Alaska Ekele’s x-ray of Ukwuani’s academic deprivation, challenges

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A review of 40 Years of Ogume Grammar School (1975-2015): A Legacy of Academic Excellence, by Alaska Ekele (Lagos, Good Deal Communications Ltd)
Alaska Ekele is not a new name in the literary art of authorship. His new book, 40 Years of Ogume Grammar School (1975 – 2015): A Legacy of Academic Excellence, is about his fourth or fifth work. The book, which is a laudable attempt at crusading for academic excellence, explores the historical antecedents of the establishment of the first secondary school in Ogume clan, and by implication, the academic deprivation and challenges, which Ukwuani people, as a whole, suffered or encountered in their pursuit for western education.

In the face of his claim that Ogume Grammar School was the 10th secondary school to be established in the entire Ukwuaniland (comprising three local councils) counting from 1960 when St. George’s Grammar School was first established in Obinomba, it could be imagined the magnitude of the relegation of Ukwuaniland in education.

This has apparently rubbed off negatively in other sectors like, economy, politics and so on. Forty years of Ogume Grammar School explores the historical background surrounding the school’s establishment, gives an accurate and up-to-date record of all the principals who have shepherded the school, provides a comprehensive list of all students who passed through the school within the period under consideration and even names a number of dignitaries who were products of the school.

The book, therefore, is a veritable reference material, a kind of “Who’s Who” on the school, something akin to the call to Bar list for lawyers, which at a glance, tells who was at the school at what time. Ekele’s work is a pragmatic intellectual effort meant to challenge old students to galvanise for unity and the development of the school. Aside from aiming to straighten the records, the author sees the book as his tribute to his alma mater.

The idea of establishing the school was mooted in 1973 by Ogume clan Union under the chairmanship of Barrister C.O. Nwabuokei, the failed attempt by the Baptist Missionaries in 1961 to establish a school in Ogume having remained a sore point since then.

The author’s sharp eyes for details of donations and fund launching are stunning. Chief Stephen Odishika Anoka became the catalyst on the school project when he exploited his exalted position to obtain government approval for the establishment of the school from the highest source – the governor himself.

The author has, by his detailed list of donors, not only preserved accurate records of sources of funding and amounts but also immortalised the names of donors.

The school, which sits on a 25-acre land at Ogbe Ogume, took off effectively on October 28, 1975. Perhaps, it is pertinent to note that the location at Ogbe Ogume took cognisance of a central location that will be equidistant to and easily accessible from all parts of Ogume clan. With unstoppable zeal, the PTA equipped the Biology, Chemistry and Physics laboratories. A list of all the courses available at both senior and junior secondary levels are also furnished in the book

A sad chapter in the history of the school, which was burgeoning into a citadel of excellence, came in 1993 following the cancellation of 1993 SSCE May/June examination for the entire school and the withdrawal of approval by WAEC to the school as venue for future WAEC examinations.

Mr. O. F. Oshilim, the new principal, squared up with the challenge and by 1996, WAEC lifted the de-recognition of the school as venue for the examinations, thereby enabling the students to take the examinations in their school.

The school faces some challenges currently such as, inadequate staff, lack of library, porous fence, lack of school bus, lack of power supply to mention but a few. While noting that products of the school have caused academic uproar in many higher institutions by upturning established records, the book lists quite an impressive number of examples. One is however, miffed by the fact that the school, in spite of having produced such eminent personalities is bedevilled by severe lack of infrastructure and decay. One would have expected these established products of the school to rise up to the situation to salvage their alma mater from rot and potential extinctions.

Perhaps, Ekele has set the ball rolling by his clarion call, which brings to the consciousness of old students the need to assist their school. He has also by his work sought to ginger the current generation of students to tackle their education seriously as it remains the bedrock for any meaningful development both for self and for community. The book may extensively appear like one small step for the author but it is one giant leap for Ogume clan and I recommend it without equivocation to every one with a desire to learn and contribute to knowledge.