Aggrey Memorial College, Relics of old beatitudes

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Barr Oscar Okoro

The historical exegeses of Aggrey Memorial Secondary School, no College predates the independence of the Nigerian nation. One of the foremost college in the South Eastern Region of Nigeria constituting what is presently known as South South and South Easter Nigeria. The school’s motto is “Fundamentum Ominis Cultis Animae” denting a Latin maxim “The Soul of All the Improvement is the Improvement of the Soul”.

Aggrey Memorial College, fondly called “Aggrey Ikoku” after the founder and notable academia Dr. Alvan Ikoku, of blessed memory, was established in the grey years of 1931. The location of the school in his homestead was as a patriotic gesture of impacting the very community that suckled his heritage. Unlike Hope Wadell of Calabar and the Denis Memorial Grammar School which also sprang up within the same period, Aggrey Memorial College was the brain child of an individual educationist who for his enormous contribution and intellectual resource was unrivalled as one of the foremost educationist in Nigeria and a legislator. It was in recognition of this fact that the Nigerian government commemorated him in 10 Naira bill of our currency.

Barely in my early teens, I had the rare privilege of attending this notable school of nobility culminating in the perseverance and determination that characterised my development and growth. Many thanks to my very energetic father of blessed memory who sent me to Aggrey Memorial to acquire the knowledge he couldn’t get, due to the peculiar circumstance that faced him at the time. Sleep on dad.

I recall with vivid fecundity the large expanse of land playing host to this institution, the scholars of very many heritage, tribe and culture across the West African boundaries that sought knowledge in that extreme part of Igbo land.

The school dormitories were named after prominent African nationalists such as Dr. Ajayi Crowther, Ikoku, Akanu Ibiam, Mbonu Ojike; the students’ main auditorium was called the Abner Hall. Each of the hostels reflected the ambience of excellence and cleanliness reflective of the integrity and status of those nationalists. The Abner hall was a mash of big gargantuan hall capable of containing the large and populous students remarkable for Christian fellowship and worship. Perhaps due to infancy, I recall climbing the stairs of the Abner hall with extra strength and energy. I still can remember that the elevated part was stretched through a long portion of the hall serving as the podium and gallery at the same time.

There were about three sports fields namely, A, B and C depending on the degree of competition. The C field which was located at the extreme of the school served as the main football field. The size of the ‘C’ field was obviously comparable to the size of national stadium. Usually dissident students are assigned to cut the C field as a form of punished commensurate with high degree offences.

The lawns and the walk ways were neatly and regularly maintained. Students were prohibited from walking on any of the lawns to avoid hurting the precious greenery that beautified the lively environment. However there were few apian ways which could serve as short cut for students who were hurrying to Abner hall or class lessons. The school environment was adorned with beautiful flowers and trees of variant species, some of which include giant mango trees producing satiable compliments to the school lunch or dinner. At the extreme end of C field were cashews trees.

The teachers lived on the left end of the central A field making it difficult for erring students to escape the watchful eyes of very disciplined etiquette and moral standards provided by the very erudite and quintessential school authority. Notable amongst the school principals include Mr. Bob Ekechukwu, Dr. Okoezi and Mr. Achinivu. Their exemplary leadership and training prepared the students for the challenges ahead resulting in the towering achievements.

Such teachers as Mr. Prasad Bonapert, an Indian mathematician, Mr. Nicholas, an American English teacher, Dr. Okoroafia, an indigenous retired lecturer from University of Nigeria Nsukka, Mr, George Okoro (Okpokuware) our history teacher, Mr. Kanu (Nzerimo) Mr. Igboko to mention but these few were some of the teachers who ensure that the standard of the school were sustained. Although we struggled to pass Maths, I later discovered that Mathematics is one of the easiest subjects.

Many of will remain indebted to Dr. Bob Ekechukwu for making literature a compulsory subject for both arts and science students. The journey of life is life a theatrical play. It makes meaning after each act or scene. We could memorise a whole stanza and scene of Macbeth and other literature books in response to the intellectual sagacity and competition that was the order of the day. I can imagine some of the teachers like Mr. George Okoro walking into the class and reciting a very long quotation from Macbeth or West African History. I could recall the biblical commentary and criticisms provided by Sanhedrin (Isi Rubber) provided ready delicacy for weeks discourse in the hostel, class or Iyieke stream. I recall the unannounced test by our economics teacher Mr. Ijoma. I also recall our chemistry teacher and Mr, Bronseen Owoye who did his NYSC in our school and nearly refused to return to his Yoruba community due to the hospitality of the Arochukwu people.

The white and white uniform reflected the impeccable cleanliness and intellectual erudition associated with the school. Although there was no electricity, we made sure that our charcoal iron was a ready source for the neatness emphasised by the school authority.

Orderliness remained the indispensible attribute of the most students in the school. It was mandatory to observed the school prep within the prescribed period. Those who dared to read late in the night would shield their lantern from the next neighbour or face disciplinary action.

The students readily distinguished themselves from their peers both in learning and character. During the inter house sports and Inter school sports, the college displayed incredible talents that could equal the feats of most national and international competitions.

These were the blessings the noble school of high repute were associated with. It was an enviable standard and dream of many students within the Eastern and Southern part of Nigeria.

Godliness, knowledge, discipline, cleanliness, honesty, hard work, punctuality and determination were the many attributes associated with the students of this institute. The beauty of the attribute gave rise to the individual character that culminated in the numerous achievements of the alumni of the institution.

A visit to this same school today reveals decaying glory and relics of dying beatitudes. The lawns are gone, the buildings are dilapidated; the orderliness and serenity associated with the school have vanished. The evanescent ambience of the noble qualities reminiscent of this great institution can better be described as the decaying beatitudes.

The large expanse of land has been reduced by the establishment of the Abia State College of Education Technical on the same site. The trees, flowers, beautiful scenery are all gone. The students are better seen than described. The hotels are dilapidated playing host to rats, lizard and cockroaches. The road leading to the school is undulating and comparable to the biblical gal guitar.

The pitiable and deplorable state of this noble institution calls for intervention from well meaning alumni and patriotic Aro sons and daughters, including the children and grand children of the late sage. Let’s join hands to rebuild and restore the integrity of Aggrey Memorial College.

About author

Barrister Oscar Okoro

Assistant Director/Chamber Clerk/Clerk House Committee on Police Affairs, National Assembly

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