By Dayo Adesulu
- St. Gregory College, one of the oldest mission schools in Nigeria assumed the nomenclature in 1928 when it ceased to be St. Gregory’s Grammar School built by the Roman Catholic Mission in 1881. With 18 students, the school was commissioned in 1882 while Mr. O. M. Pagnow served as its first principal.
Since its creation, the mission school has produced distinguished Nigerians like Sir Adeyemo Alakija, the famous legal practitioner; Sir Adetokunbo Ademola, the first indigenous Chief Justice of Nigeria; Alhaji Jubril Martins, the first Muslim lawyer to register in the court of the Colony, and Archbishop Kwao Aggey, the first African Catholic Archbishop of Lagos.
Others include Chief Justice Ayo Irikefe, Chief Justice Taylor of Ghana, Chief Justice Manfred Adophe, Chief J.A Cole, Chief Ganiyu Dawodu, to mention a few SANs. In the priesthood office, it had the late Archbishop Amusu Aggey, Anthony Cardinal Okogie, Pastor Wale Adefarasin and Archbishop George Amu.
It is believed that the moral and quality of education at the school would have made those distinguished alumni. What was the school like in the era of the aforementioned alumni, what were the experiences of the alumni when the military took over in 1979 and what was it like when it returned to the Church?
Speaking during a press conference to mark the 90th anniversary of St. Gregory’s College and its crossover from St. Gregory’s Grammar School to St. Gregory’s College in 1928, its Alumni president, Dr. Oluyomi MacGregor and the Chairman, Sir Steve Omojafor, chronicled the different eras. Before the military took over mission schools in 1979, Omojafor said that the school witnessed all round success in academic, moral and sports.
He said: “The aim of the college was in consonance with Catholic philosophy of educating the whole man – physically, mentally, academically and spiritually.” According to him, in the thirties, St. Gregory was a leading school in the senior school matriculation certificate examinations and sports. In the 40s and 50s, excellent science teaching aids and laboratory were provided in the college which assisted in diversifying students’ orientation from classical Arts to Science.
“The college had on its faculty, excellent science masters, some of whom were seconded to the new University College, Ibadan. Most Gregorians of this era were exposed to enormous volume of religious and moral teachings,” he said. In 1957, he disclosed that St. Gregory was the first mission school to run the HSC programme with excellent results.
Describing the period of military take-over of mission schools in the late 70s as an era of setbacks, Omojafor said that the sanctity, sacredness and inestimable contributions which the missions made over the years disappeared. “The damage that came with the take-over was incalculable,” he said.
According to him, school buildings were balkanized like the partition of Africa, into schools II, III and IV. Said he: “Entrance examination and the accompanying interview process which helped in sifting the wheat from the chaff were abandoned and replaced with catchment area. The outcome was the admission of students who were very ill-prepared for secondary school education.
“Admission of students increased exponentially, while there was obvious neglect and disrepair of education facilities like school buildings, chapel, laboratory and others. The student population soared to 3000 from 850. The resultant effect was overcrowded classrooms, toilet systems, a terribly high teacher/student ratio and poor class work.
“All these, added to the new wave of indiscipline, addictive behaviours, immorality and violent culture, nearly brought the school to its knees. There was acute shortage of teachers that the PTA had to engage additional well-trained teachers.
“Government teachers introduced the distasteful and disgraceful commercialisation of marks and automatic promotion of students, said to be a state directive which virtually killed the known standard of the college. Core subjects like Mathematics and English Language became a nightmare. In English Language, all basic rules of grammar were violated with impunity. Essays were written like rap music, while paragraphs and clause analysis were non-existent. It was an educational disaster.”