We are restoring Ekiti Parapo College’s old glory’
By Wale Akinola
Mr. Lanre Adesuyi, a librarian, archivist and entrepreneur, is President of the National Association of Ekiti Parapo College Old Students. He speaks, in this interview, on issues that include the role of alumni associations in the resuscitation and management of education in Nigeria.
What’s your perception of the state of education in Nigeria today?
In those days, education was a culture; an instrument of life in the sense that you could not go to school until your were six years old when you were expected to have attained a certain level of maturity.
It was a time you had to stretch your right hand over your head to touch your left ear. What this means is that your parents must have imparted some knowledge into your life from birth, especially in terms of understanding cultural norms like greetings, personal hygiene and respect for elders. Primary schools then were a set up of serious concerns in which teachers saw themselves as professionals.
Teaching, then, was one of the best professions; it was more widely known than engineering, pharmacy or medicine and one’s headmaster was like a mini-god. The teachers were dedicated and, naturally, the students were very serious.
This was the learning that one took to secondary school, where the teachers were mostly foreigners. Things were done right. Though these were public schools, the curriculum was straight forward. If you failed, you would be caned. That was enough fear built in for a student to concentrate on his studies. Generally, education was taken seriously.
Now, in these days of nursery school, children are forced to go to school too early because parents have to work. Parental guidance is limited, issues of culture are relegated to the background and children began to see themselves as really independent from about age three.
A lot of laxity arise because of peer group influence. To now concentrate and face studies have also become more difficult because of external influences like radio, TV, music, movies and now, technology, the internet and GSM telephony.
Shortly before the war in 1967, people began to move back to their regions because of the political problems of the time. This affected education because of the lack of continuity that further confused young pupils. The future was not clear after the war. The values in schools disappeared.
Then about 1973, government took over schools, meaning that nobody now owned the schools, which government could even not properly manage. All schools, community-owned, church-owned or Moslem-owned, were taken over and, like the case of the man with many wives, the school system suffered because no one really now ‘owned’ the schools.
That was the beginning of the problem we face today because policy somersaults by successive administrations made it difficult to know who really owned what.
The advent of private schools also brought its own set of problems. How much did we pay for education in those days? These days, school fees are exorbitant yet the quality of knowledge acquired by products of these schools is nothing to write home about.
We are yet to even measure the impact of the contribution of these schools within the context of total education development in Nigeria.
Statistics are also not representative of reality on ground because they are not updated, so planning is really a big problem.
One key fall-out of this is that education is also grossly under-funded in spite of huge budget allocations, year-on-year. Half of the money allocated to the sector are not disbursed, so corruption thrives in the sector.
These problems have combined to stunt the development and growth of education in Nigeria.
How can these problems be solved?
First, there has to be the will to truly transform the sector in Nigeria. Schools should be returned to their original owners, if they are still interested in having them back. Some of these schools, particularly those owned by faith-based organisations, can still thrive.
Ownership is crucial because it will make a lot of difference in the quality of progress made. The curriculum is crucial, too. You hardly can find vulcanisers at every point that you want them or any artisan because education in Nigeria is geared towards theory and, therefore, white collar jobs.
In advanced nations, if you required the services of artisans, you must be ready to pay appropriate fees. Here, we undervalue and underpay artisans, who, in turn, are not encouraged to be more professional. We do not train our people to be able to create wealth for themselves; we train them to look for paid employment in air conditioned offices. So our people are not creative and, therefore, cannot produce anything.
The problem of oil has also turned the country upside down. Oil is now like a curse because all our other natural resources like cocoa, groundnut, grains and oil palm are all virtually gone. We need to restructure the educational curriculum; if it is geared towards production and export, the country would be the better for it.
Significance of Ekiti Parapo College in Ekitiland
Ekiti Parapo College, which was founded in 1954, was the only school in Ekitiland then that was established by concerned educationists. The school trained so many of us who, today, have been successful in many professions.
The school came to be because the people Ekiti needed to have their own school, apart from the one set up by the Anglican missionaries in Ado Ekiti in the 1930s.
The Ekiti National Association (ENA) and Ekiti Progressive Union (EPU), among others, came together to start the school, which had Chief Ade Akomolafe as pioneer Principal. ENA and EPU were community movements of Ekiti indigenes, so the name, Ekiti Parapo, was derived from the union of Ekiti indigenes.
What plans to celebrate the school’s 60th anniversary?
We have a grand plan to celebrate the school’s landmark anniversary starting from November 24 – 30, 2014, although the school was established in January, 1954. The goal of our celebration is for us, young and old, to come together for a reunion after more than half a century of the founding of the school.
A number of schools the same age as ours have actually folded up. Beyond the celebration, we want to raise funds to help us restore our alma mater, academically and physically.
I became President a little over a year ago. We have branches across the world. We have been trying to fix a whole lot of things in the school because we believe that the school must be returned to its old glory or come near enough to the standard that we were used to in our days in school.
Being President has given me the opportunity to visit the school and see things for myself. The intervention by the past and present executive committees of the Association in the last few years has yielded some positive results both from old students and from government.
The academic area has been restored to some extent but the boarding house and teachers quarters are still in bad shape. Going forward, we want to seize the opportunity of the celebration of the school’s 60th anniversary to create public awareness and get government to recognise that there are still many challenges ahead.
The old students association, too, will play its part in the reconstruction of the college. We are trying to bring back the boarding system and we want the teachers and non-teaching staff to be housed.
For the long term, we shall institute trustees to ensure sustenance of the momentum of progress that we are able to record in terms of academics and the physical development of the school. We believe that our efforts will spur government to take more than a passing interest in the well-being of the school and its students.
We have been lucky to have very dedicated Principals one of whom ensured that the school is not tainted by incidents of cheating that had become rampant in a number of institutions because teachers wanted their schools to have good results at all cost. Our association is comfortable with every effort made at keeping faith with the culture of discipline, hard work and excellence, which was the foundation upon which the school was founded.
How do you hope to restore the old glory of the school?
We want to partner with government, which is the owner of the school, so that everything that is put into the system is properly defined. Government’s role will need to be properly defined, just as the responsibilities of other stakeholders need to be well defined.
We want to ensure adherence to the highest standard of education in the country. We want to ensure that future intakes into the school would be qualified, serious students that we can groom to become first class students.
They must, like us old students, be able to beat their chest and declare themselves as proud old students of Ekiti Parapo College, which should reflect in their morals as well as academic, sports and other extra-curricula attainments.
Ekiti Parapo College was Number One in dramatic presentations in the days of old, we plan to return the school to that peak. We also will handle infrastructure issues.
We will not achieve these in one fell swoop but we shall do so in stages, for which we shall have a rolling plan that we would be able to appraise year-on-year, say, over a five-year period to give us a snap shot of achievements and areas needing improvement.
To what extent has government been supportive of your plans?
We must thank the government of Dr. Kayode Fayemi under whose watch the school’s academic section received some attention in terms of renovation and provision of computers. But there is still room for more.
The alumni association has complemented government’s efforts in terms of the renovation of laboratories and the school library. One of our members was instrumental to securing corporate support for the provision of potable water through a borehole that was built and is still being maintained by the donor company.