Pictures expresses the current state of St John/Mary's Unity Secondary School, Owo, Ondo State as at 13th of January, 2017
There was a time when a particular blue uniform stood out, for the dream it expresses and the excellence it speaks of; a uniform shared by nine educational institutions in Ondo state (before nine became five because of Ekiti state's creation). There was a time when pupils would answer a certain question with just one word. "Where do you study now?"
"Unity". That word was then an embodiment with many good things.
Unity Secondary Schools were founded in 1985, born of the former teachers' training colleges, meant to serve as model schools, meant to show the educational best the state has to offer.
The state Unity Schools were meant to compete with their Federal counterpart and other elite private institutions, and they did. The schools were rich in infrastructure for curricular and extra-curricular activities, teachers and pupils lived in one community, a culture was born; the schools attracted attention beyond Ondo State, even beyond Nigeria.
I gained admission in the ninth year of the schools' existence and I knew a couple of pupils who came from Sierra Leone and Ghana; indeed hundreds came from other states of Nigeria. It would not be an exaggeration to place Unity alongside the likes of Fourah Bay and Kings College in terms of exemplary standard.
In quiz competitions, in schools' debate, in sports competitions, in science competitions, unity schools became a force to be reckoned with in the West African sub-region. Some states in Nigeria watched the success and tried to reproduce such in their domain.
Then came a king (another Pharaoh) who knew not Joseph; and now, here we are, talking about the glorious days of Unity Schools, because the state's education policymakers forgot the vision of the founding fathers.
At some point the state government stopped working hard on maintaining the standard, obviously they stopped viewing the schools as model schools; so things started falling apart, it resulted in infrastructural decay, in low enrolment, in horrible WAEC results, in low teacher morale.
Now Unity Schools are lost in the crowd. Except we deceive ourselves no right-thinking parent desiring a school that is affordable and with a track record of excellence would think of any of the Unity Schools; all that is left for these schools now are stories of glories.
Fortunately the situation is not entirely hopeless. Some of the schools got the state government's attention between 2010 and 2014, especially the ones in Akure (St Peters' Unity School) and in Ondo (St Helen's Unity School), fortunately too, the ones that are most hit by the policy somersaults of the previous administrations are not completely dead.
It is in the light of this that we appeal to the administration of Barrister Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (SAN) to help us with the following:
1. To restore all unity schools, especially the one in Owo (St John & Marys' Unity Secondary School) which has been neglected for years back to years of infrastructural glory. This would include repairs of Hostels, staff quarters, classrooms, roads, halls (Dining halls and Examination hall) and sports facilities.
2. To change the policy of bringing teachers from the Ministry of Education to the schools and taking teachers from there to the Ministry of Education. This causes instability, as most teachers try so hard to remain in the Ministry instead of facing the business of teaching. 3. To provide a holistic approach to the management of the schools so that the vision of the founders would be imbibed by the staff, the pupils, and the good people of Ondo State.
We are looking forward to the success awaiting this administration under the leadership of distinguished lawyer and educationist, His Excellency Barrister Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN).
Please help us rescue our beloved institution – St John/Mary's Unity Secondary School Owo – from decay, for the Most High God in his wisdom has positioned you in government for such a time as this.