National President, Old Boys Association of Abbot Boys Secondary School (ABOABA), Ihiala, who is also Pastor of Holy Ghost Assembly, Yenogoa, Bayelsa State, Stanley Ebulue, and Secretary-General of the association, Chinedu Nzeribe, also Senior Special Assistant to Governor Willie Obiano on Finance, in Budget Office. Among the delegates are assistant secretary, Callistus Chika and Ebulue Ejike, member. They spoke to National Light crew of ROSE ORANYE, EMEKA CHIAGHANAM and CHIWENDU UZOATU on their vision for their alma mater and other related issues. Excerpt:
WHAT informed your visit to National Light?
We came on courtesy call on Mangling Director and Editor,-in-Chief of Anambra Newspapers and Publishing Corporation (ANPC), publishers of National Light, Ka o di Taa and SportsLightXtra Newspapers, who is an old boy of the school.
Earlier, we have visited an old boy of the school, former principal of the school and now Chairman of Anambra State Universal Basic Education (ASUBEB), Sir Patrick Ugboaja. We also came to see one of our own, the Special Assistant to Governor Obiano on Secondary Education, Dr. Paul Ifeanyi. Our mission is simple; to see old boys of the school in Awka on how they can contribute to the face-lift of the school.
When was the association formed?
The school was established in 1955. Before now, we used to have different old boys association of the school but four years ago, we decided to come up with a unified national body. That was when the present executive was formed and registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).
There was a meeting where we agreed on a single national body. We had to go and meet other splinter groups. It happened that each set had its own national body. We now came with the idea of having a national body that is duly registered and that led to the different groups collapsing into one body.
In the course of that, we thought that our set of 1990 was the oldest until we saw those of the 1960s and older ones. We approached them, explaining to them the need to have one national body. That was how the present national body came into being four years ago. They still have their meetings but now have only one national body.
The national body holds Annual General Meetings on December 30, every year since the present executive assumed office which has never been done before. We had the last annual meeting last December.
At the annual meeting, what do you deliberate on?
The major agenda before us is to see how we can assist in the overall growth and development of the school. The school infrastructure is dilapidated, so each time we meet, we think of a project we can embark on to assist the school. How do we help the students? How do we put up nice structures for them?
The meeting is a kind of fellowship. People that left school years ago coming together for a reunion so that we help each other. The school used to be boarding school but now doesn’t offer such facility. The school complex is massive but not secure, no parent wants to send their children to live in a facility that is not secured. All the hostels are dilapidated.
Do you have it in your plan to bring back the boarding system?
Our main task for now is to secure the school. We have started the fencing of the school. The current executive met no electricity in the school and we have done the electrification. We discussed with the ASUBEB chairman on how he can help us secure government’s attention in the refurbishing of the school hostels, which he promised to assist.
We want to secure the school for now and put up structures. At a point, villagers close to where the school situates started encroaching on the school’s land. We now tasked ourselves for contribution to securing the school by fencing it portion by portion. Some of us took 20 to 30 partitions. The fencing is on-going. We started the fencing project last October.
Do you have in view when it will be completed?
No, we don’t in the sense that it’s done through free-will donations. Nobody is actually sponsoring it. At every point, we gather available resources and continue from where we stopped.
Have there been other projects you embarked on aside this?
We have done the electrification.
When was that?
That was in 2018 and we spent almost half a million naira to execute it, connecting it to the national grid. We gave a cup for sports to the school. We gave the students sports equipment on football, and there is standard table tennis board.
Academically, what have you been able to do for the school?
In 2018, we branded exercise books that we gave to the school authority to disburse to all the students. The school started feeling our contribution since 2018.
Since 2018, how would you compare students’ enrollment in the school to what it used to be?
From feelers, we learnt that students are being encouraged to come to the school because there are people that are out to assist them academically and otherwise. The number has actually increased but we don’t know the actual figure. We want the students to come back to the hostels and we are working on that and that necessitated the fencing project.
Have you done anything concerning the teachers?
According to the principal, they have Parents Teachers Association (PTA) staff paid by PTA. The PTA has been helpful but doesn’t have much financially and we have taken it upon ourselves to help in paying the PTA staff.
The PTA staff are teachers employed by the school to take up responsibility where a subject teacher lacks and since they were not employed by the state government, the school takes the responsibly with the assistance of the PTA.
Sometimes, they don’t get the money to pay them. When such need arises, we intervene. The school bus was grounded and we have fixed it. The staff lack furniture and we have been able to assist them with some of that.
Do you have personal contact with the students since you assumed office four years ago?
We have been interacting with them. The last contact we have with them was in September last year. When the new students took over office, we went there to induct them. So, we do have interaction with them from time to time them.
Since your executive assumed office, are there feedbacks from the students on your contributions?
The students are excited about what we are doing. Most students said they would tell their parents to encourage their younger ones to come to Abbot Boys. There are other schools in the town but they said since the old boys have decided to continually do something for the school, they will encourage others to come to Abbot Boys.
Again, those that are in the final year are automatically members of the old boys association. Another thing that impressed the students was the mowing machines we bought for them to cut grasses. As we said earlier, the school is a large complex and the machines will help to have the job done than the manual effort used.
Apart from your contribution to physical infrastructure, have there been incentives like scholarships to students?
We are working on that. It’s part of our vision to give scholarships to the less- privileged of the school. We have set up a committee to work out the modalities. We ensure that the students that will benefit from it are really worth helping. And even those that are doing well academically; irrespective of financial background, there is also an incentive for that.
What are the challenges so far?
The major challenge is the encroachment on the school’s land. We are not having it easy trying to reclaim our land. We have engaged the services of lawyers, to help us. We have an old boy that is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, (SAN), Chino Obiagu.
We also have a former Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG), Valentine Ntomchukwu, we have Colonel Bede Amakor, we have Barrister Egbunonu, Emeka Offor, among others that are old boys of the school. From the government angle, we have Dr. Paul Ifeanyi, Sir Chuka Nnabuife, and others.
What is your relationship with the school management like?
We have a cordial relationship with the school authority and that is the reason we are here- to get as much support and help for the school. The last principal went on transfer last December and this January, the Vice Principal was transferred to another school with no replacement.
The vice principal was more like the principal because the principal relies on him as he is yet to know much about the school. Without the vice principal, he is lost because you can’t bring in a new principal and a vice principal at the same time.
We came to meet Chief Ugboaja and Dr. Ifeanyi to see how we can bring back the vice principal or someone that would assist the new principal. We have smooth relationship with the school management. Anything that happens in the school, the teachers would always call us.
Where do you intend to see Abbot Boys in the future?
The school is one of the oldest in state. But when secondary schools’ names are mentioned, we seem to be lagging behind. Our major goal is when secondary schools are mentioned in Anambra State, Abbot Boys comes first. We want to bring back the old glory of the school. That’s our vision – to let it be the first choice secondary school for any student and when not offered admission, they can go to others.