In the past two weeks, a number of activities took place in Ilorin, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the foundin of the Government Secondary School, GSS, Ilorin. One of the grand old schools of Northern Nigeria, the school started in 1914 as a Middle School, it made a transition as a Provincial Secondary School, PSS, before it became the Government Secondary School, Ilorin. It was the school attended from my grandfather’s generation; my father and mother attended the school and I was also privileged to go through it. The motto is: “MANJADA WA JADA (NO STRUGGLE, NO SUCCESS)”.
And it was indeed a remarkable school in our times and there is no gainsaying the fact that character formation was central to the education that we received at GSS Ilorin.
They were some of the best years of our lives, and they reflected very much, the high levels of commitment that our country has increasingly lost over the past couple of decades.
It is part of the tragedy of our country today that parents have to spend huge sums of money to educate our children in very expensive private schools. In those years that we were at GSS Ilorin, it was only those who could not secure admission in public schools that attended private schools; and we always felt that they had an inferior education.
In our years, GSS Ilorin had superb laboratories for the sciences: physics, chemistry and biology. We even had a geography laboratory as well, not to forget that the education obliged us to learn a trade and for that we had very well-equipped wood works and metal works workshops. We also learned Technical Drawing. The sports infrastructure was excellent!
There were facilities for football (two fields), track and field, basketball, volleyball, lawn tennis, badminton, squash racket, fives, hockey and cricket. The school’s elite athletes were highly respected and had a special diet, while the four houses of my times: Fulani, Gambari, Alanamu and Ajikobi, healthily competed against each other in sports and the weekly Inspections to determine the cleanest house.
And the Advanced Level students had a special hostel, the White House; they dressed and carried themselves with so much grace. Science students were the stars of the school and there were really brilliant students who inspired the younger ones as role models of academic excellence.
The late Agbo Abegunde was certainly one of the most charismatic principals we had in my years; he ensured that academic standards were high while similarly placing sports at the very top of the school system.
He was the Nigerian Team Manager to the 1972 Munich Olympic Games. He wore the jacket emblazoned with the Nigerian crest proudly to the school assembly when he returned to the delight and spontaneous applause of students. It was testimony to the high standards of those years that the school’s relay team (BRAVO, ALL-AFRO, ROCHESTER and AWALU ALIYU) won several invitation relays around the state and in states near and far. Awalu Aliyu was my college brother, and together with my cousin, Hameed Adio (ADIQUE), from Offa Grammar School, would run for Nigeria. Hameed Adio was in fact the captain of Nigeria to the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow.
They were all athletes from the well-structured schools’ sports programme that has gradually died in our country. Young people got a good education and also combined that with an active life in sports. No more! In 2013, I took my children to visit my alma mater, GSS Ilorin.
The state of rot shocked me and I couldn’t stop the tears that dropped from my eyes. My children couldn’t wrap their heads around what they saw of the school I had romantically described to them so many times before their visit. Things have deteriorated badly, but GSS Ilorin remains central to the human being I became. It is 100 years old this year.