From the First Head Boy’s Desk
- At the beginning
As we celebrate the 50th Founders Day, the First ever Grand Reunion of all Great Landers and the firm establishment of our Alumni Association, I feel highly honoured to write a brief account of my experience at MCSS, our dear Alma Mater in the early years.
I was one of those students who were given ‘late’ admission to the new school in January, 1969. I remember that Tuesday evening when I brought a note from my mentor and spiritual father, Rev. Fr. Joachim Coakley (SMA) (RIP), the then Secretary to the Founding Proprietor of the school – Rt Rev Dr. J K Aggey (RIP), the first Nigerian Archbishop of Lagos. I had lived with Baba Coakley for about 18 months before he gave me the note to the Founding Principal of MCSS – Rev Sister Kathleen O’Regan (OLA) who later was to be a “mother” to me. He took the note and
after reading it said ‘’Well, Benedict your classmates are already one week ahead of you and I hope you will cope and live up to the expectations of Fr. Coakley. You are therefore to resume classes on Thursday. I will get a place for you in the Boys’ Hostel later.” I thanked her and left. I started school on Friday and was a-day student for one week before joining the boys at the hostel in Mende village which was a real local community/ village then. Those of us at the hostel which was run by late Mr. Thomas were: Augustine Ekeinde, Peter Malafa, Kayode Lamina, Charles Briggs, Tosin Adeleye to mention a few. The girls in the boarding house included Agnes Taylor – Nee Kodesoh, Idowu Ogunlesi Nee Chukwurah, Thelma Babajide Nee Awoliyi, Augustina Bakare Nee Oboh, Abimbola Williams to also mention a few. The number of boys and girls continued to grow each year with new entrants while the responsibilities of Head Boy and Head Girl increased especially in the sustenance of the culture already established in the school. School and Class Prefects meetings were held regularly to ensure peaceful coexistence and maintenance of law and order in the school. The school uniform was introduced in the second term of our first years.
In the beginning, there were four arms of class One, namely Class 1 Special, Classes 1A, 1B and 1C. I was in class 1C and each class had not more than 35 students with the few teachers like Messrs. Somide RIP, Abiona, Dimony, Akpan, Mrs. J J Oladele (RIP) an American and wife of the veteran artist/author – Mr. Oladele Taiwo. The Principal herself took us in English Language, Sr. Angela in French and Religious Knowledge. We also had regular lessons in music by Sister Comgull.
As the students’ population grew, more experienced teachers were employed and senior students were looked up to, to bring up the junior ones especially in both the girls dormitory and boys hostel.
An interesting session is the lesson on Table Etiquettes – Sister Kathleen produced cutlery bags for both boarders and day students and was on many occasions present in the dining hall at meal times to demonstrate to us what our sitting posture should be at meals and how to clean up after eating.
Cleanliness and good conduct were another recurrent instructions in our upbringing. Each class had a Conduct Register where offending students record of conducts – good or bad are recorded from time to time and transferred to the end of terms report for each person. No student dare drop a piece of paper or walk past anything of such anywhere in the school premises. Similarly, you must not touch the wall or the staircase. Your hands must always be by your sides else you had to wash the wall.
We must not use an abusive language on one another; fighting was highly intolerable as offenders would either be suspended or even expelled.
Interaction with Other Schools
- Sports – especially athletics via inter house sports competition and later football was another area of training by Games Masters like Mr. Tony Onyibe, Mr. Ogunnoiki. Within a few years we were known all over Lagos State for our unbeatable relay teams and later during Mr. A A Omoera’s time for our indomitable football team.
- Religious Activities: As a Catholic secondary school, no one was forced into becoming a catholic and those of us who were Catholics participated very actively in the Catholic Youth Organisations of the time. This was the Young Catholic Students (YCS) which existed in other Catholic Schools viz. Saints Gregory’s, Finbarrs, Holy Child and Our Lady of Apostles and even beyond Lagos up to Ibadan and Benin dioceses. Maryland hosted a few of the holiday Seminars. Augustine Ekeinde represented our school within and outside Lagos.
- Emotional Experience: One thing that I cannot easily forget in life was the involvement of us students during the sad incidences of the demise of a few of us. We lost three of our colleagues namely, Festus Mensah, Fidelis Sosu and one of the two Gbenoba sisters. At the end of their funeral Masses, the big boys carried the caskets while the girls and other students follow sorrowfully to the grave side in our uniforms in admiration of the bereaved families and other sympathizers.
- THE ADVENT OF THE GREAT LANDERS ALUMNI ASSOCIATION
By the time we graduated from the school in June 1973, some of us were already addicted to the school and felt that an Old Students Association be formed to enable us maintain constant touch with ourselves. By around 1977 we formed a small group when we heard that our Principal – Mr. A A Omoera was being transferred to St. Gregory’s college Obalende at the instance of the Old Gregorians. We wrote a petition requesting the Lagos State Ministry of Education to jettison the idea of the transfer but the Gregorian’s were stronger than us and we had to contend with the incoming principal Chief Amenechi from St Gregory’s.
Another issue that brought us together was when we learnt that the Agnesians who were formerly students of the defunct Teachers Training College wanted MCSS name to be changed to St Agnes Comprehensive Secondary School thereby retaining their old identity. The few of us on ground rose to the occasion to forestall the change and we were successful. The few of us then included late Greg Ozoya, Joseph Ayodele, Josephine Mensah, Thelma Awoliyi, Arthur Abara, Sam Ikoku, George Egbodor. At first we were meeting in the school and later in rotation when other earlier sets stated to join us. Even though most of us had not settled down to family life, the school still managed to get in touch with us to attend Inter House Spots competition, Founders day and graduation of sets. Even at the time the school was taken over by the Lagos State (Jakande) government we still continued to relate with the school. I was always called upon to organise my group for one activity or another.
Then the biggest challenge came when the Bola Ahmed Tinubu returned the mission schools to the owners in 2001. I was called upon to get my members and join the Old Students of other catholic schools in charting a clear way for the smooth transition within a few months. Lander Joseph Ayodele and I joined the much older Old Students of the other Catholic Schools. We later got others – Greg Ozoya, Tina Bakare, Kemi Thomas and a few others to join the MCSS team. We organised the Entrance Examination for the new intake, mark the papers and conducted the interviews and subsequently handed over to Rev. Sister Mary Crowley the first Administrator after the historic Return. Shortly after that Lander Tina Bakare and I were appointed by His Eminence, Cardinal Anthony Olubunmi Okojie to the MCSS Board of Governors layer called the Advisory Board. Upon the recall of Sr. Crowley by the OLA to Ireland, Rev. Sister Esther Edeko became the Administrator. We, (TINA and I) worked assiduously with her and other appointed Board Members until we bowed out in 2014 when the current Administrator, Sister Agnes came in. It is pertinent to mention that Sr. Edeko tried her best to assist the firm establishment of the Great Landers as a one family. During her era, we were carrying out the induction of graduating students every year but later stopped for the inability of many Landers to join us.
To the glory of God, an idea to open a Whatsapp Platform came to me on 16th April, 2016 and that was the miracle. The platform continued to grow and on 27 October 2017 the Interim Exco was formed to steer the affairs of the association to this day.
Establishing the Great Landers Alumni Association has not been an easy task. I must sincerely thank the Interim Executive Officers for their doggedness, focus and relentless efforts in the face of trying periods. Also, I must thank members of the various committees for their support and readiness to give their best in their respective teams. The Administrator, Rev Sister Agnes Adepoju and her staff and students have continued to do us proud. The gigantic edifice which has come to stay is the manifestation of the foresight imbued in the Proprietor, Rt Rev. Dr. Alfred Adewale Martins to establish a lasting legacy for future generations of the youths that will pass through our Alma Mater.
The Founding personalities from the Sisters of Our Lady of Apostles OLA, The past two Proprietors namely the Late Archbishop John Kwao Amuzu Aggey, His Eminence Anthony Cardinal Olubunmi Okojie must be remembered for their wonderful contributions to the continuous growth of MCSS. Our very dear Rev. Sisters Kathleen O’Regan, Angela, Joana, Comgull must as well be remembered. All our past Principals and Teachers – deceased and alive have all done well for us. I wish I could mention all their names. I cannot end this without mentioning the producer of our School Badge, late Anthony Omitogun of the Pioneer set. We were all asked to draw what we felt our badge should be, after a a couple of challenging sessions, his drawing was picked while the Reverend Sisters added the slogan – LOVE AND SERVICE.
Above all I wish to thank God for giving us the opportunity to see this day and witness this memorable occasion. It is indeed the day the Lord has made; we are glad and rejoice in Him
Benedict Olusegun Adigun (KSM)
Pioneer Senior Prefect.