An Aonian on The Rock

I arrived at the gate of Government College at the time and date indicated on my letter of admission after paying the stipulated fees for my studies and boarding. The gate into the compound was massive with concrete engraving of the name of the school and its coat of arms. This gate led to a dual-carriage road which ran for about four hundred yards before becoming one road, still large enough to take more than two cars, one going in and the other leading out of the school. This tarred road was lined on both sides by bushy paths with only some relics of buildings that looked like an abandoned carpenter's shed or chicken cage. The structures contributed to the quietness of the surroundings and could make you want to reconsider your going further into the belly of the school. The road seemed eerie and diffident if one was alone, but for the presence of other pupils with various shapes and sizes of boxes, some new, others hand-me downs. Occasionally, some luxurious cars passed by with uniformed drivers and little boys like dots in the back seats of the limousine. You would imagine the kind of mix that was Government College, Ibadan.

I moved on till I got to the first set of buildings, some box shaped structures with small and large rooms, crowded with spring iron beds with thread-bare mattresses. The passages between these buildings were narrow such that you could shake hands by stretching from one window to a student in the other block.

For all the two years I spent at GCI, I was never able to differentiate between Carr and Swanston Houses.

I was advised to move on as my House, Field, was in another area. I got to the hockey field and thought Field House must be nearby. I erroneously dropped my luggage in the administrative block by the hockey pitch, thinking that was Field House. I was wrong, only to be redirected to Field House at the end of the road.

Field House is a set of four bungalows arranged in a rectangular fashion. At the centre of the house is a well manicured lawn with edges that are equally well-trimmed. There is a reading hall where the house assembly was also conducted.

I was allocated a bed space in one of the bungalows on the west wing of the house. I got a single spring iron bed, on which I placed my Vono Mattress which was very popular with students at that time.
I quickly familiarized myself with the house and later in the evening went for dinner in the very large dining hall. Thereafter, we assembled in the preparatory reading room to be introduced to the house officials, the House Masters, the Head of House and House Prefects and the general house laws. All the do's and don'ts of Field House in particular and Government College Ibadan in general were explained to all the students.

Government College Ibadan was a boys only school with over ninety percent of the students in boarding house. Very few came from home. Boys were admitted from all parts of the country in a very competitive manner.

I was quite fascinated by the type of relationship between the junior and senior boys in the school. There was a particular way of association which was the basis for mentoring junior students whereby junior boys were assigned to the seniors boys (Teachers they were called) in a family bond of responsibility and guidance. This relationship endures even far beyond school years.

To belong, you need to learn some of the GCI slang, "Bowling" means using the toilet for the big one, "Bolt" means leaving the school without permission. "To Rag" was to struggle to collect anything even though there were enough to go round.

Food items at GCI also had their peculiar names. Beans with fried plantain was called "Cum", Rice with Beans was "Double Decker". A very peculiar name was the name for the two hump bread that can easily be divided. This was called "Shoga" apparently due to the similarity to the chest of a well-endowed student in a sister school. The flat loaf of bread also bore a name derived from a similar circumstance. All these made Government College a school of a kind and much more. Another peculiarity was the way the junior boys addressed their seniors. Instead of the Prefix "Senior X" that I was familiar with in my former School, the junior boys in GCI would add the suffix "Please" after the surname of the senior to get his attention.

In Government College, everybody was encouraged to take part in every activity going on in the school.

Government College was like a ghost town during examinations but was a bedlam of activities particularly at the end of year parties or on any other occasions when the girls were to be invited to the school. Everything in our humanity was on display during these occasions. If it was ambition, examination times stirred it and the end of the year party (called ENDO) augmented the vanity in each and every one of us.

Sports was another yard off the same cloth. Almost every student participated in one sport or the other. Some participated in more than one. We also had boys for all seasons They participated in almost all the sports and excelled in their studies. This increased bonding, though we came from different parts of the country (and some from abroad) with different social backgrounds. The use of uniforms in the boarding house and in class removed the differences in our social status.
Boarding was the factor that ensured the success of Government College Ibadan in all fields of our sojourn in that School. It affected the performance of the School both academically and in sports. An average Government College boy never thought of failing his examinations. School Certificate results were considered not in grades (one, two or three) but in aggregate unit score, in how many A's, such that the success rate was usually over ninety percent. This, I observed was not only because good teachers, but particularly because of the organisational structure of the School. In Government College Ibadan, you must have time for everything. When it was time to play, we played hard, and when it was time to study we studied seriously. We took all aspects of our sojourn in Government College seriously, oftentimes it took the form of an obsession. A look at our lawns will prove this. You would have thought the grass was mowed and the edges trimmed with machines. You would be wrong. They were made with flying blades (that was what we called the cutlass). Visitors were wont to say GCI meant Grass Cutting Institute. Our lawns were our pride, and woe betides he who crossed my lawn.

Government College Ibadan was a place to learn and learn to serve. We never had cases of theft though some chickens went missing sometimes. Generally, we were taught honesty and adherence to the rules. We kept promises; we could do anything for each other as long as it was honest. A GCI boy's words were his bond. There is a story of a GCI boy who gave a lady a lift somewhere in the northern part of Nigeria. Their car broke down and they had to sleep in a hotel, sharing a room to conserve funds. The girl placed a pillow between them to make for "PRIVACY". The boy, till morning, did not cross the pillow. Back in the car the wind blew the lady's scarf over a fence. The ex-GCI boy attempted to jump the fence for the scarf but the lady pulled him back. "How dare you jump a fence when you could not cross a pillow?"

I have enjoyed writing this piece. Long Live GCI, Long Live Nigeria!

Submitted By: 

SANYAOLU Naseem Olufimihan Ashamu
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