The Golden Days of Secondary Education in Nigeria.–By Douglas Ogbankwa Esq.
Attending secondary School in Nigeria, particularly in Benin City in the 80s and 90s ,was quite entralling There were standpoints of reminisce that I will never forget,they Include :
1 The Super Principals:
Every generation had its Super Principals .In our generation in Benin ,it was F.O. Izegaegbe ,Joseph Itoto and Reverend P. U .B. Obakpolor,,Mrs Asemota,Mrs Adagbasa ,Mr. Ayela Uwague ,Mr Iyamu ,Mr. Omoregbee, etc .They were disciplinarians that were loved by all ,though they were quite Stern and resolute .They exuded fear among Students, who would run into their classes upon seeing them or even their cars .These were not ordinary men ,but enigmas traversing several schools .They instilled disciplines in a way that shaped the lives of Many .
2.The Mystery of the Boys and the Girls :
Make no mistake about it ,the excitement of going to school those days ,was not just the academics ,but about the boys and about the girls .One funny aspect of this story ,is that much didn’t even happen between them.It was mostly talk ,talk ,talk ,fantasies and infatuations.
In those days ,a boy trended when he was intelligent ,same for a girl .The most Intelligent boy, most likely ended up as the Head Boy ,while the most Intelligent girl ,most likely ended up as the Head Girl.
Though ,there were Private Schools ,then the best Students emerged from Public Schools .
In Benin ,I C.C.,Edo College ,Idia College and St. Maria Gorretti , Edokpolo Grammar School, ,Eghosa Boys, Idia College ,Adolo College , Western Boys ,Word of Faith ,Igbenedion ,Greater Tomorrow,Niger College Western Boys , Edokpolo,were the dominant schools .
I.C.C. Boys and St. Maria Gorretti Girls Mostly get along and Edo College Boys and Idia College Girls mostly get along .Some Federal College Girls, Benin had bigger fishes to fry ,some of them ended up in Hall 3 or Hall 4 ,UNIBEN.
A funny scenario happened when a Niger College Boy ,told a St. Maria Gorretti Girl ,”Hello ,how are you ?Can I know you? “,the St Maria Gorretti Girl said ,”I have suffered ,so you have the guts to talk to me ,when you are not from I C.C.?”.In actual truth those were just mirage ,as we are all doing well in Life, in respective of the School you attended .It is not the School you attended that Matters ,it is what you make out of it.
3 ,The Inter House Sports and the Principal Cup Competitions :
This was a very strong component of the School System ,for the good and for the bad.For the good ,the School was divided into Houses usually with colours like blue house ,yellow house ,etc for sprints event ,long jump shot put and even javalin .It was very competitive.Most of Nigerian Athletics Stars all started from here. The Most interesting Interhouse Sport in Benin there were those of I .C C. and St Maria Gorretti, Edo College ,Western Boys ,Idia College ,Imaguero College ,because Osayomore Joseph ,the musician always played yearly.The Principal Cup-football competition among secondary schools , provided the fulcrum of the Golden Eaglets -the Nigerian U-17 Team .
In Benin Edokpolo Grammar School dominated the Tournament ,they had the best goal keepers like Maleke and Andrew Aikoumoegbe ,who later played for Nigeria.It was a frenzy period at the then Ogbe Stadium!
The Bad :Party after Party:
The Interhouse Sports in Benin also had the Bad Boys Milling around to cause havoc.Who will forget Kindness ,Azad,Dauda and Co. You could just be walking with a girl and they will tell you to “vamoose” and leave the girl behind .It was a condemnable scenario as they would attack you ,sometimes with knifes .
We the good boys used to leave early like 5pm, that is when the Bad Boys show up.Rape was rife.Then Gang Fights .They used to say ,”Person we no strong no dey go Western Boys High School Inter House Sports. “
The Clubs ,The Central Bodies and the Lit Parties :
Secondary Schools were very organized by the Students themselves. There were major clubs like LDDQS,Drug Free Club ,NEPEC ,Farmer’s Club, Geographic Club and Press Club.In my school-a mixed school, they were doing screening for would be Members of the Press Club and they asked a boy what is Press ,he simply answered,turning to a girl :”Press is ,you press me ,I press me “,laughter erupted in the Hall!
If you didn’t make it as a Perfect of the School or an Official of Club in your School ,then you were not in the Mix.I find that most Leaders in School then, are the same Leaders in the Society.There were keenly contested elections .Your success as a President of your Club ,depended on how you rose in the Central Body of the Club.
Then the Lit. Parties, Disc Jockeys ,good food ,assorted drinks and students from all around the City ,moving from school to school ,it was really fun.
Study ,Study , Study:
Teachers never missed their Classes .They appeared neat and were disciplinarians.We wrote our exams ourselves and there was dignity of labour.
Not the trend today in some schools ,during exams., where you hear “No. 1 “A”,No 2 ,”B”No 3 “C” No. 4,do it yourself”.I remember a Student doing so well in my School and he was sponsored to the Seoul Olympics in 1988 ,by the Federal Government.It is not today ,that two best graduating Students in a University ,both shared Five Thousand Naira or one in another University being given 20 Tubers of Yam.
There was camaderie,as we walked in Groups to and from Schools and we read after Schools .
The Lecture Houses:
In Benin those days ,Young Intelligent Men set up.Lecture Houses to fill the gap in the failing Education System.Falamo of Fabiyi Akpata ,the Dou of the Golden Touch ,Pastor Mike Omoregbee (,who later played Ovaramwen Nogbaisi in the Block Buster,”Invasion 1897,produced by Lancelot Imasuen ), of the very standard , Standard Lectures ,Vincent Akhere Esq . Of UNIBOUND ,the late Mclive Aghator of UNILEC ,Solid Foundation etc.
Of all the Lecture Owners ,only Pastor Michael Omoregbee of Standard Lectures is the last man Standing.Infact he now has upto 7 Lecture Centres in Benin ,by the way the Lecture also groomed me and I still teach English and Government part time there.At thoses Lectures,it was dress to finish or book to finish ,depending on your focus.The Young Boys and Girls that taught in the Lectures are mostly doing well in life ,which shows that knowledge is Power.
We can not conclude the golden days of Secondary Schools in Benin with out talking about the Fellowships dominated by Scriptures Union and NAFEST.Those who led the Fellowships of those are also the Pastors of today.
The Prefects :
Being a Prefect in Secretary Schools in Benin was a thing of pride and prestige.Though Prefects were appointed. There appointment was purely based on Merit and as Students we could all see the Transparency of the Process.The Most Intelligent Boy or Girl was the Head Boy or Head Girl ,the nearest boy or girl was the Sanitory Prefect ,The Most punctual to School was the punctuality Prefect and the most responsible big in size boy was the Labour Prefect .
How can we have those Days Back ?
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