CNB New – Four years ago, I wrote an article published by the Punch Newspaper titled, Role of the Alumni in Resuscitating Education. The article, like tens of others with my name, was written to address an ill in the Nigerian education system.
You can read that article here: https://www.google.com/amp/s/punchng.com/role-of-alumni-in-resuscitating-education/%3famp=1
In that particular article, I made an assertion that no school 25 years old and above should lack the necessary support needed to keep some appreciable standard. Why? Such a school must have produced enough professionals and people of means willing to give back to their alma mater. Why then are many old schools in shambles and utter dilapidation all across the country? That question may have many answers, but one workable answer that fits the country’s exisitng reality is that the old students of such schools have not risen to the occasion to uphold the prestige and honour the school might have been known for.
Now, that, I must confess, is easier said than done or achieved, as it will take huge efforts and different things coming together. But it is also not an impossibility as the case of Methodist High School, Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Ibadan, has proven in the last one year. I walked the spacious and beautiful compound of that school for six whole years with several hundreds of other students between 1985 and 1991. As students of Methodist High School then, we wore the white and blue colours of the school with some level of confidence because of the school’s pedigree, with the inscription of the school motto, E MAA TESIWAJU (meaning Keep Moving Forward), written on the badge fastened to the shirt pocket. Not many schools around were as reverred as ‘Methoe’. And not many have a school anthem that portrays a school’s positive influence on its students — as the first stanza of the anthem expressly shows:
Methodist High School I am proud of You
For Your progress and high ideals
Methodist High School I am part of You
I enjoy Your Blessings
My School, My School
I will never forget You
My School, My School
I will never disobey
The school anthem Introduced during the time of Late Reverend M. O. Olomolaye as the principal of the school must have been formed not only for current students to have a sense of connection and hope, but also to create a nostalgic feeling in old students in the hope they will keep remembering the drills, thrills and lessons of high school, which partly made them what they are today According to the Alumni President, Mr. Lekan Abioye, friendships were fanned into flame those days in secondary school , and many of such are still burning tilll today — 10, 20, 30, even 40, 50 years later.. ‘Our minds cannot bury the memories. Our heart deep down can’t deny the connection’, he said. If the Methodist High School anthem lyrics were an experiment to glue schoolmates together emotionally, I guess it has largely worked for the numerous sets of students that have passed through the school, and the glue’s binding effect is proving to last a whole lifetime.
But it definitely took more than the motto, anthem and past school experiences to see the remarkable synergy and collaboration among the different sets of old students that led to the recent transformation of the school, which is what this article is all about. After that my Punch Newspaper 2017 article on how alumni can transform their old school, the need to rise and rebuild the school became so evident. At this time, the school was in its worst condition ever, a thing of shame for any old student that visited at the time.
Buildings were dilapidated, classrooms and laboratories in deplorable condition, and the whole school environment unkempt. To mke things worse, the school had greatly shrunk in physical and numerical size, with worst performing pupils in the Common Entrance Examination reportedly being sent to enrol there. In my capacity as an educator and trainer, I was involved in a training seminar organised by my alumni set for the students in 2016, 2018 and 2019. I could tell firsthand that a lot of work needs to be done to make the current students have the old Methoe boys’ privileges and to bring back the lost glory of the school.
The transformation now being witnessed would really begin late 2019 when the former national executive board magnanimously made the smart and timely move to hand over to new executives, which, with the guidance of the same old execuitves, came up with a blueprint for the rebuilding of the school in conjunction with its Board of Trustees. The blueprint, which covers all kinds of renovations and refurbishment plus a plan for improved learning standard, has over a dozen projects, with before-and-after images of the different projects to capture both the existing reality and the intended goal.
With the blueprint drawn for all alumni sets of the school to see and respond favourably towards, the new executives had to supply two major ingredients mentioned in my article of 2017 for such a project to really work, which are transparency and coordination.Transparency is highly essential for trust to be in place as old students who would commit their resources to the renovation projects need to be sure that their resources would be used for the intended purpose. In such a case as this, any evident deviation from purpose or diversion of funds to something not intended would be seen as fraudulent and would not make the contributors commit themselves to the project. That explains why some school alumni have continually failed in their effort to rebuild their school.
The other ingredient is coordination, and this is where the work really is. Reaching the different alumni sets and carrying them along does not only take a considerable effort but also some tact and planning. (You don’t want to be too pushy when you are seeking for help from others.) The newly established executive of Methodist High School Alumni hit the ground running connecting with the different sets through their representatives and going as far as forming a group for the old students of the school living in diaspora. It would not be long before their coordinating efforts started paying off.
Things started happening as the interest to rebuild the school began to grow among the different sets of the alumni. Some of the highlighted projects were taken by some sets. The rebuilding of the Legacy Building, a one-storey block of 8 classrooms, was taken up by a set from the 70s. And the set did a near perfect job in rebuilding the almost collapsing building. Many other sets had followed suit to handle other classroom blocks, the administrative block and the staff rooms, as well as the school gate house and fence. Within months, Methodist High School was wearing a whole new look, as the old students prepared to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the school.
The real beauty of this education success story, and what the Alumni President Mr. Abioye would consider a miracle, were the unique interventions that came as the old students rose in unity to rebuild their school. Like the old adage that says, ‘it is the child that opens his arms that gets carried’, the old students of Methodist High School took daring steps to bring back the lost glory of the school and are duly rewarded with two laudable supports, one a Federal Government intervention of a fully equipped ICT centre for the students of the school. The second one is equally significant: the Start Them Early Programme (STEP) by the Oyo State Government in conjunction with International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), which saw all the science laboratories in the school refurbished. Also, STEP, being an agricultural programme to promote early interest in both farming and learning, came with provisions for animal husbandry and plant farming to prepare students of the school who may wish to move into the line of agriculture in the nearest future, turning Methodist High School into a grooming centre for upcoming upscale 21st century farmers. Thus, the old students by rising have done well for their alma mater and have seen their expectations for rebuilding and renovation totally exceeded. Real kudos to both the former and new executives of the alumni body, as well the Board of Trustees. Not to forget the two immediate former principals and also the current principal and her team of teachers.
At the 60th anniversary which was held at the school.premises on February 13, 2021, it was reunion and celebration as most sets were represented by few members (because of the adherence to Covid-19 protocols). The old students in attendance were beaming with smiles for such a rebuilding achievement in record time – under a year, and larrgely during the disruptive Covid-19 period.
As the different projects were being launched by federal and state government representatives as well as the old students led by their president, it was apparent the current students of the school, fortunate to be the beneficiaries of all the new provisions, are in for a more conducive and robust learning the rest of their years in the school. And they know this, as one of them that day was overheard to have said, ‘May God bless all the people that rose to rebuild this school.’ Sincere heartfelt words of prayer from a young grateful soul!
As the new school brigade (also freshly rescusitated, made up of current students well kitted and properly groomed) paraded and performed for the audience while the Founder’s Day programme was on, possibilities filled the whole air. A school that looked so horrible a year earlier that the average old student would almost weep at its terrible state is now looking repackaged with some state-of-the-art facilities in it, and work is still ongoing on some other projects as attention is being extended to the north wing of the school, where the old staff quarters, school hall as well as boarding facilities are sited. Possibilities galore! Methodist High School is indeed reborn! And this rebirth is good to behold.
The truth and reality is, these possibilities in the air, which have been on paper since March 2017 — in that Punch Newspaper article I wrote — are there for any school to have. And according to that article, the possibilities are wrapped in the reality that there is no other party or group of individuals on earth that will want to see to the development of a school (as a collective responsibility) than its old students. No other set of humans have a deeper connection with a school than its students, and the loving memories about the school may just be like an old wine — the older the wine, the sweeter it gets. On that Founder’s Day and diamond anniversary of Methodist High School, the older sets among the alumni were there recounting their school experiences in the 60s and 70s and seemed to have more to say about the school than even the younger old students. Their memories have not failed them a bit on the remarkable experiences they had way back then. The connection Is really deep, and that goes for the alumni sets of the 80s, 90s and 00s that were around for the anniversary.
Essentially, it is this connection that public schools and the government that owns them should explore and leverage in order to realise a more rapid and robust development of old public schools. According to the 2017 Punch Newspaper article, seeking school alumni to rebuild their school is not excusing government from providing education to the young generation, which is its responsibility. Rather, it is to complement government’s efforts, particularly because of the country’s socioeconomic challenges at the moment. It should be noted that there are still more than 10 million out-of-school children in the country which the government has not been able to cater for. And there are many schools still too young to enjoy any meaningful assistance from their old students. So, alumni bodies can only do a part, and it is not too much asking them to do the part that concerns them, which is helping to rebuild their respective school if such rebuilding is deemed necessary.
So, how should the alumni be approached and prompted? Whichever individual or party that will want to stir the interest of the alumni of a school should note that it is not by begging or cajoling, or forcing money out of their pocket — which is almost impossible by the way. Rather, it is appealing to their sense of pride. It is telling them to be compassionate enough to give the current students of their old school same (or better) learning opportunities and experiences as they had in their days when public school education in Nigeria was far better than it is now. It may require, according to that 2017 Punch Newspaper report, a transparent agency that will serve as an intermediary between goverment and the alumni of the different schools, particularly if the goal is a blanket transformation of old schools across an education district or a whole state.
Whether it is the effort of just the principal and teachers of a school to sensitise the alumni to the varying needs in the school, or even just one old student waking up his fellow mates, juniors and seniors to the collective responsibility of giving back to their school, or the effort of an agency working on behalf of the government to stir the interest of alumni bodies in order to realise the transformation and development of many public schools in a particular region or state, the logic is the same: Engage old students to gain their commitment to rebuild and rescusitate their old school. It can’t be simpler put than that, I guess.
As a result of the desired result that recently took place within its premises, Methodist High School, Ibadan, has become a shinning example for many schools to emulate. Its alumni have achieved something really worth commending, turning the fortune of their old school around in a short space of time, and the wonders are not over yet. As I write, plans are underway to turn the spacious school field of the school into a sports complex (with standard football pitch and basketball court with stands) through a partnership, and get a sports coach to train sports talents among the students. In years to come, we may see Methoe boys ruling Oyo State again like in the early nineties when the school beat all other schools to win the Oyo State Principals’ Cup back to back, in 1990 and 1991.
Regarding academics, which is the core of schooling, it is apparent that Methodist High School will now take the shape of a model school, with its alumni having a strong say about the standard of the school.
The school, for instance, will no longer be a dumpsite for academically poor students (which had been the case for a while). Rather, enrolment will reflect the new standards of the school. For the current students, the different facilities now put in place will serve them adequately for good academic performance.. For the current set of teachers and administrators in the school, there are now standard tools and equipmemt to give their students greater learning experiences. For the parents of the students, they may not know, but life has just favoured their children in their individual quest to become something in life.
For the government of the land, it is a lesson to go into strategic partnership with relevant private bodies to bring about development not only in education but in other sectors as well. What has happened in Methodist High School might have been championed and facilitated by the school’s old students, but such could also have been strategically prompted through a private-public partnership without government’s direct dealing with the alumni of the different schools under it.
For the alumni body of different schools, I guess the assertion that every school 25 years and above have produced more than enough individuals that can contribute to its transformation largely holds true. What is left is a leadership that will demonstrate transparency and be able to coordinate the different individuals and sets for the desired results. Old students of public schools should therefore rise to rebuild their schools like the Methoe Old Boys have done, and the impetus and energy to do so will always be there, found in the deep undeniable connectiion they have with their school and fellow mates. For many old students, the alma mater is not just a place, it is an encounter and experience that will be forever cherished. The alma mater is an entity that will continue to live in the heart of its students and the years spent there are never forgotten as many memories tend to linger, and some carried down to the grave.
The alma mater is personified in that Methodist High School anthem as a living thing, being metaphorically referred to as a person of immense influence. Not only is the school referred to as ‘You’, but the immense benefits of ‘You’ are also spelt out in the second stanza of the anthem:
You taught me to be a son of God
And to obey my earthly parents
You provide faithful and loyal teachers
And dedicated friends
My school, my school
I will never forget You
My school, my school
I will never disobey
This might be the anthem of one school, but it well typifies the gains of teaching, instructing. correction and discipline that every school should hand its students. And it tells why the students will in turn always want to identify with the school even long after they have left the school. That emotional connection makes the alumnil body a part of its school, ready and willing to assist in keeping the staadard enjoyed at their own time and the prestige they were proud of then. Other parties may not care or be moved to assist the school, but its old students do care and can show it if gently compelled to act.
This emotional connection will always be there for any relevant individual or party – government representatives, current principal and teachers, parents of current students, or even an alumni member or group — to leverage for desired results. This is the reason for writing that article, Role of the Alumni in Resuscitating Education, which The Punch Newspaper published in 2017. This is the reason for sharing here the unfolding success story of Methodist High School, Ibadan. It is to show and prove that transformation can come the way of any public school old enough to have produced a score of sets of students because such a school must already be living in so many hearts — the hearts of those old students. And those hearts gripped with its interest will always want to show or say to the school that ‘I will never forget You,’ — as put in that profound Methodist High School anthem.