As all roads lead to Ado-Ekiti this weekend for everybody that ever had anything to do with our truly remarkable school- Christ’s School, Ado-Ekiti, which we call The School: alumni, parents, spouses, family and the lot, it is all glory to God that He inspired some of His anointed men to plant and water what has turned out to be a truly phenomenal institution molding men and women of intellect, not only in Ekiti, its location and primary catchment area, but all over Nigeria. Today, hundreds of Christ’s-School products are professors in all areas of study; from the Humanities to Medicine, to the professions, even to Aerospace science and are spread all over the world doing what they know best to do – banishing ignorance and expanding the frontiers of knowledge just as thousands of its alumni, as medical doctors, engineers, teachers, administrators, etc are providing various services to humanity both at home here in Nigeria and overseas. Amongst our alumni are two of the earliest winners of the Nigerian Merit award, just as The School has produced university Vice-Chancellors and state governors – military and civilian. Or need I say that two of Nigeria’s most celebrated professors of Neurosurgery, the late Professor Kayode Osuntokun and Professor Adelola Adeloye cut their teeth in The School? The Ekiti State governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi is, for instance, a distinguished alumnus of The School just like his deputy, Professor Dupe Adelabu and the Secretary to the State Government, Dr Ganiyu Owolabi. Such is the sheer profundity of Christ’s School that a whole page of this newspaper will be infinitely inadequate to tell its story.
Our School is so unique that not a few has accused us of acting like a cult because whenever or wherever we ex-students meet, irrespective of age and when exactly you attended The School, you immediately become like uterine brothers and sisters.
This was precisely the objective of the founding fathers.
Archdeacon Henry Dallimore who founded The School in 1933 was clear in his mind as to what sort of education he intended and what manner of character he wanted foster among the students from the very beginning. ‘The total impact of the education to be given,’ wrote Professor Olofinboba and co in THE BUILDER, ‘was to make the individual a useful person to himself and his community’. For this reason, initial subjects taught in The School included the following outside the normal academic subjects: Tailoring, Brick-making, Plastering, Building, Carpentry for boys and Weaving and Knitting for girls. Agriculture and Cattle keeping were added in 1945, thus by many decades before, Christ’s School was already doing what today’s 6-3-3-4 and all its other newer variants had been grappling with for decades. Above all, however, the founders wanted to nurture the ‘total man’, whose entire life will be rooted in and around Christ. To amply demonstrate this, everything about the school revolved around Christ: the name, the motto, Christus Victor, just as the first two letters of the word ‘Christ’ is inscribed in Greek.
But if Apollo (Archdeacon Dallimore) planted The School, our Paul, who watered and nurtured it to world renown is the Rev Canon Leslie Donald Mason, C.B.E, O.O.N, M.A, Dip.Th, Dip Ed, whose children we all are since he never was married. To all Christ’s School students, Canon Mason was Principal, father, counsellor, benefactor, friend, teacher, all. He ensured you never dropped out of The School for financial reasons. He indeed paid the fees of many a student. He knew all the students by their first names and could identify thousands by their voices.
For a very long time, he was our doctor and dispenser as he converted one of the rooms in his hilltop house to a dispensary. A strict disciplinarian, all the same, Canon Mason was a man of simple taste and life style and so was able to handsomely impart in the students respect, simplicity, humility, honesty, loving kindness and diligence. It should therefore not be a surprise that wherever you find an old student of Christ’s School, you are face to face with a complete gentleman/lady who is ever willing to lend a helping hand, whatever the circumstances.
In appreciation of all that Canon Mason did for us at The School, a book: The Reverend Canon Leslie Donald Mason (1908-1989): THE BUILDER, was written in his honour by the alumni association under the lead of the late Professor M.O.Olofinboba.
He was succeeded in 1967 by Chief R.A. Ogunlade, another truly remarkable man of God who also gave his all. Indeed, he made Biology easier for us than eating very ripe banana. He was such a gifted and exprienced teacher. An old student of The School himself, Chief Ogunlade ensured there was not the slightest diminution of all the good standards Canon Mason with whom he had worked very well had laid down. One of his key achievements was the seemingly effortless manner in which he successfully achieved the tasking merger of the Ekiti Anglican Girls’ Secondary School which was founded in 1955 by the Anglican Church, with Christ’s School; a thoroughly daunting assignment.
Christ’s School had been founded in 1933 as Ekiti Central School, taking students into classes V and VI and took in students from within and outside Ekiti. It moved to its present AGIDIMO HILLS site in 1936 and it was there, on a visit by the Governor-General of Nigeria in that year, that he named The School, CHRIST’S SCHOOL.
Christ’s School has, however, also had unsavoury stories to tell. For a very long time you would think it was taboo for an old student of The School to be appointed the Principal. It was even rumoured at that time teachers of some specific subjects, like Mathematics, were being deliberately denied the school. This time, therefore, coincided with that period when a series of individuals for whom our culture, history and practices meant nothing, or principals who were, in fact, jealous of its popularity were appointed as principals over it. This was mostly during the military era but there can be no denying the fact that some principals in the same period did their very best for The School. A good example of the latter is Chief R.F Fasoranti who gave impeccable service to The School that he is still fondly remembered till today.
Christ’s School will always remain a pace setter and its products exemplars. In a particular year at the University of Ibadan, Christ’s School accounted for 8 out of the ten University Scholars, chosen solely on performance at the entry point examination. Today, there is hardly a university of note without some of its professors being ex-students of The School. In Medicine in particular, where it must have close to a hundred professors, if not more, Christ’s School continues to make terrific impact even in the UK, and the U.S.A, just as it has produced men and women in the professions and in the Episcopacy, especially the Anglican Communion where it has produced many Bishops.
The 80th Anniversary, which is a mammoth home-coming for ex-students from every nook and cranny of Nigeria and the Diaspora, kicked off to a wonderful Thanksgiving service in many churches locally, and abroad on Sunday, 23 June, 2013. In my church, at the Archbishop Vining Memorial Cathedral, Oba Akinjobi Road, Ikeja, Lagos where the Lagos branch had its own thanksgiving, it was a wonderful sight-seeing the entire congregation, not only joining us to mellifluously sing The School song, CHRIST IS OUR CORNER STONE, but for most, who must certainly be aware and appreciative of the huge impact Christ’s School has made and continues to make, to actually join us at the altar for the blessings.
Friday, 28 June, 2013 will equally be awesome as the one and only, Sir Christopher Kolade, himself an old student and former Nigerian Envoy at the Court of St James’, London, takes to the rostrum to give the anniversary lecture. Saturday will be unique as we spend the day with the students and the evening, is already billed as an evening of fun at the evergreen Quadrangle where I had last been in my final year which is exactly 50 years ago this year. On Sunday, we shall return again to church to thank our Lord Jesus Christ for all He has done for us individually and collectively and, very importantly, for The School.
All these will then come to a befitting end with The School Prayer:
Grant O Lord
That Christ’s School may continue
To be a Christian School
Not in name only
But in deed and in truth
For the sake of Christ
Whose name we bear
By Femi Orebe
This article was first published in The Nation