My Life at Government College Ibadan

With all the effort concentrated on us, only Rufai Gbadamosi gained admission to St. Gregory’s College through the entrance examination which was taken whilst the rest of us went quietly to our homes. But luck smiled on me, as I was persuaded to go to Ibadan Boys High School in 1943, from where I also gained entrance admission into Government College Ibadan (G.C.I).

It was good luck on my part, as I met Mr. Ogunlela in the short tenure at Boys High School, who took special interest in me. Mr Ogunlela never knew me from Adam, but must be a divine intervention that Mr Ogunlela took interest in me, coaching me and helping me as much as possible to ensure that I secured admission at G.C.I., where I resumed school in January 1944.

At the time, twenty-four (24) young students were admitted into the College after two entrance examinations and interview. This was the highest number of students that were ever admitted as at that time.

I was placed in Grier House with College Number 412. The number confirms that I have been admitted and allowed to use Native Administration (NA) scholarship, which meant that students from 411 — 416 were in this category/situation. My School Teacher or guardian, usually a Class IV student, was Mr. Bolarinwa who later changed his name to E.L. Omitola - a renowned Police Commissioner and footballer.

I was famous for sleep walking (talking in my sleep) in the dormitory, but this had no effect on my academic performance. Other members of Grier House who were friendly with me included Olarewaju, Aina, Ajayi-Obe and Ogunsola. While other new students who hailed from Ibadan included Jire Akinleye, Raji M.O. and Layi Ogunsola. It was a year when four (4) out of the twenty-four (24) admitted students hailed from Ibadan city.

I was categorized as Junior B in athletics, in football I was in Group B, while Layi Ogunsola was placed in Group C.

The total enrollment in the College did not exceed 120 students. At entry, our tutors included, Messrs V. B. V. Powell, A.D. Porter, and others. Mr. Powell was in charge of athletics and he also taught English and Composition. He was always smartly dressed in white shirt and white shorts which were specially sown for him. Mr. Porter in his case taught English Grammar.

In 1945 athletics, I attained the junior B High Jump record of 5’-0” and the school magazine described me as a student endowed with a natural spring.

At G.C.I., other teachers of repute who taught were: GNI Enobakhare (Maths), B.A Okafor (Maths), A. Long (Geography), Miss Dearsden (Geography), Capt. Brown (Maths) who was very mathematical and always punctual at school activities, G. Akin-Deko (Workshop and Technical Drawing), A.J.E. Sousby ( Chemistry) who came from St. Andrews Teachers Training College, Oyo and acclaimed to be the son of Bishop S.D. Temietan (Yaba Graduate) and was always featuring at church services.

As it was, one of the greatest regret was that I missed the opportunity to learn how to play the piano. The situation was unfortunate as the school always picked only two students at a time for each year or set and I was never picked.

School activities began from 8 am to 2.00pm on the school compound, which was separate from house activities. The House activities took most of the time starting from the time we returned from classes which normally is about 2.30 pm. The students were mandated to rest by having an afternoon nap, while games time started immediately after siesta. During the games time students were encouraged to participate in any type of sport being provided at the time. It is noteworthy that typically from January - April, athletics reigned supreme. The sport was done on the school field. While from May to June/July, we had the football season, whilst on return for third term, cricket was in vogue. The week days were devoted to different things - a day was set aside for farming.

The activities on the House grounds vary from workday to the weekends. The day started at 6.00am when the bell was rung for students to wake up. There was cleaning of the dormitory or sports depending on the weekday. Then, of course, bathing under showers was never a problem; you then went to the dining hall for breakfast about 7.00am after which school starts at 8.00am.

There were also school activities during the weekend, say practice for sports like athletics, soccer or cricket depending on the season at the time of the year.

The evening socials were held on Saturday, after cleaning of the house compounds. The evening could be used for traditional dances, impromptu speech, cinema or visit to watch special films in the neighborhood. At times, treasure hunt game was introduced.

The organization of the chores were usually done in accordance with seniority, some set of students assisted in the kitchen for the preparation of the dining hall and serving of food. Usually the cooking of food was done by government employees, whilst students were mess boys who arranged the dishing of food and washing up in turns after eating. In the evening, there was prep - at which students prepared for the school activities of the following day.

On Sundays, it was obligatory for student to attend church. It was assumed that the students were mostly Anglicans. There were a few Muslims who were encouraged to pray at the Friday Jumat, whilst other denominations were allowed to go to town or nearby churches.

The school made available for the students the following food stuff: eba, beans, bread (on Sunday), agidi, plantain, rice and the vegetable included, okro, gbure (Talinum triangulare). Whilst on admission, students were advised to bring cutlery and cups.

The school provided clothing, and different houses maintained different colours. Initially on admission into the school, there were two houses; Grier and Swanston with Maroon and Blue as their colours respectively. Then came in 1948, Field House with Green colour and in 1949, Carr House with Orange as its colour. But the paramount school wear was White shirt on Khaki shorts.

The house wear as regards games or sports outfit was a vest and pair of shorts. Sometime in 1947, the school badge which was affixed to the different school shirts was introduced. The concept was thereafter copied by other schools in town. We sort of set the pace at G.C.I., whilst others followed. The concept is now in vogue all over the country.


Worthy of note is that the boarding house at GCI was where we were groomed to become good citizens. At boarding, we mixed with different boys from different geographical locations. We all lived together, dined together, played games together, and thereby developed lifelong bonds. There was no discrimination as children of the rich and influential mixed easily with children of the poor and upstarts.

When I got admission in 1944, there were children of influential eminence like the Ooni of lfe, and the Akenzua of Benin to name a few. We all shared everything we had, even though some of us didn’t have much. The main separator amongst us then was seniority in class as bird of the same feather and class flocked together.

In fact, we could really say a lot about the boarding system at G.C.I. as it was the laboratory where character was regularly formed and molded.

At the different houses were House Masters who were assisted by House Tutors and supported by members of staff of the College. They had their specific duties, ensuring the corporate existence of the school while looking after the welfare of the students. Only on special occasions do we have the House Master and the Tutors visiting the houses, as the Tutors were always on ground to guide the students in the way of the houses and the school.

Accommodations for students in the dormitories were special to the school. We were arranged into different dormitories in the houses and our beds consisted of three (3) nos timber board placed on two (2) member head (Trestles). We placed blankets on the planks (timber boards) which sometimes had a pillow as compliment and a mosquito net.

The cleaning of the dormitory and its surrounding grounds were always done thoroughly. As students, we took turns to sweep the floors while every Saturday, we engaged in scrubbing the floors with water and removing cob-webs off the walls. The surrounding fields were usually cut down with cutlasses called and nicknamed “Ojigbe” and only in the cases of running of new houses did we uproot trees.

It is noteworthy that accommodation in the houses was never a problem as the authorities always ensured there were enough spaces for admitted students. In 1949, whilst heading the crew that started Carr House, we engaged in the thorough cleaning of the new house for the new entrants.

Reflecting over my six (6) years sojourn at G.C.I., it is with shivers that I re-echo the saying that actually - school life is the best. I cannot but remember the good friends that I made with contemporaries like Aina, Olarewaju, Olaniyan, Ajayi-Obe, Faluyi to name a few and others whose paths were crossed in the field of sports and debates as the case was.

The friendships which developed during my days at Government College really blossomed through life and cannot but cherish the memories of the friends I made. In actuality, Government College represented the beginning of life for a lot of us as many went on to excel in their chosen field of practice. The confidence that we developed during school attendance encouraged us in deciding on a chosen career field.

In my case, I nurtured the idea of becoming a doctor and possibly specialize in surgery. What happened is a totally different story - I became an engineer, other friends like Ajayi-Obe went on to study medicine and became a medical doctor with a bias for hospital management. Olaniyan became a Professor of Bio-chemistry and excelled in his chosen career at the University of Lagos. So also was Olarewaju, who became a Permanent Secretary in the Western Nigeria civil service and on and on.

I must say that life experiences at G.C.I. were second to none. As earlier stated, I entered G.C.I. in January 1944 and during my first year I was placed at Grier House where Mr. E. L. Bolarinwa as he was then called was made my School Teacher. At Government College, a school teacher is mandated to teach the new student about the history of the house and assist the student in the general settling down to the school activities and doctrine.

The school teacher typically picked for the new student is usually in Class IV. Mr. E. L. Bolarinwa tried his best, I presume, but when I attempted the house test, - I did not pass until I did the second test. Interesting to note was that I later settled down to my studies and disciplined myself in the engagement of my duties that I became a house prefect in Class IV and this helped in many cases.

Nevertheless, I was most surprised that in September 1948, when it was time to pick the Head of School (Prefect) or Captain of the School. As it was at the time, news reached me that out of the twenty-four (24) of us in the class, the decision to appoint a captain, as I understood it, was between Abraham Okorodudu and myself. It was very interesting when at one of the school assembly my name was announced as the new Head of School (Prefect) to succeed Ekpo. Sam Ekpo later went on to become a Medical Doctor.

I must say that I pretty much excelled at G.C.I. In 1946 during my third year, I won the cricket colours which were given to me after a match against Edo College Benin when I scored 51 runs for G.C.I. against Edo College. In 1948, I sat for the Cambridge School Leaving Certificate and I attained a Grade 1 while only a few of my classmates made Grade II.

On resumption at school in 1949, I was chosen as the Head of Carr House - a new House which had just been created. With me from Swanston House was Peter Agbonkankan, and J.A. Olarewaju who assisted tremendously. Our House Master was G.N.I Enobakhare who was a musician, mathematician and was loved by all. Before Easter of the same year, I sat for entrance examination into University College Ibadan, but failed due to a leakage of the examination papers. At the same period, I sat for the entrance exam to Public Works Department (PWD) Technical School, Lagos as Engineering Assistant at which I was successful. This led to my reporting at Lagos to enter into the Civil Service on the 6th of July, 1949.

Culled from 'Reflection of God's Mercy (Autobiography) by Engr (Chief) Emmanuel Olaniyi Oladeji'

Submitted By: 

OLADEJI Emmanuel Olaniyi
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