I know a few associations in the UK and US (Loyola College, Ibadan; Ibadan Grammar School; Methodist College Uzuakoli Old Boys Association – UMCOBA-USA and a few others) who have been giving very valuable helping hands to their old schools, but these are not enough, simply because there is a limit to what they can do. However, what I have found is that many old students from our schools in Nigeria are in very good positions to help their old schools. Many old students still living in Nigeria are very rich, are in good positions in banking, industry, politics, government, yet they do not consider helping their old schools as a priority. The same goes for many Nigerians living all over the world who are very wealthy and can afford to donate thousand of pounds to refurbish a classroom block or two; or donate 50 computers; or donate money to buy books for the libraries of their old schools.
Is it not possible for the heads of banks and industries in Nigeria to sponsor their old schools, and practically rebuild it, with the millions and billions they are making or have access to? Would the Chairman of Globacom suffer a big hole in his pocket to donate only 10 million Naira to Ibadan Grammar School or to oversee a project where all classrooms will get new and modern tables and chairs and modern teaching equipment?
And speaking of Universities Alumni, these are even worse. I spent four good years at the University of Ibadan, and for the past 17 years living in the UK, I have never heard of the UI Alumni; nor for that matter, have I ever heard of the Alumni of Unilag, ABU, OAU, Nsukka, Uniben, etc. Correct me please if I have erred in this. I have not seen their websites, nor have I heard a call to a meeting. I guess what every Alumnus of these once-great universities think is that “Oh, it is not my problem that the University remains shut for 6 months of the year, that is the problem of Nigerian Government”. I used to spend 10 kobo, 20 Kobo and 20 kobo to have 3 square meals a day at the UI cafeterias. When Head of State Olusegun Obasanjo and Col Ahmadu Ali (now PDP Chairman) in their infinite wisdom decided to change this to 20-25-25 in 1978, we took to the streets shouting “Ali Must Go” which resulted in the lives of several students and non-students. I should know – I was actively involved and narrowly escaped arrest. Now tell me if 500 Naira is enough for just one meal today in our Universities, not to talk of other expenses. And the Universities, despite their funding by the Federal Government and the State Governments are a sight for sore eyes these days, having mushroom campuses all over the place. We know where all those billions, if indeed there are any, are going, don’t we? Tears of frustration welled up in my eyes the last time I visited UI and OAU. Sure the buildings are there, but look further and closer. Check the libraries, the lecture rooms, theatres, laboratories and the Halls of Residences, and what you see is un-arrested decay.
As far back as 1976, in the Agricultural Biology laboratories of the University of Ibadan, we used to be taught by Closed Circuit TV. Yes!! Very limited technology in those days in most countries in the world. Go and have a look now and see if these equipment are still functional. The University of Ibadan Farm? Don’t even talk about that. I am at a loss really as to how research students and scientists carry out researches to discover new things. I doff my hat to them for being able to survive under these harsh and de-motivating conditions.
The Old Students and Alumni Associations will definitely not be the panacea to all these problems, but they can certainly intervene positively. They can contribute to fund projects in their respective alma mater and most importantly, they can apply pressure on politicians, governments, industry leaders and individuals to start doing something as far as education is concerned. This is part of self-help and community building. Even old students and alumni abroad who have political ambitions can use this as stepping stones to boost their image and appeal to the electorates and constituents who will eventually vote for them based on what they have done for their community. Furthermore, old students and alumni abroad are in a position to appeal to the international community, overseas institutions and individuals to support and contribute to community and school projects in Nigeria e.g. sending computers, equipment, books, furniture, etc to renovate schools and universities. They can “pair” Nigerian schools and universities with schools aboard in an effort to seek donations of materials and exchange of students and scholarships. Some are already doing these, but we need more. Vibrant and forward-looking Old Students Associations and Alumni, whether in Nigeria or abroad, can also monitor funding and projects and ensure that such are not being diverted into individual’s pockets.
Finally, it is important that these associations do not neglect their alma mater. When you go home, visit your old school and try and see what is happening. Liaise with the staff regularly to know what their problems are, and try and give them the support they need. I believe that such old students and alumni associations are more important than town meetings and ethnic associations in nation building because, invariably you find that each school and university in Nigeria are composed of students from various ethnic and tribal backgrounds. We all owe our various alma mater for whatever education and position we have today. Do not let once-great secondary schools and Universities die because our leaders are not doing anything. If they won’t do it, let’s do it our way. Easier said than done, you will say, but believe me, it can be done with the right attitude and commitment.
Happy New 2008
Anya, Anya O.,(2001) “The dreams, visions and myth of Nigerian reality” The Guardian, 19 June 2001.
Dike, Victor, (2002) “The state of education in Nigeria and the health of the nation”, Africa Economic Analysis. 05 February 2002.
Marzano, R.J.; Brandt, R.S.; Hughes, C.S.; Jones, B.F.; Presseisen, B.Z.; Rankin, R.C.; Suhor, C. (1988). “Dimensions of thinking: a framework for curriculum and instruction”. Alexandria: The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, Virginia.