My GCI Memoirs

- flavours & fragrances to savour

Starting Out
Admission into Government College Ibadan was the most sought after by boys for secondary school education in the old Western Region of Nigeria. Pupils sat for the Common Entrance examinations and the successful ones underwent a unique one-week interview programme. It was unique in the sense that it was a residential, highly regimented, highly engaging, all-day and all-night programme. The aim was to assess and evaluate the IQ, academic state, health status and personality traits of each candidate. Apart from the daily regime which covered academics and sports. Though engaging, it was a fun-filled schedule. The interview programme also involved teaching and examination in Danish - a foreign European language, which I believe most of us interviewees never had any prior knowledge of. In those days, the eventual receipt of an admission letter to GCI elicited a burst of joy and an exhilarating feeling of, "Oh, I made it." which earned both the student and his parents' unquantifiable respect from their peers.


This was an admixture of quality teaching facilities for the Sciences, Arts and vocational subjects, and quality teachers including a good number of European teachers, most of who possessed a minimum of university degree. They were indeed a crop of very dedicated teachers.

Students were generally motivated to strive for excellence. This meant a combination of determination and rigorous study which are the keys to excellence in examinations. It involved the general practice of hibernation or eclusion, day and night, while preparing especially for the WASC and HSC examinations. I doubt if this culture of rigorous study could have been matched by students of other secondary schools, who erroneously believed that GCI students always had the best aggregate results among secondary schools in the Western Region because they were spoon-fed. Some cynics even had the ridiculous belief that GCI students were given the WAEC examination questions well in advance of the formal conduct of the examinations. Nothing can be farther from the truth.

Non-academic excellence

Complete and all round education was the goal in GCI, as the school afforded students maximum opportunity for self expression and development of all human capital potentials, beyond academics:

• In sports, without doubt, GCI was the leader amongst schools in Western Nigeria, as we turned out an endless stream of regional and national athletes and heroes in most sports. I still cherish my personal success story as a distinguished national hockey player till today.
• On the vocational side, gifted students excelled in their training up to the WASC examination level in their chosen subjects like Woodwork/Carpentry Metal Work, Technical Drawing, etc.
• For Theatre Arts and Drama Production, GCI was exceptionally reputed for classical drama productions like, Julius Ceasar, Othello, Twelfth Night, Sweeney Todd, Efunsetan Aniwura performed all excellently name them – GCI performed all excellently.
• Thinking of musical shows and social entertainment, and the GCI School Band (Sound Incorporation) comes to mind as the best in the Western Region in those days. What about preparation of students for national sacrifice and/or military service and your mind readily goes to the well-equipped, well-trained and highly disciplined corps of military cadets.

School discipline

This was boldly anchored on the following:

• Respect for constituted authority, made up of the Principal, Vice Principal, Housemasters, Teachers, Head of School, Heads of Houses, School Prefects, House Prefects, and seniors.
• Respect for extant school rules and regulations which all students had to necessarily learn and internalise as the official code of conduct.
• Stringent enforcement of rules and regulations, even on what may seem trivial such as, crossing of lawns.' An offender, if caught stood the risk of serious sanctions, like compound work or even detention from going out on open days, a.k.a. dite.
• Promotion of the highest standard of personal hygiene, tidiness, organizational ability and collective responsibility for dormitory cleanliness and environmental sanitation, culminating in the weekly regime of Saturday morning inspection in each House.

Student governance as capacity-building for leadership
The institution of Head Boy, Head of House, School Prefects and House Prefects was the chain of authority, in that descending order. These were the administrative officers of the school, from among the student body, and they were vere distributed within the several Houses.

The unique tradition of grouping new students into an enduring Family Tree system for monitoring and guidance of each student is impeccable. The Form One students, as freshmen, are the new entrants into each family, and they are allocated a teacher who will be in Form Three. His "grand teacher" will be his teacher's "teacher" who will be in Form Five, while his great-grand teacher will be in the Upper Sixth Form (HSCII). Expectedly, in the fullness of time, a fresh "boy will invariably grow to become a teacher, grand teacher and great grand teacher too.

There is also the imperial authority which is given to seniors, even if by only one year, to discipline juniors by apportioning punishment as they deemed fit for any infraction, misbehavior, disobedience, or flouting of the school or House regulations. I will never forget an imposition given to a group of junior boys in Field House in 1969 by Odewunmi which goes thus: "Apart from the fact that it is gross insubordination to defy a master, it is also an inconsiderable liberty in Field House". Each of the offenders had to write between 200-500 times and submit within a stipulated time frame, failing which more punishment was imposed! In maintaining law and order, seniors were really powerful in those days.

Freedom of religion

Despite the Christian tradition adopted in the general affairs of the school, the authorities promoted and maintained absolute freedom of faith and worship, as amply demonstrated by the building of the school mosque right behind the office of the Principal. One can say with pride and admiration that students professing the Islamic faith were never coerced to attend church service, not even Christmas carols. For me, I never attended service at the school chapel throughout my days in GCI

Unique culture of tolerance and comradeship

Given the opportunity, GCI boys are notorious for coining the most apt, oftentimes insulting and ridiculous nicknames. Those nicknames stuck like glue. Unfortunately, the more one protested, the harder the nickname stuck. Teasing was also a common game, ostensibly to test one's breaking (snapping) point" or your "boiling point" i.e. the point at which the taunted student would react aggressively and violently.

Cultivation of the GCI personality

All the socialization experience which we went through produced a unique personality in every student, the pillars of which are hard work, ambition, self-discipline, honesty, integrity, self-confidence, boldness, respect for constituted authority, willingness to accept responsibility and leadership roles, high self-esteem and dignity. Boys were never disposed to sycophancy of any sort. You would always see our boys being confident, which is sometimes erroneously regarded as arrogance.

Take away

Unfortunately the ideals of the personality moulded by GCI in those days have been overthrown by the decay in the socio political fabric of the Nigerian nation. Today the typical GCI Old Boy is handicapped for survival and progress because the virtues of success through focus, determination, hard work, diligence, perseverance, patience, prayer, and integrity have been lost to nepotism, mediocrity, favoritism, sycophancy and the popular "if you can't beat them, you join them" syndrome. Regrettably, the old GCI ethics of "Eda ti ko hustle lo n'moke" has become irrelevant as you may need to be a hustler to make it real big and fast" in today's contemporary Nigerian society. What a pity!

In conclusion, I will confidently state that it has indeed been an exciting, sometimes turbulent but fulfilling experience over the last 50 years when I was fortunate to have been admitted into Government College Ibadan for my secondary school education and I thank the Almighty for that.

Submitted By: 

ALLI Sakiru Abiodun
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