By Samsideen Adesiyan Esq.

(Class of 1989)

A burning issue in the Oyo State education sector in the most recent time is the seemingly ‘take over’ of the very famous Government College Ibadan by her Old Boys Association. The hues and cries that have met the Memorandum of Understanding signed by the school’s Old Boys Association and the Oyo State government is one that is largely due to a deliberate attempt to distort the facts by some elements on one hand and a pretentious ignorance of the context leading to the agreements on the other.

While one appreciates the sensitivity of diverse parties and stakeholders to policies and actions of government, it must be noted that only a sincerity of purpose which is divorced from prejudices or some other self righteous interests can ensure that all relevant parties to a matter make meaningful impact on it. Unless one wants to deliberately stir controversies or create unnecessary crisis, it cannot be denied that the Oyo State Government currently under the administration of His Excellency Engineer Oluseyi Makinde is not only a listening one but one that is also analytical. In fact, the governor had publicly stated that his road map to a new Oyo State is designed like an engineering project where each step is evaluated, considered and calculated towards a productive end. In other words, every of the government’s actions are carefully considered before decisions are made. Suffice to say that the evidence of this formula is obvious for everyone to see in Oyo state in terms of infrastructural developments. That the state government agreed to the proposal of the Government College Ibadan Old Boys Association to play a management and supervisory role in ensuring that the school is put back into local, national and global reckoning as it once was, underscores the government’s vision to also invest in human resources. Without any doubt, human resources are the basic foundation of any societal growth.

The governor should be applauded for he is neither an old boy of Government College Ibadan nor does he need the patronage of the Old Boys Association to be re-elected. Through the MoU signed with the association, the Governor has shown a willingness to revamp the educational sector in the state if there are willing and adequately prepared collaborators. The end result of such an initiative is quality education and the production of sound students in the imagery of ‘youths being the leaders of tomorrow’. To put the matter in proper perspective, Government College Ibadan which was founded in 1929 was originally conceived as a teacher’s training college by the colonial administration before its conversion into a secondary school for boys. In spite of the redirection of the school’s original purpose, it became a model school in the guise of the best public schools in England at the time. To this end, the admission criteria were carefully crafted to ensure that intending pupils who merited entrance into the school were drafted from all over the colony.

In summary, Government College Ibadan like others set up in other parts of the colony only admitted the very best of primary school leaving pupils. The policy was deliberate as it was designed to groom not only academically brilliant students but also to prepare emerging leaders for the colony, those who will build on the legacies of the colonial administration. It is a common belief that Government College Ibadan students were groomed for public service and administration, trained as academics and technocrats but not for the rough waters of politics.

This is to emphasize that GCI was set up with a clear objective and mandate in mind. It is in this wise that it produced some of the best writers, technocrats and professionals in the world. It is instructive to note that Government College Ibadan had very few people in active politics in the early days leading to independence; the most prominent perhaps was Adegoke Adelabu. The track of excellence continued after independence, Government College Ibadan being a shining star among the schools of the Old Western Region was lauded for her products all of whom were making great impacts in several fields. The situation was to change in 1979 when the Oyo State government took over all schools and introduced free education from primary to secondary school levels. The government meant well, the intent no doubt was to make education more accessible for many post primary school pupils. What the government did not reckon with while taking the decision was the huge fund that will be needed for the initiative. Although prior to 1979, the Western Region government had first introduced free education across the region, however, at the time, the total number of secondary schools in the entire country was less than two hundred. The secondary schools founded by the colonial government, missionaries and private individuals in the Western Region stood at 31 as at 1957 three years before independence. The government was able to fund the free education policy because there was an adequate tax system and agriculture which was the main stay of the economy was booming.

Immediately after the Military takeover in 1966 and following the civil war, education at all levels began to decline. The period of Military interregnum dealt a devastating blow to the quality and consequently, the products. As at the time democracy resumed in 1979 and the Oyo state government decided to reintroduce the free education policy which also included the takeover of all schools from missions and private owners, there were 236 secondary schools in the state and the economy was in distress. When the Military took over again in 1985, the economy was in total shambles and Nigeria was facing her worst period of economic recession which led to the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP). In essence, in the face of competing necessities, education took the back bench and it effectively collapsed. Naturally, model schools such as Government College Ibadan which had hitherto been the pride of the

South West and the Nation took the worst hit. The quality of education dropped because of the large number of students in classrooms in comparison with the number of required competent teachers, infrastructures were overstretched and became dilapidated, positive values dipped and social vices became more pronounced. As a result, the society generally began to decay.

From then, it became obvious that something urgent must be done in order to save education. Agitations for the return of schools to missions and private owners became rife, old boys of the first generation secondary schools including the Ionian schools joined the cry. The Old Boys Association of Government College Ibadan was not left out. The association began to spend more on the school in order to redefine her position, revive and sustain her legacies.

The Old Boys Association which was founded in 1934 by the first set of graduate students had long known the importance of giving back to their alma mater as captured in all the stanzas of the school song. The wordings of the school song in the first stanza, ‘May what we dare to learn from thee in youth be our guide light throughout our lives’, in the second stanza ‘Service to others and not to self, consideration for our nation first by our examples and not by precepts’ and in the last stanza ‘Generations shall come and go, but our pride youth will for aye remain, may be not in the confines of your walls but in alumni world renowned’, are the milk which nourished every GCI boy.

Since 1929 when the school was re-designated as a secondary school, every old boy has been indoctrinated with the philosophy of service and giving back.

One can therefore imagine the heartbreak of the old boys who are in the legions and who are some of the finest crop of individuals in Africa seeing the school of their pride becoming a fossil, a decaying dinosaur of excellence. This reality prompted the old boys to be more committed to reviving the school and ensuring that current and future generations to come will benefit from her excellent legacies. But as a school that is publicly owned, the old boys understood the need to convince the government and all stakeholders of their intention. The desire to be involved in the management of the school resumed with much fervor under the administration of the past governor but it was truncated by elements who were benefitting from the rot and who had nothing to lose concerning the state and status of the school.

Today, there are 976 public secondary schools inclusive of 7 science schools in Oyo state with an estimated student population of 400,000. The current budget for education by the state government stands at 18.37 %, approximately N 54.1 Billion Naira of the total budget. The reason is not farfetched; there are too many competing interests. In addition to this, is the global economic meltdown occasioned by the Covid 19 pandemic. The government simply cannot work magic. It is in recognition of this reality that the government of Engineer Oluseyi Makinde had included in its vision for resuscitating the education sector in Oyo State collaboration with willing alumni associations of schools. In order words, even before signing the MoU with the Government College Ibadan Old Boys Association, the governor had keyed into the old boys’ age long agitation. One then wonders why the smear campaign against the noble intention of the old boys. Ironically, none of those currently championing the cause have children of secondary school age. The propaganda that members of an association solely responsible for fencing a school sitting on such a massive land mass to discourage encroachment will now become land grabbers is incredulous.

The Old Boys Association of Government College Ibadan has never contended and do not intend to contend ownership of the school with the Oyo State government. The school was 51 years old and the association was 46 years old when the civilian administration of Chief Bola Ige carved out her land and building for the founding of Apata Community Grammar School. Both schools have coexisted since then. The terms of the MoU are specific, prominent among which is that the association will abide with all the policies on education made by the state government including that of free education.

There is no future without a past and there can be no glory in the future if the present is not adequately taken care of. The old boys of Government College Ibadan have no other school. We celebrate her past glory but cannot deny her current sad state; as we must also worry about her future. All the parents who currently have children in the school must understand that this will be the case with their wards too. When they graduate from the school, they become old boys who are expected to be interested in the school’s future. And having been indoctrinated with the philosophies of the school, are expected to be worthy ambassadors and proud old boys. The only way this can be possible is if the current old boys ensure that the brightness of their future is not dimmed by poor education and the debilitating values that are now destroying our children. We therefore look forward to a collaborative and productive relationship with parents and other stakeholders in the interest of the school and that of our children.

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