Tuesday, 7 July 2009

FGCE 36th Annual Speech and Prize Giving Day - Dairy of an Old Student

I had received several e-mails from the FGCE Project Hope Team on the FGCE Speech and Prize Giving Day scheduled for Saturday-27th June 2009. Curiosity more than anything else, drove me to attend; gist had it that the School deteriorated badly. In those “good, old days", I faintly remember that Speech and Prize Giving days were held, but since I never won anything, my only involvement was that of a back-bencher. But to be honest, the prizes were not memorable, as well.

So…what could possibly have changed 20 years on...

Well, on that Saturday, I left my base for Enugu, armed with the determination to enjoy myself in town, if the FGCE Speech and Prize Giving Day did not turn-up with anything entertaining…anyhow Enugu will be fun! To be honest, as I drove into FGCE everything had changed from what it was 20+ years ago. The were new buildings- I was informed that those were new classrooms. The Principals’ house was still by the gate, but there were now trees inside the school compound. These must be from the tree planting exercise, we participated in, while we were still students.

Everything including the road looked a little-bit dilapidated.

The venue for the event was the School Auditorium, which had been “completed”, without a ceiling, windows or utilities. At least, this was some semblance of progress, as during “our days” the School Auditorium, looked like a never-ending project. From the venue, you could see the Admin building, staff room and Tuck-Center-all looking dilapidated and dire need of paint and refurbishment.

However, standing outside the Auditorium were a couple of Old students and Teachers -in flowing academic gowns- all smiling and in high spirits. It was good seeing old friends-both seniors and juniors and of course, some who you did not meet or did not meet you in FGCE. It gradually dawned on me, that despite the fact that FGCE was now in poor shape, it had indeed produced a lot of remarkable people. A couple of teachers ran across to me and pinned a broche on the lapel of my jacket and handed me a colourful brochure- they seemed determined to impress.

Something was in the air...I could not quite pin point it.

It was 10.30 in the morning and the Students and Guests were trickling into the auditorium; it did not look as if the event was still going to start as scheduled, so I took a stroll round the School compound, to relive the best years of my past life. The junior 2-storey classroom block, looking like an abandoned relic, now had 2 new classroom blocks behind it. As I strolled through the block, mentally identifying the positions I once occupied, I came across 2 classrooms newly refurbished and looking out of place;

I was informed, that these were the Classrooms being refurbished by the FGCE Project Hope team.

Across the road, was the Unity and Liberty House Boarding House block, windowless, dilapidated and dirty. The same VIP toilets and bathrooms constructed 20+ years ago; when I was still a student were still being used. I deferred to caution, and observed from a distance, that the building was no longer in use. The PE building, from where Mr. Ama used to run the Sports affairs of the school, was no longer functional and the windows were boarded. Same goes for the building that served as a mosque; I wondered if the School still had any Muslim students? The Independence-Honesty-Peace House block looked as if it had just been renovated. Though some students were busy playing football along the corridor, the doors were locked. I headed back for the auditorium with the conclusion that if nothing else; the School was desperately in need of a grass-cutting campaign.

By the time I got back, the auditorium was almost full. Members of the High table had taken their seats and the National Anthem was being sung. I was informed by a Teacher seating next to me that those on the High table are as follows:

* Chairman- Prof. B. C. Ozumba (from UNN- Enugu Campus).
* Chief Host - Principal FGCE - Mr. E. Esan.
* Chairman Organising Committee- Vice Principal (Academics) FGCE - Mrs. I. Asuelinmen.
* Special Guest- President FGCE Old Students Association - Lagos Branch - Timi Ebitimi.
* Guest Speaker - Dr. Emma Owuamalam.
* Keynote Speaker - Bala Yusuf -Secretary General USOSA-(Representing Albert Okumagba)
* Special Guest- PTA Chairman- Mr. Emma Ikeagwuonu.
* Special Guest- Mr. Abia - Former Principal
* A representative of the Hon. Minister of Education.

The FGCE anthem was also sung and thereafter, the FGCE pledge and welcome songs were performed by the School Choir, led by the Music Teacher-Mrs. Okereke- who had not changed very much.

The Principal gave the traditional report on the School, of which the only interesting fact, is that 70% of the students are day-students. I then wondered, how the population of the School still managed to reflect the Federal Character, which was one of the key drivers for starting the School? He acknowledged the effort of FGCE Project Hope, and pleaded for more assistance.

The Hon. Minster for Education’s representative, read her speech, which was flat and uninspiring. The Guest speaker then presented his speech on -The Child, The School and The Parents. For me the top event of the day, turned out to be address of the Keynote speaker on Restoration of Federal Government Colleges in Nigeria - The Role of Non Governmental Institutions. The address chronicled the history of Federal Govt. Colleges (Unity Schools), including their current predicament and charted the way forward. A copy of the speech ought to be circulated to all well meaning Nigerians, interested in addressing the current rot in the Educational sector.

We had some students present the news in French, which I was unable to follow, since I had abandoned my French lessons sometime last year, but was enthusiastically received by Parents, Teachers and Guests. The potential still existing in the students was clearly obvious.
By this time, the student were getting restless and itching for the presentation of the prizes to commence. The presentation of the prizes started with 5 students who had won a National competition. Thereafter academic prizes were presented to the best 3 students in each of the 16 SS-1 classes. By the time academic prizes had been presented to the top-3 students in the 13 SS-2 and 12 SS-3 classes (123 prizes in all), exhaustion had set in.
There was a general buzz of excitement as we moved on to the FGCE Project Hope Prizes. The source of excitement was that a different set of prizes was being distributed, this time; the presentation was being made by some Old students. Instead of the normal wrapped educational material such as notebooks and an attendant certificate.

Plaques and cash prizes of N10,000 was being presented to the students. While plaques and cash prizes of N20, 000 were also presented to the teachers.

The MC kept on announcing that students should be careful with the envelopes containing their cash prizes, as both parents and students jostled to ensure that they were not omitted in the FGCE Project Hope prize presentation. I looked at my watch and discovered that time had indeed flown-by. It was a couple of minutes to 4 p.m. and the rumblings from my stomach indicated that it was time to look for lunch, despite the light refreshment already served. As I got up to leave, a teacher handed me an invitation to a dinner party at the Principals residence.

The school cultural troupe, led by the Music Teacher- Mrs. Okereke was performing, when I walked out of the Auditorium.

As I got into my car and headed for the gate, I wondered if this was not a true case of rebranding the Nigerian situation? The current situation looked bad, but with FGCE Project Hope, the openness of the school administration and the support of the public, there appeared to be a ray of sunshine, emerging from behind the clouds. Truly, I had been entertained...but the struggle continues.

For details of the event, the speeches, prizes and more pictures visit

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