Abolarin College,Oke-Ila: Noiseless revolution in education
A noiseless revolution is on-going in the hilly town of Oke-Ila in Osun State where a traditional ruler’s passion for education is giving hope to the hopeless with his tuition-free first class post-primary school college. TUNDE BUSARI reports.
John Chigozie was enjoying his favourite football session on the field of his former school when his teachers called and told him to prepare for an entrance examination to be held few days later. Three of his mates were also selected to join him for the exams but only two made it to Abolarin College, Oke-Ila, where he is currently in Senior Secondary School Two.
Aside that Oke-Ila is the headquarters of Ifedayo Local Government Council, another selling point of the hilly town is Ayinkunugba Waterfall, an amazing nature wonder though crying for attention of tourism site developers. In terms of human capital development, however, Oke-Ila is blessed with Abolarin College, a post-primary institution only few of which is found in the length and breadth of Nigeria.
Though existing in less than a decade, the impact which the school has since made, in terms of capacity building and empowering the underprivileged class of the society, is deep-rooted. It was set up by the Orangun of Oke-Ila, Oba Dokun Abolarin with a view to bridging the gap between the rich and the poor on one hand and attempting to eradicate poverty on the other hand. The college is tuition-free where each pupil is given equal opportunity to express his and her potential under a conducive and inspiring ambiance administered by dedicated academic and non-academic staff.
However, admission is not automatic but regulated under a strict process in alignment with the core objectives of the founding father reputed for his adherence to standard and transparency right from his teaching days at the former Oyo State College of Arts and Science (OSCAS), Ile-Ife and St Andrew College of Education, Oyo.
According the school principal, who incidentally holds a traditional chieftaincy title of the Obaale of Oke-Ila, Chief Adeniyi Fawobe, pupils are offered admission after they must have passed entrance examination conducted under a level playing field for all candidates. The 62-year old principal explained the non-compromising stand of the school authorities in enrollment issues based on the mission for which Oba Abolarin founded the school in 2014.
“We cannot afford to tamper with kabiyesi’s standard of enrolment. It is aimed at discovering right students who should be here. During selection, we have many students coming for examination but few of them within the stipulated category are finally given admission. And this has helped us in many respects, especially in the area of managing the students.
“They don’t give us problems which are encountered in regular public schools because they are a select group of students. I can even say they are always ahead in terms of thinking and doing things. They do almost everything for themselves except teaching. They plant corn, yam, cassava, cashew, plantain which they eat. They are making us happy, so to say,” he said.
Significantly, come May this year, the school will present its pioneer candidates for the West African School Certificate Examination. How prepared are the school, teachers and students? A night in that serene college by our correspondent revealed that all hands are on deck for the school to come out in flying colours to serve as a good precedent for subsequent performances.
Shortly after their dinner, the Senior Secondary School students headed to the multi-purpose hall where they all buried their heads in their books, sharing ideas among themselves. Supervised by a student teacher from the Obafemi Awolowo University, Lasisi Oluwatimileyin Ojo, the pupils clearly were motivated.
The Senior Prefect, Erosen Gabriel, a 16-year-old Ebonyi State born exuded confidence in the forthcoming external examination, based, according to him, on the preparation to which the S.S.S. 3 students are subjected on daily basis, saying there was no cause for alarm.
The Senior Girl, Anuoluwapo Babalola, 17, also expressed same optimism. The Library Prefect, Kehinde Ayanwale, 15, also shared same confidence, saying he was looking forward to studying Geology at the University of Ilorin. The Timekeeper, Damilare Kehinde, 16, and others showered praises on Oba Abolarin for transforming them to persons their different background could not have achieved.
Rather than gnashing his teeth and agonizing over few noticeable challenges with which the school is coping, especially the unattractive remunerations being endured by the workforce, Oba Abolarin expressed his appreciation to those he described as his soul mate in his vision to confront poverty and give opportunity to the hopeless of the society.
Those patriotic Nigerians, he said, are not only humanists but also genuine lovers of mankind who are desirous to leave the world better than they met it, affirming that people should visit the school, see the state of things and return with commitments, the engine which powers the school.
“If not that mentioning their names could be embarrassing, I would have loved to tell the world what they do to make the life of these kids better. It is unfortunate that in our society we live only for today. We don’t care about what happens the next day. That is why you see a public office holder amassing wealth that he does not really need at the expense of the downtrodden who need just a fraction of the wealth to survive and live a meaningful life for the benefit of the society,” he said.
Despite Oba Abolarin’s deliberate silence on the list of those who have since identified with his vision, he however, attributed the impressive appearances of his students to the gestures received from Babcock University High School, Ilisan-Remo, Ogun State. He said that the Seventh Day Adventist College had consistently extended hands of generosity to his school in the area of clothing items, a gesture which has reduce pressure on the budget of the school.
“Despite the temptation to do otherwise, this school shall continue to be tuition-free because that is the purpose for which it was set up. We are on a missionary assignment, giving the hopeless hope to also give back to the society. I drum it into the ears of the students that when they become great in the future, they owe the society that duty to give back to it. I told them to promote custom and tradition of their respective towns and communities. I specifically told them to take a good care of their traditional rulers because of the enormous responsibilities of traditional rulers.
“The truth of the matter is that government cannot do all these alone. Individuals and groups blessed with resources should join hands to complement government. If we fail to do this and concentrate on our children only, the untrained children would not allow our children to enjoy whatever we bequeath to them. What we do here is managing social crisis because if you know the stories of some of these children, regarding their different backgrounds, you would be shocked. You may call me ambassador of the rural poor. I am okay with that name,” he stated.
Touched by Oba Abolarin’s unusual style of administration, Ojo, a student teacher called on government to borrow a leaf from the spirit which drives the traditional ruler in governance. “Here is a traditional ruler who has taken it upon himself to clad the people of his society in the garment of knowledge. I pray that our government will one day revive the glory of the educational sector,” he opined.