By Dr. Goke T. Akinrogunde
I had a personal reflection on my post-50th birthday on (July 31st 2020) that I will like to share on this platform, my Source Platform (former pupils of St Peter’s Faji School, Ajele Street, Lagos Island 1975-81 set).
I reckoned that today I am a medical practitioner who went through a lot to get graduated. I may not be successful with ownership of mansions and fleet of assorted vehicles but I feel fulfilled practicing (and freely impactful to a number in need) what I have learnt courtesy of a largely free education policy, funded by the public fund and recurrently fought to remain so by students’ generation before mine and by my generation, at a great cost for some of us though.
I remember that as one of the sons of a mother of two sons, who lost her husband when I was barely 2 years to Cancer in 1972, it would have been very difficult to get the education to become a medical doctor if not for the free education policies in existence when I was in school. Especially the mid-segment – Secondary Education.
I remembered my secondary school days and the seamless entrance, in September 1981, to my secondary school, Government College Victoria Island (GOCOVI) and the benefit of a free education policy that comes with free writing materials and school books to read.
I also remembered that three years (1978) earlier my elder brother had it tough getting admission to the afternoon school section (Sch 2) of CMS Grammar School Bariga, Lagos. It was quite competitive to get admission in those days because school placements and spaces are few and was definitely expensive for my mum, then a junior civil servant working at the Tuberculosis Service of Lagos State.
Those days, pupils were split into Morning and Afternoon sessions because schools- Primary and Secondary schools were scarce.
Then a revolution occurred in the education sector, among others, with the exit of the General Olusegun Obasanjo military government in 1979. It ushered in the second republic with President Sheu Shagari of National Party of Nigeria (NPN) on top at the federal government and Alhaji Lateef Kayode Jakande of Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) elected as Lagos State Governor.
The education revolution of Lagos was one of the cardinal points of UPN, led by Chief Obafemi Awolowo nationally. Others include free healthcare, massive building of low-cost housing estate for low income earners etc. The first two I was a beneficiary.
On education, the solution to the difficulties experienced by my elder brother’s generation and those before were solved practically by the Jakande-led government in Lagos State. The new government canceled the afternoon school session in Lagos and offered placement to all eligible pupils not by common entrance examination which was mainly instituted to cut down the number of applicants for secondary schools’ placements. They were able to expand existing ones and build new schools or convert existing abandoned government’s buildings to schools.
One of such abandoned or about to be abandoned government buildings was the one on No 10, Waziri Ibrahim Cresent, off Else Femi Pearce Street, Victoria Island, Lagos. These blocks of mainly frontage U-shaped bungalows and adjoining rear blocks of L-shaped bungalows with a beautiful lawn (the size of half a soccer pitch) was the previous location of the Headquarters of Lagos State Ministry of Education.
These buildings served the purpose for the establishment of my alma mater Government College Victoria Island. The pioneer students of Form 1-3 were brought from the afternoon session of St Gregory College Obalende, Ikoyi, Lagos.
True to UPN promise, education was completely free in all public schools in Lagos. Private schools were very few in those days though.
I was a beneficiary of this, starting with ease of transition from Primary 6 from St Peter’s (Faji) to Form 1 at GOVOVI. I got admitted seamlessly into secondary school September 1981, having passed the first school leaving certificate earlier in the year. No common entrance was done because there were now far more spaces than it used to be, so competition for space is no more necessary.
In GOCOVI (all boys school) I met other students from other schools, especially those from Army Children School, Bonny Camp, so my class was a mixed one of civilian and barrack boys. Interesting experience it was with these sets of boys.
Fasttrack, early morning of Monday 3 August 2020, I got a call from a professional colleague, a cardiologist in Lagos, that my service would be required urgently for an Nonagenarian at home. He would like to confirm if I am available to attend and that I should send my invoice accordingly if I am inclined.
In recent years, I had set up a modest clinic and medical ultrasound resource practice among the masses in one of the suburbs of Ikeja, Lagos. Among other things, we are mainly focused on medical checks, leveraging on head-to-toe ultrasound screening resources. And we are available in dedicated days of the week, Monday is one of such days. Hence, yes we were available, this answered my colleague’s first question.
To the second question of cost-implication for the arrays of specialised investigations on home service basis – the answer was a NO NEED because the person to be examined was ALHAJI LATEEF KAYODE JAKANDE.
I was happy to provide this service Free because I benefited from the strategic Free Education Policy under LKJ in Lagos in the early 1980s, which is the foundation of the little knowledge of relevance to care for him today.
I was happy to have attended because on getting to the house at Ilupeju by Obanikoro bus stop on Ikorodu road, I saw a happy old man with a modest abode – nothing has changed fundamentally since I first saw that building opposite the community Police Station some 38years ago!
The man had apparently not amassed public fund to warrant his movement to a palatial mansion at Ikoyi or Lekki (the dream he sowed as a governor). Modest property; impactful Governor!
Not withstanding that I personally belong to a far more radical political thought than LKJ’s of then. This reflection is mainly about the fact that the likes of education and health should be seen as a public good and maintained for universal benefits of all in need. You never know who would enjoy the benefit of yesterday in future.
Thank you for reading through my lengthy thoughts.
Dr Goke T Akinrogunde