This is the second of a three-part series on Okeho in History scheduled for public presentation on Saturday, October 28, 2017 at the grand finale of the celebrations marking the centenary of Okeho’s return to its original site in October 1917. Today’s excerpt is from the chapter on education in Okeho.
Indigenous education system in Yorubaland in general, and Okeho in particular, revolves around the whole person. The goal of education is to transform the child into the man or woman of character who can fit well into the service of the community. To this end, the focus of every family is to educate their children to be useful members of the community.
Before the introduction to a life-time occupation, the child goes through formal education in ethical living with gentle reminders at every point of the history of the family lineage, the bravery of his/her ancestors, and the contributions that he/she is expected to make in return. This is the ethics of omoluabi, the person of character
Ethics matters and indigenous education is good at instilling ethical norms in the members of the community. Hard work, honesty, perseverance, moderation, are among the basic ethical norms that Okeho parents and family members teach their children with the expectation that when they grow into adults they will not depart from the path of honor which these norms inculcate
The formal education of Okeho children also benefited from foreign efforts that accompanied religious proselytization. On this, both Christianity and Islam played important roles (with the setting up of the first schools with curriculums appropriate to their missions).
Okeho youths also took advantage of opportunities that opened outside the town, especially with the establishment of secondary schools in Oyo, and much later, Iseyin. The foremost pioneer in the pursuit of higher education outside of Okeho was Mr. Ogunsola Ogundokun. In 1951, as a pupil at N. A. School Olele, Okeho, he sat for and passed the entrance examination to Government College, Ibadan.
That was the flagship of secondary education in Western Region at that time. He performed brilliantly in the school and from there, he proceeded to the United Kingdom for his university education, thus becoming the first university graduate from Okeho and a role model for many Okeho youths. Mr. Ogundokun returned from the United Kingdom and began a successful career at Lever Brothers in Lagos until his retirement. Others followed in his footstep to pursue higher education.
In the matter of breaking through the glass ceilings of achievement, my generation has an exemplar in the person of Mr. Moyo Ajekigbe, first indigene of Okeho, indeed of Oke-Ogun, to be appointed Managing Director and Chief Executive of a first-generation commercial bank, First Bank of Nigeria, Plc. Moyo was a star in school, excelling in secondary school, higher school, and university. With a work-ethic and home-bred manners that the community instilled in him, he served the First Bank from the first day he entered the front door, giving the job his all, and going beyond the call of duty in customer service.
Such devotion does not go unnoticed even by the most conservative and rule-based establishment. The glory of the sun is uncoverable by mortal fingers. And so, the reward was not long in coming when Moyo was appointed the Managing Director and Chief Executive of First Bank of Nigeria Plc. The appointment itself was an achievement. However, what he made of it from his first day to his retirement was even more remarkable. Through him, many families were blessed. Doors were opened for young ones with excellent resumes. And the community benefitted immensely from his foresight and his generosity.
With teacher training colleges in Iseyin, Oyo, Ede, Iwo, etc., and the high cost of secondary school education, teacher training has been one of the readily available options for generations of Okeho educational products, and many took advantage of this, especially after having completed the secondary modern school.
As its youths found their ways into these other locations for educational opportunities, Okeho community also decided to open more opportunities for them. Thus, the Okeho-Iganna District Council launched the Okeho-Iganna Grammar School in February 1965, with its first students boarded at the old Oyo Divisional Teacher Training College, Iseyin.
For many years after opening the doors of secondary education to Okeho youths, the community has tried without success to attract higher educational institutions. Even when prominent indigenes participated actively as leaders in the higher echelon of politics over the years, Okeho has been left without public higher education institutions. Shaki has a campus of The Polytechnic which has been upgraded to a full-fledge autonomous institution named Oke-Ogun Polytechnic. Ibarapa Polytechnic is located at Eruwa while Lanlate has a campus of the College of Education.
In view of the aspiration of youths for higher education, and the struggle of the community to make it easier for them, this has been one of the frustrations of the various Okeho community organizations. A recent achievement was the approval of a campus of Oyo State College of Heath Science and Technology in Okeho. This followed the elevation of the 65 year-old School of Hygiene, Eleyele by H. E. Senator Abiola Ajimobi, the Executive Governor of Oyo State.
In January, 2012, shortly after his inauguration, Governor Ajimobi instructed the Office of Commissioner for Health, Dr. Muyiwa Gbadegesin to work on upgrading the School of Hygiene. This required a process of engagement of stakeholders including students, instructors, regulatory bodies, members of the state executive and members of the State House of Assembly.
Subsequently, the Ministry of Health drafted and presented bills to the House of Assembly to upgrade the School of Hygiene, Eleyele to Oyo State College of Health Science and Technology. These bills were finally passed by the House and immediately signed into law by the Governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi. The College subsequently began a process of establishing campuses to increase its capacity to train and graduate critical staff requirements for public health services in the state. With the kind approval of Governor Ajimobi, Okeho has the fortune of being the home of the first campus of the college.
Indigenous education trains individuals for communal responsibility. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of formal education imparted through foreign paradigm which tends to emphasize and celebrate individualism. Okeho has, however, been fortunate in the sense that the seed of the indigenous approach to education with its emphasis on communal responsibility appears to have germinated successfully in the lives of many educated Okeho indigenes prior to their engagement with foreign education. This has helped in molding their minds toward community activism, which has in turn helped the community in its efforts toward advancement.
Starting in the late fifties, educated folks inaugurated various self-help communal schemes to help struggling youths. The Okeho Literary and Debating Society was one of these initiatives. Due to the dearth of secondary schools in the area, and the limited opportunities for orientation to other professions, the first pioneers of Okeho foreign educational institutions, with few exceptions, took to the teaching profession, received training and were certified as teachers.
Together with the few that gained admission to secondary schools such as Olivet Baptist High School, this group of pioneers put their education to the service of the community by helping the youths during holidays. This was how the idea of a Literary and Debating Society first came up and it helped many of these youths develop skills in public-speaking, use of language, and confidence-building.
Education also opened the eyes of the educated to the world beyond Okeho and to the gap between the facilities available in that world but lacking in Okeho. With this knowledge came the realization of the need for organized action to pressure the authorities to pay attention to Okeho. Organizations such as Okeho Development Association (ODA), and more recently, Okeho Strategic Development Foundation (OSTRADEF) came up as responses to this knowledge…The point here is that education that stimulates in individuals the consciousness of community needs and urges action on the part of the individual has always been the tradition of Okeho.
Written by Professor Segun Gbadegesin,
Asiwaju of Okeho,
First published in The Nation newspaper