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The GCI Story

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'Sir' I asked 'do you mean Government College Ibadan?' the old professor looked into my eyes with incredulity and snapped 'Is there any other GCI'? Though there exist many schools using this acronym today. With this sense of nostalgia and awe do old

 students and friends talk about and celebrate this great school.

Founded February 28, 1929, Government College Ibadan (GCI) is a "boys only" secondary school located in Ibadan, modelled after the British secondary boarding schools of the era. The first set of students numbered twenty-nine.

Over the years, the school has produced erudite scholars, seasoned administrators, legal luminaries, brilliant military officers, eminent authors, distinguished politicians, foremost scientists and engineers, dazzling entrepreneurs, captains of industries and Nigeria's only Nobel laureate. Only very few schools can rival GCI in terms of alumni who are world renowned.

GCI, like other old schools, is however not immune to the state of horrendous neglect that has become part of our education system. They have their own share of the general dwindling academic standard, dearth of competent teachers, aged laboratories, truancy, mis-education on the part of students, underfunding and other ills we witness at the moment. These schools are still the best around but we are interested in assuaging the perceptible decay in our schools.

Successive administrations have put in different level of efforts in revamping our education system but there must be collective efforts from all stakeholders because this continuous slump in academic standard has direct effects on the lives of generations and our fortune as a people.

We are all stakeholders; the society at large, employers, parents, policymakers and students. The problems started when various stakeholders stopped paying attention to schools, for the most part. A poor academic performance in our schools leads to substandard end products that will become below par doctors, poor administrators, ill-qualified teachers and others who will be saddled with lives of countless people.

Private bodies and individuals should be encouraged to adopt our public schools. A school like GCI with a sound history of achievements and contribution to the nation will offer a good vista for such praiseworthy system. Corporate organisations should be encouraged to take up this befitting responsibility as this will provide the schools with better funding, ability to compete more effectively and provide mentoring programmes for the students. GCI has what it takes to compete globally and must not be relegated to a local champion.

Investing resources on our system must be focused and well planned. There was this gist of a cybercafé donated to one of the old schools in Ibadan which was turned into a business centre. The problem is not necessarily with the business acumen of our dear principal, but is there any positive effect of this entity on the performance of the students? Are the teachers motivated enough to go the extra mile of optimizing this good gesture? This leads us to another point, school management.

The management of schools is linked with the lives of the future leaders of our nation and hence her destiny. Individuals who share the passion and dream of the founding fathers, with proven track records should be given opportunities and encouragement to participate in this noble endeavour. Our bureaucracy, which is usually not merit based, has failed us.

The change must be all encompassing. It must start from the intake of students. Brilliant students- poor or rich- must be encouraged to attend GCI. Parents are interested in the quality of service not necessarily how much or how less they pay. With the right superior service, any family will want to be part of the GCI story.

A distinct standard examination and not the ever leaking common entrance examination; an examination that appreciates distinction, astuteness and caste-blind will ensure that the best are admitted to our esteemed school and excellence should be rewarded to inspire the students strive for greater heights. A fund guaranteeing a university education to the best students in a world renowned institution of higher learning can be instituted. This, I hope, will bring out the best in a generation that is being swayed by football, music, TV and other superficialities.

Many countries have put a lot of effort into improving their school systems and there are things we can learn from other systems. Some of them have elements of their personnel management that are worth learning from where everybody maintains mutual respect and accountability.

We need to bring out the best in our personnel. What can we do to make the teachers better? We still have some amazing teachers in our system; can we find a way to identify what the really good teachers are doing? Can we look at how does that good teacher calm his classroom? How does that good teacher keep the attention of all the kids?

Ponder on this; 'I know from my own education that if I hadn't encountered two or three individuals that spent extra time with me, I'm sure I would have been in jail.' He continued '[My teacher] basically bribed me back into learning with candy and money and what was really remarkable was before very long I had such a respect for her that it sort of re-ignited my desire to learn.' What will our schools bring out of such student? This is Steve Jobs, one of the greatest minds.

Dear GCI, I write this to celebrate your indubitable feats not just for the splendour of your buildings, but for your unparalleled connection to the development of our nation, the promise of a better tomorrow you hold for those who passed through you and the ardour and reverence your name invokes whenever you are mentioned.

Generations shall come and go, but our pride youth will for aye remain, may be not in the confines of your walls, but in alumni world-renowned.

Muhammad Balogun, of GCI set of 2000, sent this piece from Idi-Ishin Estate, Ibadan through ma