From Layi Olanrewaju, Ilorin

All roads led to Esie/Iludun Grammar School, Esie/Iludun, Irepodun Local Government, Kwara State, recently. It was to mark its 60 years plus existence.

Six decades in the life of an individual, organization and institutions need to be celebrated. And that was what the Esie Iludun Grammar School Old Students Association (EIGSOSA), did on November 5 and 6, 2021.

The old students rolled out various activities to mark the 60th anniversary of their alma mater. The school was actually established in 1960. But the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown prevented the celebration last year.

The two-day event was fun and action packed. The first day was light activities including charity display; remembrance and honouring deceased old students and visits to the residences of their former teachers.

November 6 was the “Uniform Day.” Old students adorned the white shirt and green trousers for men and women white blouse underneath green gown with beret cap to match. They mixed freely with the current students. They gave career, mentoring and counselling talks to the young students.

National President, EIGSOSA, Prof Ayokunle Olawepo, said: “EIGS turned 60 in January 2020. The plan was to have the celebration later that

year but then the global scourge of COVID-19 pandemic crept in and its subsequent lockdown, restrictions of movements plus embargo on human congregation scuttled the celebration.

“EIGS is a great institution with its products doing exceedingly well in virtually all spheres of human endeavour such as Law, Literature, Arts, Business, Sciences, Commerce, Politics, Medicines and Academics.

“The school is proud to flaunt the Senator representing Kwara South, Lola Ashiru. It produced two out of 72 recently announced Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN). The parlance ‘small but mighty’, rightly fits our alma mater.”

He listed structures renovated by the old students to include: school assembly hall, blocks of classrooms, toilet facilities, upgrading of the access road to the school and sinking of borehole: “Some old students have provided scholarships and prizes to deserving students as incentives to improve performances at the exit SSCE exams.”

He called on stakeholders to join hands with EIGSOSA to restore the glory of the school: “It is our pride; our school. Our old students should not to relent and will not get tired.

“We urge more old students to join hands with EIGSOSA, to step forward, get prominent, get busy on the work is much but labourers are few.”

Chairman at the event and an old student, Comrade Wahab Lawal, appealed to stakeholders to join hands to develop the school. He said while going around the school what he saw moved him to tears. This propelled him to make a cash donation of one million naira with a promise to do more in the years ahead.

The Principal, Mr Tunde Atomori, lauded the efforts of the founder of the school: “The founding fathers envisioned a school that would provide functional and affordable education to her students in a serene and conducive environment. They believed that most of the old students who passed through the school in the 70s and early 90s could attest to this.

“Unfortunately, we now have a school that us suffering and lacking the things that can make learning interesting and permanent. Where do we start? Are we going to talk about dilapidated structures, poor access roads, leaking and windowless classrooms, old and expired textbooks in the library, laboratories without reagents and apparatus? The list is endless.

“The school is suffering for lack of care with abandonment by the owner communities. Dual ownership that should have been a blessing is now a curse. The two communities now have their respective schools and are devoting all their resources and energies to those schools to the detriment of their first love. Some people even go to the ridiculous extent of de-marketing the school so as to make it unattractive to prospective students.”

Atomori thanked the old students individually and sets who have come to the aid of the school to bail it out of very difficult situations from time to time. He also commended the two mother Cathedral of St.

Michael, Esie and Cathedral of St James, Iludun-Oro, for their support. He equally lauded the NGO founded by Mr Sunday Popoola and his siblings by paying salaries of four teachers: “Others are Ezekiel Adeyemi Ore Oyeyipo Foundation for giving scholarships to four students since 2012, Adetunji Oyeyipo (SAN) for paying English teacher’s salary since 2019, the Prestige Club Esie, for rewarding brilliant Esie indigenes; some old students who have been given scholarships: Professors S.O.K Olabanji, Raaheed Ijaodola, Kunle Olawepo and Ayotunde Oyeniyi (who is not an old student), for giving scholarships to students.

“We still crave for more. Most of the developmental activities going on in schools around us are courtesy of old students.”

Senator Ashiru said the school has been neglected for long: “The school has been making name and performed excellently well in sports, literary and debate, sciences all you can think of. But you wonder at the level of decay now.” He promised a donation of one million naira and pledged subsequent assistance to be routed through his set 1972 class.

Guest speaker Mr Yomi Adeboye, an old student too, delivered a paper, “Esie Iludun: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.” Tepresented by Bisi Atolagbe, he said: “The much earlier establishment of St. Michael Anglican Primary School in Esie was indeed a major fuel for the much later founding of Esie/Iludun Anglican Grammar School in 1960.

“Those of us who were privileged to have been trained here will attest to the fact that life in EIGS was without prejudice to a student’s religious faith or place of origin. At a time the school used to have on its roll, students from South East, South-South, South West and the North of Nigeria.

“Christians, Muslims, had equal chances; once they were found qualified and could pay the prescribed school fees, they were given a lifetime of opportunity to acquire western education.

“EIGS had on its payroll trained and qualified teachers, who knew their onions, were themselves disciplined and were ready to make personal sacrifices in order to ensure the success of their students.

They worked hard to improve at all that their teachers taught them.

“In fact, at a time, EIGS was able to accommodate its entire student population in a well-run boarding house system that made many of us better citizens of our nation.  We can also recall that EIGS was once a model for others in agricultural entrepreneurship development through its widely acclaimed poultry farming.

“Also EIGS excelled in academics, achieving very high ratings at public examinations, extra curriculum activities including sports, quiz competitions, debates, culture and drama. But those were the glorious days when public schools were more popular than private ones for many positive reasons.

“But a visit to public schools will expose the rustic state of their learning environment. In many instances, laboratories, libraries, classrooms, sports facilities, sanitary facilities and hostels are either absent or decaying. Thus, the present fate of EIGS is predicated on the fate of public schools in Nigeria of today.

“However, there are two likely routes out of the seemingly intractable situation of our public schools. First consideration will be to return the schools to their original founders and promoters where they are willing to take possession. Governments can then set the basic minimum standards for their operations, ensure monitoring and sanction non-compliance.

“This will help to reduce drastically the number of such schools to be catered for from governments’ ever decreasing resources and make them easier to manage and supervise.

“The other option is to retain the schools under government control but sincerely return to the old but effective practice where the former owners continued to work in partnership with the government to make then run smoothly. In this instance, I recall that even after the takeover of the school, the Anglican community and the PTA never stopped to support EIGS.

“On its part, governments at all levels must consider devoting more attention and resources to education. It must also encourage and invest in the development of relevant and up to date textbooks that will simplify and make learning less scary or cumbersome for students.

“I must commend the efforts of various sets/classes of Esie/Iludun Grammar School Old Students Association who have pulled resources to give facelift to some of the dilapidated points in the school. I believe that working together with our governments, we can still redeem the public education system and salvage our schools.”

Awards were given to deserving old students, in three categories; achievements, service to school and service to humanity. There were other light programmes such as raffle draw and novelty football match.

In attendance were three traditional rulers who are old students. They were Olu of Owode-Ofaro, Oba Suleiman Ayilara, Owa Lobbo of Obbo-Ile, Oba Rufus Adebayo and Onirore of Rore, Oba Ezekiel Oyewole. The Elesie of Esie, Oba Babalola, was also present as well as captains of industry from all walks of life all old students of EIGS.

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