WHAT a very apt name! In the Yoruba language, it means children are beautiful. In another sense, it could mean that they are very precious. However in the scriptural sense, it means; children are the heritage of God.
How can I write about Omolewa without mentioning our own dear ‘mummy’ who is much to be admired for her style. Her sense of fashion and her command of the English language. Nothing attests more to this than the loving attention she paid to our grooming. I still check my finger nails today as if mummy would show up at any time to check if they have been cut – and most importantly, the discipline brought before her for a misdemeanor. No matter how close you are to the family, she wouldn’t allow you to go scot free for any offence. In fact, I believe the close you are to the family, the freer she was to chastise you, and I thank her for that.
Talking about generosity, she once noticed that I didn’t show up in school for a term in Primary two, first term and she came calling during the holidays. My parents told her they couldn’t afford the school fees any longer and her response was that I could come for free. That was how I earned myself a scholarship courtesy of ‘Mama Omolewa’, and in appreciation of her love for me, I named my first daughter, Omolewa.
I remember with nostalgia our early experience when we started from a rented premises close to the orphanage, that was 1962, before we moved to the present location in 1965. We used to make forays into cocoa farm opposite the old location for the cocoa seeds and if you were unfortunate enough to be caught, you would face ‘mummy’s’ disciplinary stance.
On the inspiration level, when we moved to the new location, we used to admire some of our neighboring medical students who in their dazzling uniform had to take a short cut by our school premises, to their own hostels at Yemetu and I believe some of us have gone into the medical profession on account of that spectacle.
In addition we used to file in twos every Sunday morning to the Baptist Church at Oritamefa which had excellent facilities for children. Omolewa took care of our spirit, soul and body. Thank you Mummy.
Some of my school mates I remember and I have a sizable number of them both seniors, classmates and juniors. Starting with the seniors were: Gbolahan Olaniran, our headboy, Bessy Pension-Smith and Yemi Ajibola. Then my classmates: Femi Vaughan, Segun Akinloye, Idowu Tokuta, Clara Oyegoke, Sola Ajibola, Lukman and Taju Ibrahim. My juniors: Kojo Quashie, Jibola, Femi Ayeni, Ibukun Ajibola, Kobina, and many of them I cannot list in this write up. I hope fervently that most, if not all of us are still alive to celebrate with mummy on this glorious 40th anniversary occasion.
I remember also a few of our teachers: Mrs. Sanda, Mrs. Ajibola, Teacher Philips, Teacher Funmilayo and Teacher Ige who taught us in Primary Six, we owe them a lot. I also remember our boarding house matron, Mama Aderemi, She was tough and we feared her too.
I am particularly happy to contribute this write up and I want to use this opportunity to assure mummy that we shall rally round and endeavour to keep the flag of the school flying long after her, for posterity would adjudge her accomplished when they see her children in all endeavours of life contributing to the betterment of the world in the fashion they had been taught when growing up as kids.
On behalf of all of us, I say a big thank you to you mummy, for the love, tender care and attention you devoted to us in order to see that we turned out right. Thank you so much. It is with pride also that I mention that the facilities we enjoyed so long ago are still well maintained in the face of all odds. Especially the general apathy in the society as reflected in the state of our secondary schools and universities now in a dismal state of disrepair. I am also aware that these facilities have been maintained at minimal cost to the parent and I know that mummy has played a significant role in ensuring that school fee policy is in line with her vision. First and foremost as an educationist, and philanthropist. Once again, I say thank you mummy.
I cannot complete this write up without reference to my cousins: Sister Biodun and Romoke, Wole Subu and of course, our dear Professor Femi. Mummy has been blessed with such wonderful children and you can see this from their disposition to people from all walks of life. Sister Ronke is so dear to me. Not only because she’s so much like mummy, but more because she took on the role of administering Omolewa after mummy, and she has kept that standard and kept the place together like a family which it had always been. Then, ‘uncle’ Wole, as I refer to him. We’ve been together for ages and in spite of the age difference between us. We still relate like buddies and this I believe can be traced back to our parents ‘Western Circle’ friendship – a family-oriented society our parents belonged to – where Pa Vaughan and my late dad and other fiends like Arch deacon Alayande, Late Pa Ayorinde belonged to and imparted to you the need to love each other and which we still do till today. Sometime ago, I went unannounced to mummy’s residence, and obviously the security man didn’t know me, but I insisted on seeing her and I told the maid that came to meet me who I was. She told me mummy was a little under the weather, but she took a risk and went ahead to inform her in her bedroom. She was so happy to see me, she insisted I sit on her laps, and she fawned all over me like a baby – that is the kind of love mummy exudes and you know it cannot be feigned.
Mummy, I thank you for the opportunity you gave me and many others, but I feel personally lucky to have passed through that citadel of learning, as your days are, so shall your strength be. Omolewa, happy 40th anniversary.
– Mr. Niyi Latinwo – U.S.A.
The young woman in who the seed for the foundation of my future was sown is Mrs. Gladys Vaughan, (about 40 years ago). Chief (Mrs.) Gladys Aduke Vaughan arrived from England with her young family, determined to implant in to, and founded a nursery and primary school, with boarding facilities – one of the first of its kind in Ibadan. She looked around her and commenced this project by contacting her relations and encouraging them to send their children and wards to this newly established institution called Omolewa Nursery/Primary Institution.
My grandmother, Mrs. Olaide Davies, heard about her cousin’s initiative and without any hesitation registered me in the school. I would say that this decision is one of the best decisions ever taken on my behalf. This decision, taken with solid faith helped to shape my future – I count myself lucky.
I was about 4 years old when I left the relative safely of the nest I had known in that short period of my life. I was no doubt afraid and devastated thinking in my mind that the grandmother who sent me away from home must have disliked my presence at home. Today, however, I am happy that the decision taken was in my own interest.
The school, with its boarding facilities was started at Awodi Oke, Orita-Mefa, Ibadan close to a cocoa farm – all of which of course is now a plain ground. Leaving the comforts of home for a boarding house was a difficult experience, but fortunately, there were very few of us in the boarding house and this enabled me to settle down rather quickly. We all had our individual beds and said our prayers together daily. I recollect the sound of that wake-up bell which startled us awake every morning from our deep slumber. Everyone had household chores to perform daily and it was here that I saw some facilities such as water closets for the first time in my life. It was during the period that I learnt how to be meticulous and thorough in everything I do. A sharp twist of the ear, administered by one of the teachers would tell you without any shadow of doubt that you had not swept that floor thoroughly. When it was your turn to wash plates, you would wash those plates as often as it took to get them cleaned, thoroughly clean. Those beds be must be laid without wrinkles, while a speck of dust must not be seen on places one had purportedly dusted. I count myself lucky for the discipline of those days, a discipline that has stayed with me till today.
A few years after the school started we moved to a section of its permanent site, and by this time more students had joined us. It was during this period that I formed a lasting and enduring relationship with those who are today my friends. We still woke up at the crack of dawn, did our morning chores, prepared for school, and had our breakfast.
Of course, the bell rang a few minutes to 8 a.m., heralding the start of another day in school. The morning assembly was held on the field and late comers were duly punished. It was at this period of my life that I learnt the values of keeping time. Most people today wonder at how I am able to keep appointments, sometimes dead on time, despite a busy schedule. Omolewa laid the values of this in me and I consider myself lucky.
Our meals were not different from what was obtainable in comparable boarding houses, but I remember with nostalgia, the breathlessness and impatience with which we all looked forward to the Sunday meals. Breakfast on Sunday consisted of bread ‘onibeji’ with egg stew and tea which we all ate with relish and gusto. Lunch consisted of jollof rice and chicken and this usually brought sweet home memory to quite a number of us. The days we ate dodo (fried plantain) were also one of these favourite mealtimes in the boarding house.
When I look around me today and see or hear about the saddening way in which dirty, politics is being introduced into everything we do with people of different religious pithched against each other, one cannot but blush for shame. I remember how people of different of different faiths lived together peacefully in the boarding house at Omolewa. All students, Christians and Moslems alike, said prayers together. I remember Orita Mefa Baptist Church for the Sunday school services. No one was left behind – Moslems or Christian. We all studied the Bible together, ate the same meals together, washed our clothes together on Sundays and there was always the feeling of camaraderie amongst us. Omolewa instilled in us the virtues of tolerance. Those were good days indeed.
A few of us who are related to the proprietress, mummy Omolewa as she is fondly called, enjoyed some privileges as we spent quite a lot of our spare time in her quarters and from there I was once again exposed, for the first time to a gas cooker – I count myself lucky.
It was here the virtue of cleanliness was instilled in us as we were taught to always clean the gas cooker before and after use. This habit extended to night hours when we were made to clean up the cooker whether used or not used each passing day. Omolewa taught me this. One of my roommates of the University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University, often wondered why I was so obsessed with cleanliness, and my response was to quote Mummy Omolewa’s saying that “Cleanliness is next to Godliness”. It has stayed with me all of my life. It became my mantra.
The first time I gave a speech in public, many people came forward to congratulate me for the powerful delivery and once more I said to myself – ‘thank God for Omolewa’. One of the things that made our school unique in those days was the sense of innovation brought into the things we did. I remember vividly the Christmas holidays. I recollect the flurry of activities that preceded this: the wrinckled paper used to package the costumes for those taking part in the Nativity Play, the bright and colourful gloss paper cut and pasted on cardboard to make the crowns used by the tree wise men and the great attention given to every detail –no other school could match this annual event in terms of colour detail and delivery. The words you would utter on stage must be delivered word-perfect, with confidence and evcery nuance in place. Stage fright is a weakness that must be hidden, tucked away in the pit of your stomach. No wonder, I am usually not frazzled whilst delivering a paper or speech before any audience no matter how exalted. Omolewa taught me how to hide those butterflies effectively.
I thank God for the enduring values with which my fellow students and I were nurtured in those days. Would we have wanted it any other way? I believe I can confidently respond on behalf of everyone” “No!” I have attempted to instil these values in my children and I hope I have succeeded.
Omelewa, we shall never forget you.
Funmi Roberts (Mrs.)
I give Almighty God the glory and praise for the privilege He gave me to have passed through Omolewa Nursery and Primary Institution, Ibadan.
To my mind, no experience in life, is a coincidence it is as ordained and ordered by God Himself.
I can say frankly that I am the luckiest and most fortunate being God has ever created. My being a foundation member of Omolewa is no coincidence. It is characteristic of dedicated scientists to record breakthroughs that open up new vistas as for humanity and in explaining the lucky circumstance of my own foundation membership of the school therefore, I can confidently say that along with seven other pioneering pupils, we constitute the first set of breakthroughs which the dedication of Chief Gladys Vaughan has championed in the world of child education.
The school started at an apartment belonging to one man, who I just remember was referred to as “Awodi Oke” just a few metres away from the present site. We first occupied only the ground flat, but as students population increased, the upper flat was also added. It could be said that right from the word ‘go’, the school was residential. The rooms were our hostels and the large sitting room in the school was compartmentalized into classrooms. It started purely with a Christian foundation. We had the assemblies every morning and evening. The basis of the education was also Christian oriented. Mum ensured that all the teachers loved children and reflected the fear of God. We were taught according to Christian values and no teacher was allowed to use the cane unnecessarily.
Mum used to supervise everything by herself including the syllabus for each class while she was more interested in the babies and kinder-garten classes. She supervised teaching with special emphasis on the spoken English. Our “th’s” were not compromised. She also supervised what we ate and what we wore. Hygiene was also high on her priority. School started exactly at 8a.m everyday which is why up till now, I can still hear the song ringing in my head.
“Eight 0’clock is the time for school
Never be late in the morning
Eight 0’clock for the boys and girls
Come to school in the morning”.
One will be surprised that she used to compose these songs on her own. Not only songs, but the school plays, either for presentation at “End of year”. ‘open day’ or for ‘television’ productions.
As the school grew, we moved to the permanent site in 1966 i.e the present site. It was only the letter ‘I’ block then. It is still the way it is was; but then the utilities were such that the 2nd floor comprised the ‘girls’ hostel; on the left, the ‘boys’ hostel, on the right and the Proprietress apartment separating both. At the end of the building to the left and to the right were the bathrooms and toilets for the boys and girls respectively. Inside the hostels were carved out a space to accommodate the house-keepers and the matrons in charge of each hostel.
On the main floor i.e. floor level were the classrooms and the school office. The basement consisted of a main hall which was the dinning room, and a number of classrooms on the elevated side.
The boarding school system helped to raise disciplined and responsible children. A typical day started at 5a.m. The senior pupils wake up at this time for morning prayer and toilets at 5.30a.m. everyone should be in the dinning room for breakfast and by 7.30a.m. all should have gone down to the classroom. Before then, every pupil would go and carry out his/her morning duties which was always shared among pupils. Some are responsible for cleaning the bathroom, toilets, dormitories, corridors, and classrooms.
The Matron in charge of each dormitory is the over-head supervisor who ensure that all assignments are carried out, while uniforms are clean. But all in all “mummy”, as the proprietress is fondly called, is the General overseer. When school closes at 1 p.m. all the boarding pupils go upstairs to change unto their house-wears before going for lunch. We observed siesta from between 3-4 p.m.
At 4 p.m., all the pupils move downstairs to the classrooms for coaching. This is from 4-6pm. Afterwards it is bath time with dinner following and bed at 8 p.m. One of the memorable things I will never forget is that mummy, who is not a nurse, takes personal care of all of us. If you had sores she will sit down and dress it personally, shifting from boys’ dormitory to the girls’, she dispenses first aid as if she was a trained nurse, in fact, I cannot remember any occasion when any of us had to be taken to hospital or admitted into any hospital even though U.C.H. and Ajike Memorial Hospital were in the vicinity. Her care was more than sufficient.
What can I say about the educational standard. Pupils of Omolewa were always the cynosure of all eyes, especially when watching them perform on TV/programmes while their spoken English, oratory, style of dressing are superb.
Children of Ministers, Commissioners and Heads of state, attended our school and a lot of them especially those from the North, made use of our good boarding facilities. We had pupils whose parents live in the North e.g. Funtua and Sokoto and arrangements were made to transport them home by train during vacations.
I could go on and on and a whole book will not be able to contain my experience at Omolewa but what I would like to emphasise is the good foundation of discipline under which I was brought up. This cannot be computed; even now, I still wake up every day at 5 a.m. no matter how late I go to bed. My standard as regard discipline are so high that I cannot tolerate indiscipline at all. This helps me a lot in my family life and all the years I was a private legal practitioner in Zaria before I was appointed a High Court Judge of Oyo. The same standard of discipline that has been inculcated into me is what I practice and expect from others. The same discipline has helped in my personal life. The strength and values imparted on us have streghtened me to face whatever difficulties and oppositions on my way, believing that with God all things are possible. With the confidence we imbibed we can do any good thing we set our minds about and this has helped me to handle with maturity, all issues whether personal or official. The training has also made me to be a very organized person – organizing my life, my family and my career etc. The rich knowledge imparted has thus infused in me a sense of responsibility even right from my tender age.
I thank God once again for making me a product of OMOLEWA. As the Bible puts it “If the foundation be destroyed (faulty), what can the righteous do”.
Thank God for the good foundation given to me by OMOLEWA and with that we look forward to a greater and better tomorrow.
-Justice (Mrs.) Iyabo Yerimah.