Sunday, December 19, 2010

Let’s Rebuild the Fallen Walls - Reflections on the Decay of Public Secondary School Education in Nigeria

By Olu Akanmu

Keynote Speech by Olu Akanmu at the Lagelu Grammar School Old Boys Association, 50th Anniversary Fund Raising Dinner. January 13, 2008

Brothers, Seniors and Contemporaries. We have come to celebrate the 50th anniversary of our institution, our secondary school on whose foundations we have built what have made us to be called success. While it is on one hand a celebration, it also represents the highlighting of the decay of our institution, a metaphor for the decay of our nation and its institutional fabrics.

Lagelu Grammar School, with its serene academic environment, its beautiful and tall Casuarina trees, that made the sky felt so near. Those Casuarina trees that constantly told us as students; that the sky could be reached and not an impossible summit. Lagelu was the hallowed temple for the moulding of leaders of tomorrow, whose catchments area was largely among the indigenes of Ibadan; who were its founding fathers.

Today, the walls of the hallowed temple of our institution, nay our nation is fallen. The Casuarina trees are gone. The environment is no longer serene. The glasses of the windows of the beautiful hall, a rock solid architectural masterpiece, are now made of wooden planks. There are neither more encyclopedia in the library nor chemicals in the laboratory. Lagelu, that was the pride of the nation in French subject in the late 70s, winning prizes even in West Africa, no longer offer French to its students. The wide expanse of school land of a thousand acres is gone. They have been taken over by the police barracks and several schools claiming to be offsprings of the Lagelu mother school, but who are nothing but pretenders to the heritage. The boarding house where we learnt discipline and toughness is also gone. It was the place where we were toughened by cutting the stubborn grass of our slanting football field.

As we have said, the institutional decay of our school, is a metaphor for the decay of our nation and its institutional fabrics. It represents the decay of our communities, of our government, and the ethical values that should have made us a strong nation. The nature of our societal institutions today is the outcome of our collective efforts as leaders and followers.

Our institutions have decayed, not because we lack resources, for we are a blessed nation. Our institutions have decayed because we have enthroned the values of graft over service. Our institutions have decayed because we have worshiped material over knowledge. Our institutions have decayed because we have let enlightened self-interest entrenched itself over the interest of the larger community.

Our school took its name from Lagelu, the founder of the ancient city of Ibadan. Ibadan the ancient city of our birth, that is rich in history of the triumph of community values over enlightened self interest. We remember the famous story of Efunsetan Aniwura, the Iyalode of Ibadan, her wickedness, her oppression of the citizenry; and her eventual defeat by the collective will of the people.

Brothers, Seniors and Contemporaries. The fact is that if Efunsetan were to be alive today in many parts of our nation, she would be a political party Chairman or member of board of trustee of the political party of her choice. Such is the decadence of our political institution today.

Yet, we must not loose hope, for we can see some silver lining in the dark clouds. Our leaders and their stewardship are being questioned for the first time in the law courts. Enlightened self interest may push back but the larger community interest is resisting well through the institution of our vibrant press, a real blessing of our democratic experiment.

Enlightened self interest perpetuates itself over our larger community interest when the institutions for expression of our community interest are either weak or non-existent. We see this in our democracy and its faulty electoral process. Even the President acknowledged that what we had in April was not an election to be proud of and has set up a committee on electoral reforms. While we re-build the political process and its institutional framework to which our political parties are core; it is critical that we strengthen alternative social institutions outside the political process. These social institutions provide alternative platforms for the expression of our larger community interests. These alternative social institutions include our NGOs, our town unions and Parapos and our old boys associations such as that of Lagelu Grammar School. They must however not just be elitist groups that flaunt the success of its members and promote only their self-interest. If they do so, they will be guilty of the sins of the politicians. They must be associations that are truly non-partisan, associations that champion our larger community interest; who put pressure on the political process to reform it, to be truly democratic.

And back to matters of our beloveth school. Our different generations, who have passed through Lagelu Grammar School, have been very privileged. We have had the privilege of sound education of the highest academic and moral standards. To this privilege that we had, comes an obligation to give back to the institution that has shaped our lives. We must rebuild the fallen walls of the hallowed temple of our beloveth school. Albert Einstein said and I quote

“Everyday, I remind myself that my inner and outer life are based on the labours of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving”.

A generation had the vision and founded the school and gave us a privilege education. We who have received from the school must give back as much as we have received. Our generation must ensure that the baton does not fall from our hands. That even if the baton has fallen, it must be picked up again and we must begin a new race to connect the school back to the glory of the past.

There are several programs and endowments that have been proposed by the national body. Lets us give generously to support them. Let’s also ensure that as we build new infrastructure in the school, that those infrastructures are maintained and sustained. Let’s have a tripartite governance structure for the school of those who have genuine vested interest in its highest standards. These are the teachers, the parents and the old boys association. As we rebuild our old school and improve its standards, we are in our little, but no small way building back the nation and its standards. It is therefore a privilege and sacred duty for which we must be proud, proud to serve and proud to give.

Brothers, Seniors and Contemporaries. Thank you for listening.

Speech by Olu Akanmu at the Lagelu Grammar School Old Boys Association, 50th Anniversary Fund Raising Dinner. January 13, 2008

1 comment:

Sade O. said...

Re- Let’s re-build the fallen walls
Your article evoked a palpable sense of deep nostalgia reminding one of the hallowed simplicity of life in the good old school days marked by reverence for God and respect for humanity- those days when it mattered less what part of the country you came from, your pedigree or place in society. Those days, we were taught moral instruction as part of the school curriculum and justice as the first condition of humanity. Those were the glorious days of discipline when the promise of blistered palms earned from tough elephant grass and a visit to the school principal’s office deterred even the most hard-headed student from trudging across a lawn. And our teachers, noble souls, took their charge seriously and diligently taught and lived the fear of God. But then, those were the years before the locusts came...
Today the lawns are no longer green and many of the teachers are long dead and forgotten. Our schools have become monumental attractions of failure- evidence of years of criminal neglect and frequent policy shifts that have done nothing but promote a culture of mediocrity, breeding a generation of educated illiterates with compromised values. Several years after the holocaust that visited our public school system, government has only just woken up to reality and handed back many of the schools to their original owners but in a state that would make even an Attila weep.
This is a good article and a wake-up call for other alumni associations to join hands in the task of re-awakening and restoring the time-honoured values that promoted the lofty ideals of education. This is no mean task but one that calls for a thorough grassroots public sensitization and mobilization programme aimed at influencing the government and other key stakeholders to increase the stakes in funding and influence the national assembly to pass bills in favour of a collective national policy aimed at restoring the values of education in Nigeria.
Our alumni foundations must serve as catalysts for change and for the espousal of the values of those institutions rather than avenues for the frivolous pursuits of network fraternities and end-of- year parties. For the task of re-building to succeed, we must rigorously canvass for the creation of bills that recognise the strategic relevance of public/private sector engagement and collaboration in sectors like education, manpower development, policy articulation and planning. Rather than wait for foreign NGOs to up the ante, government must encourage private sector participation in education planning and management by engaging fresh perspectives to policy formulation to encourage private organizations to invest in the education sector through laudable projects such as group volunteering, sponsorship of community-related education projects and donation of books to dilapidated school libraries. The results would certainly be far-reaching in halting the current slide in our educational standards and moral values.