investigations carried out by our correspondent from schools in Lagos to Ibadan, Abeokuta to Warri, Zaria to Enugu and Osogbo to Ilorin have shown that the efforts of the old pupils are now yielding fruits as life is returning to some of the institutions.

Before this new development, public schools, including famous ones, had become the shadow of their glorious past due to neglect, underfunding and politicisation of the education sector by governments across the land.

Consequently, these institutions that had produced past presidents, governors, a Nobel laureate, engineers, legal gurus, renowned academics, well-bred civil servants, medical doctors, surgeons, scientists and actuarial scientists were all begging for attention. However, the old boys and girls have woken from their slumber and are now contributing immensely to the rebuilding of their schools.

Critics have always blamed the government for the state of disrepair of these schools. But the old students’ associations have come in to fill this void. So, old pupils of Barewa College, Kaduna, King’s College, Lagos, Queen’s School, Ilorin, Federal Government College, Ughelli, Government College, Ibadan are now at the forefront of people rebuilding these schools.

Others, including Loyola College, Ibadan, St. Finbarr’s College, Akoka, Lagos, Queen’s College, Lagos, Fatima College, Ikire, Christ The King College,Onitsha, Queen’s School, Apata, Ibadan, St. Gregory College, Lagos and St. Charles College, Osogbo, are also some of the popular schools that are receiving help from their old pupils.

At King’s College, Lagos, the old boys have not only contributed to the physical and academic development of their school, they have also donated a sports complex to the school’s main campus. Another astro-turf football pitch has also been provided for the college annexe on Victoria Island by the old boys. One of the school old boys, who is now the Central Bank Governor, Dr. Lamido Sanusi, was said to have facilitated the renovation of all the college hostels.

The college old Boys Association has done an extensive work on the rehabilitation and construction of infrastructural facilities in their alma mater. They approached it in a dynamic way, with a family or a corporate institution taking up some of the projects. Some others were done through the general pool of resources of the association.

Other facilities which had received facelift include the school library, track field, assembly hall/masters’ quarters, refuse dump and the power plant. They have also reconstructed the administrative complex of the college.

The Principal, King’s College, Lagos, Mr. Dele Olapeju, agrees that the intervention by the old boys has really rekindled the good old days, because they have carried out extensive renovation and even added new facilities to the school.

“The CBN governor carried out an extensive renovation of all the hostels in the school. We now have an astro-turf for a five-a-side field in our annexe in Victoria Island. The old students have also restored the exchange programme the school had with Achimota College in Ghana,” he said.

Olapeju, who commended the old boys for the transformation, suggested that it should be made compulsory for pupils to sign a bond which compels them to give back to their alma mater.

“I will advise other old students’ associations to emulate our old boys,” he said.

The President, KCIOBA, Mr. Hakeem Bello-Osagie, had pledged to build on the successes achieved by the immediate-past President of the association, Dr. Sunny Kuku.

The old boys of Government College, Ibadan have also contributed immensely to the development of their school. They have done an extensive work on restoring and maintaining the infrastructure which served them years ago.

Among the projects executed by individuals, class sets, and branches of the association, as listed by the Administrative Secretary of the old boys’ association, Mr. Samuel Iseniyi, are renovation of Agriculture laboratory by the class of 1961 at the cost of N2.5m, renovation of ‘A’ Section of Biology Block at the cost of N2m by the class of 1981, while the ‘D’ Section of the same block was renovated at the cost of N2.8m by Ibadan branch of the association.

Others include the renovation of the English Theatre/Hall by the class of 1964, with the sum of N2m; the Lagos and Abuja branches renovated Mathematics department and SS 2 block of six classrooms at the sums of N2.5m and N2m respectively.

“The Abuja branch paid another N300, 000 for the repainting of the SS 2 block last year,” Iseniyi added.

Besides, he stated that the U.S branch of the association renovated SS 3 Block of six classrooms four years ago, while another old pupil, Kunle Onajin, of class of 1968, renovated the administrative block in 2012 at the cost of N3m.

“There are many other projects done by the old boys’ association. What we do is to give these projects to those who have done renovation on them as their pet projects, and whenever we felt they are due for another renovation we write them,” Iseniyi said.

Observers are not surprised with these great endeavours because of the calibre of old pupils the school had produced. Some of these include the Oba of Benin, Omo N’Oba N’Edo, Erediauwa, first Chief Justice of Botswana, the late Dr. Akinola Aguda; first actuary scientist in Nigeria and former chairman, Punch Nigeria Limited, Chief Ajibola Ogunshola; first African literary Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka; Chairman, University Press Plc, Dr Lekan Are, who was also a former president of the Alumni Association and former Nigerian Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Dr. Christopher Kolade.

The principal, Government College, Ibadan, Mr. Simeon Oladele, said apart from renovating the infrastructure in the school, the old boys have also contributed to both physical and academic development of the pupils.

He stated, “The old boys have been so kind and they have assisted the school in so many ways. They have refurbished most of the laboratories, most especially those of Agriculture and Biology. Some sets of old boys supplied the school furniture for use by the teachers.

“Some of them come to the school to guide the pupils on career choice. And in the area of the traditional game of the school, which is Cricket, they have employed a coach to teach the pupils how to play, and some of them come around to play the game with them.”

Oladele noted that all hands must be on deck to salvage the nation educationally. According to him, the community, old students, teachers and the government must join hands to revamp the nation’s education sector.

The old Boys’ Association of the St. Gregory College, Lagos, has also inaugurated some projects undertaken by them in the school.

These include a modern two-storey block containing 15-Junior Secondary (JS) classrooms, junior staff room and quarters, lawn tennis/basketball courts, tuck shops, a renovated jubilee hall and old boys’ secretariat.

As part of ongoing physical development in the college, a total of N800m has been estimated for the construction of a new junior 400-bed hostel, expansion of the college chapel, Olympic standard tracks and the reconstruction of catering/laundry departments.

The National President, St. Gregory College Old Students’ Association, Dr. John Abebe, promised that the old boys would do more as a lot of projects are still underway to celebrate the founder’s day of the institution next year.

In the same vein, the old girls of Queen’s School, Apata, Ibadan, Oyo State also recently rehabilitated some structures within the school, saving it from dilapidation. Apart from that joint effort, another ‘old girl’, who is a former minister of Trade and Industries, Chief Onikepo Akande, has also facilitated the donation of an administrative block to the school by PZ Cussons Foundation on July 11, 2012.

The project has been described as the fruit of Akande’s love for her alma mater and an act of corporate social responsibility by the foundation.

For the old boys of Federal Government College, Ughelli, apart from restoring the physical structures, they also impact the pupils by volunteering to teach, most especially in the areas of science subjects.

Among others, they encourage part-time teaching by distinguished, brilliant old boys to stimulate enthusiasm for the physical sciences. They also provide scholarship for the pupil with the best result in the West African Senior School Certificate Examination. The association has also developed a college website and established an e-library for the college to give them access to academic resources of international public schools.

The FGC, Ughelli, Old Boy’s Association also motivates pupils by bringing successful members to lecture pupils on career choices and those factors that could enhance their educational performance.

Also, feelers from Barewa College, which has produced five former Nigeria’s presidents, including Alhaji Shehu Shagari and General Yakubu Gowon (retd), top administrators, and academics, show that the school’s fortunes have changed positively because of the activities of its old boys.

The same thing is said to be happening at CKC, Onitsha, Queen’s College, Ilorin and other prominent schools across the country.

This trend is not however limited to secondary schools alone as some old pupils are also going back to their primary schools and higher institutions to lend a helping hand.

For instance, the current Super Eagles Coach, Stephen Keshi; ex-internationals, Paul Okoku and Godwin Odiye, donated five sets of computer and two laptops to their alma mater, St. Paul Catholic Primary School, Ebute Meta, Lagos last year.

Okoku had said, “We cannot leave everything to government. We decided to give back to where we came from. We hope others will emulate this and assist.”

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