Nigeria happened to education. “Nigeria happened” is a new expression of the negative Nigerian Factor. Many of our educational institutions, from primary to university, are in a bad state in all areas. Their poor state is what has drawn attention forcefully to former students.
“Nigeria happened” at the University of Nigeria, my alma mater, and was on display for the world to see the degradation and decay of the iconic Kwame Nkrumah Hall following a video by a parent. The UNN Nkrumah Hall video trended as I shared thoughts on the role of alumni with old students of one HSC class of Osogbo Grammar School.
Alumni make a difference in outcomes in education globally. They are beginning to count as well in Nigeria. There are several examples.
Since charity begins from home, I will start with Oshogbo Grammar School and that aspect of it with which I am familiar. Oshogbo Grammar School was established in 1950 and is one of the oldest secondary schools in Osun State. The school produced brilliant students that impacted the nation over the years. Unfortunately, the fortunes of the school dwindled over the years as have educational institutions nationwide. The structures aged, equipment and materials became obsolete, as a brochure stated in 2009.
Demola and Titi Aladekomo (DATA) Foundation commissioned on 15 December 2009 the Project Hope at Oshogbo Grammar School. Project Hope aimed at producing 1000 science students who would excel in science and mathematics in the School Certificate from Oshogbo Grams over ten years. They donated buildings including a classroom block that had laboratories, desks, and relevant facilities.
Ayodele Alimat, Punctuality Prefect, remarked: “I am happy that one of our ex-students could still remember the school after so many years to come back and do something for his school. Things are not easy for us. You can imagine six students sharing one apparatus in the lab. It has affected us greatly. It usually is the group leaders that manage to get a good enough grasp of what we are being taught. With this, we would be able to really learn”.
One of the nation’s foremost but silent philanthropists, Demola Aladekomo founded Chams Plc, the ICT firm with a Guinness World Record for having more than 1000 PCs in a centre, and first to work on the National ID card scheme.
Alumni giving is a collective responsibility and not the duty of only the wealthy and influential. Across the world, alumni are the pillars of even the best schools. Alumni giving at U.S. colleges totalled more than $11 billion in 2019, according to research from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education published in 2020. Alumni in the Top Ten donor list gave up to 50% of the funding of their schools.
According to US News & World Report, “In 2018, Michael Bloomberg, a businessman and former mayor of New York City, donated an eye-popping $1.8 billion to his alma mater, John Hopkins University in Maryland. Similarly, Nike co-founder Phil Knight, University of Oregon graduate, has pumped hundreds of millions of dollars into the college over the years”. (“10 Colleges Where the Most Alumni Donate | The Short List …”)
Old students at the College of the Immaculate Conception, Enugu demonstrate the power of the collective that is the alumni association. They have changed the face of their school so much that the authorities sought to convert it to a university and move the school elsewhere. The alumni said NO.
Projects of the CIC Old Students include: a N120 Million Naira Alumni Centre/multi-purpose hall in 2016; The 220-Million Naira 540-bed hostel in 2018; Construction of classroom blocks and office renovation; scholarships; donation of sports equipment; Construction of inner school roads; ongoing construction of the multi-purpose sports centre estimated at N350m.
According to Uche Nworah, managing director of Anambra Broadcasting Corporation and a proud old boy, “Old Boys of C.I.C Enugu have now transformed into a strong global brotherhood, helping each other when in need (contributions and support when one of us is sick or bereaved, or is having one celebration or another. We are united by our passion for excellence and greatness, and shared experiences from the school. Of course, we see ourselves as ‘Umu Odobro’, (children of Odobro), continuing in the spirit and training imparted on us by our teachers, most especially our legendary Principal, Nimo, Anambra state-born Monsignor Charles Ikeme (Samankwe Odobro). (“Yeah or Nay? This… – Anambra Broadcasting Service – ABS …”)
Another example is from my school. I attended the United Christian Secondary Commercial College, Apapa, Lagos (now United Christian Secondary School) from 1975-1980. The united effort of the Anglican, Methodist and Baptist missions delivered our school. Our Old Students Association is very active.
LASG moved our school from the pleasant facility at Bombay Crescent to a Jakande School inside the Army Barracks in Apapa facing Liverpool Road. Our school had a compact facility that included a language lab, a commercial subject’s studio, two streams per class and more. It was decent and classy. We recoiled. It took a while until realisation that we owe a duty to improve what we have. We then moved to execute many projects in the school as part of the 60th anniversary in 2019 and it continues.
Old Students of Queen’s School, Ede/Ibadan announced in May 2021 an ambitious plan to raise N2.5b to erect a multi-purpose facility in honour of late Dr Ameyo Stella Adadevoh. The projects include an Assembly Hall, specialised classrooms, and offices. Dr Adadevoh is the heroine that laid down her life to prevent a vector from spreading Ebola in Nigeria.
Alumni associations play many roles including networking by class sets and the entire body, support to members, upbuilding and support of their schools, Integration of new students into the world and mobilising resources and groups in support of the school.
4Ps are critical in managing effective alumni associations. Bear in mind that they are not-for-profit. They require persons with the spirit of service and community.
The 4Ps are Passion –complete immersion; Purpose –clear targets for the tenure; Performance –results matter; Probity. –Accountable to members.
Alumni associations must embody uprightness. The Executive Management must be like Caesar’s wife: be above reproach. With credibility comes trust, and trust unlocks both the hearts, wallets, and commitment of members
The University of Nigeria Alumni Association (UNAA) must rise to the duty and challenge of “mobilising resources and groups in support of the school”. One verity is that the state of your old school reflects on its former students. Alumni cannot go about beating their chests about how good their school was if its current state negates that description.
Former Anambra State Governor Peter Obi and former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria Mr Tunde Lemo lead an effort to mobilise resources to intervene in UNN. They should go ahead, but the UNAA must step up.
Alumni as third force or NGO
The Old Students or Alumni Association must now position as a Non-Governmental Organisation. The alumni body is a third force and sometimes an alternative to our failing governments. This third force will increasingly do more.
Part of what it should do is becoming an advocate for good governance across board. The poor state of facilities arises from bad government and ineffective administration. This Third Force everywhere must hold people accountable.
I advocate that we deploy the Nigerian Spirit to our interventions as alumni associations. The Nigerian Spirit is of course our legendary ability to squeeze water out of stones, perform the Damman Recovery or the Nigeria’99 wonder of getting our facilities ready for the world championship in record time. We can do great things when we come together. Let’s do it.