Our Lady’s Girls High was a purpose-built school by the Catholic missionaries. The school has all the department and facilities required of a decent school. It started as a boarding school and housed many girls from all around the country – a pride of the surrounding communities. OLGHS Modakeke has it brother school at Ile Ife – St John’s school for boys. Both schools, a couple of miles apart must have been put in these locations when peace existed in the region and a strategic move to foster more and better relationship between the two communities.
After the independence, a lot changed in Nigeria as a whole, part of which was the government taking over of missionary schools. However, the teachers in charge of Our Lady’s (as locally called) and St John’s did the hand overs gradually to ensure continuity in the culture of education they worked hard to build. One of the things that happened to Our Lady’s was making it a day school so as to accommodate more students. All seems to be gone well with this change.
Oba Okunade Sijuade assumed his throne in late 1980s. It should be a thing of joy in the region however, him being the king affected everyone and everything around the two communities and education was not important enough to be spared of the new king resentment towards his neighbours.
By 1987, we had a new principal at Our Lady’s. I don’t remember her name but she was a delight. She saw every child in the school as capable and talented individuals, spoke so softly that you can barely see her lips moving but yet her words echoed in our ears. She once made the whole school brought our chairs into the assembly ground so she could teach us how to sit properly, we initially thought she was crazy but everyone was grateful for the lesson learnt that day. She was a complete opposite of Mrs Cruella – a new principal that I will have to live with a few months down the line.
Mrs *Iwarere was determined to bring the lost glory of the school back, so she wanted the school to do Interhouse Sports. Our sports head, Mrs Sheba was fantastic. She was happy to put her skills to good use, she had a team of about five teachers at the time, all worked so hard training us. Ruth eleja in my class was the fastest on tracks ever – just like the wind. She had competed and won lots of medals from schools around us. I have never been in any competition but not too bad with volleyball – I was in a Yellow House and really proud of myself and looking forward to the event. It will be the first time in my life to play competitive sports against kids from other schools. The spirit was high, everyone put lots of efforts into doing their very best.
Two weeks to the big day, all of our hopes was dashed right in front of our eyes. We are a few hundred children in my school, age between 12 and eighteen years old – we just wanted to have fun and to show off our skills to our families and friends – Oba Sijuade crushed our hopes with no remorse.
When children’s happiness meant nothing to the king – well not his children.
My school was situated in the heart of Modakeke. On all occasions my school was addressed as OLGHS Modakeke, Ile Ife. This was completely fine with Oba Aderemi however, Oba Okunade would have none of that, he was determined to cause argument where none expected/existed. He insisted he did not want the name Modakeke appeared at all on all the programs for the event. There were lots of going back and forth on this and eventually he ordered the event not to take place at all. Lots of outcry about this however, maintaining peace in the region is important as the safety of the students could no longer be guaranteed – so my Interhouse Sport was cancelled to make the king happy.
Mrs Iwarere reportedly was a returnee Diasporan, a beneficiary of a great education my school once offered hence her passion to put school children and their education first. She was very sad after this unfortunate event and left my school shortly after – we all missed her dearly.
I am a yesterday child just like Boko Haram today’s children. I am blessed that I no longer feel shaken up with anger when I think of these events, not everyone is like this today – something for our elders, kings and leaders to think about.
*Name I give to my nice school principal