By Helen Udofa
To old students of Government Secondary School Afaha-Eket, the 2017 Reunion which took place on July 14-15 with the theme: Rebuilding For Growth, was a time to relive fanciful memories of their school days, a period of nostalgic reflections and reconnection with former school classmates, juniors and seniors after so many years.
Gathering under the aegis of Government Secondary School, Afaha-Eket Alumni Association, it offered an opportunity to know the calibre of people, in Nigeria and in the Diaspora, the school has produced over the years in all walks of life, and also contribute to rebuilding their alma mater, among other things.
But, their major concern was promoting academic excellence in the school and reviving decayed infrastructures in need of urgent renovation, absence of library, standard laboratories and the poor state of hostels. To them, a school as Government Secondary School Afaha Eket that has made Akwa Ibom proud by winning laurels in various Science and JETS competitions in the state and national levels should boast of a conducive environment for teaching and learning.
This year, the Reunion was packaged for two days, July 14-15, to provide ample time to execute all the activities penned down. Being the second since the group was formed via WhatsApp social media platform in 2015 and the first since it was registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission, CAC, the event was consciously arranged for July to enable members take part in the graduation of the SS3 students so they could reward those of them who excelled in academics and other areas as a way of motivating those in junior classes to redouble their efforts for excellence.
The two-day event featured mentoring seminar on July 14, 2017, on the topics: Effective Approaches To Learning And Studying as well as Prospects In Career Development and Skill Acquisition, handled by Dr. Anyanime Akpan and Mr. Emmanuel Umoetuk, erudite resource persons, with participants drawn from SS2 students of Government Secondary School, Afaha-Eket and those from neighbouring secondary schools in Eket. The mentoring session was done in partnership with Alrange Limited.
In line with the mentoring, some old students, who came from different locations in Nigeria and the Diaspora, took the time to encourage participants to be focused and study hard and develop themselves to be competitive and marketable. The old students, who did not have the privilege of being mentored for proper guidance in their time, also urged them to develop their talents and learn a skill to be relevant and self-reliant while waiting for admission for higher studies or when they are not employed.
Also, July 15 featured the graduation/prize giving ceremony themed: Teaching and Learning In Public Secondary Schools In Akwa Ibom State: Issues And Challenges, as well as a Reunion Dinner, arranged to raise N15 million for the Alumni Association’s storey building Classroom Block Renovation Project initiated in 2015 to create enabling environment for teaching and learning.
Day-two was particularly a day when smiles were put on faces of graduating students who excelled in various subjects and other categories by members of the Alumni Association in partnership with the school management. In all, 26 cash awards of N30,000 and N50,000, depending on the category, sponsored by different old students were presented to final year students adjudged the best in each category. Also, former teachers who positively impacted the lives of their students through dedication to duty were recognized by the Association.
Of the 26 categories of awards, one outstanding graduating student, Master Faith Christopher Brown, an indigene of Mkpat Enin, admitted into the school in 2013, carted away seven prizes having emerged the best student in Physics, best in Mathematics, best in Further Mathematics, best-behaved student and best Science student, which attracted N30,000 each. He was also an overall best student with N50,000 cash prize and got another N50,000 special award presented to each team member of Government Secondary School, Afaha-Eket that took the third position at the last NNPC National Science Quiz Competition. Between 2014 and 2017, Faith won several laurels yearly in Science and Technology competitions in Eket Local Government, Akwa Ibom, and national level.
At the graduation and prize-giving ceremony, the state commissioner for education called on old students of public secondary schools in the state to liaise with the school authorities and look at areas they could assist to raise the standard of facilities for effective teaching and learning.
Pastor Paul Udofia, represented by the special assistant to the governor on schools monitoring, Elder Udeme Udofia, recalled the role of public secondary schools in education, assuring that with the zeal of Gov Udom Emmanuel in the development of education, public schools in the state would take back their place.
The commissioner expressed satisfaction with the excellent academic performance of GSS Afaha Eket, especially in the area of Sciences, recalling that there was no year the school did not perform well in the annual AKS/NNPC/MPN Science Quiz Competitions and others.
He advised the graduating students to be good ambassadors of the school, be self-disciplined, God-fearing and abide by the tenets handed down to them by the school and God will see them through their future endeavours, while noting the infrastructural decay in Government Secondary School Afaha Eket, with the assurance that government would do something about it.
The president of Government Secondary School Afaha-Eket Alumni Association, Mr. David Lawrence, mentioned that the association has been very supportive as the driver of the process of rebuilding their alma mater.
Lawrence, the member representing Eket State Constituency in Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, told the graduands that there was a wide gap between having a dream and realising it, listing hard work, determination and trust in God as prerequisites to achieving their dreams.
In a keynote on Teaching and Learning in Public Secondary Schools in Akwa Ibom State: Issues and Challenges, chairman on the occasion, Mr. Akpadiaha Ebitu, a lawyer, maintained that enough infrastructures must be provided in public schools to make them compete favourably with private schools, stressing that teachers and students need comfortable environment for teaching and learning to thrive.
Ebitu, an alumnus and the state treasurer of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP stressed the need to update infrastructures in public schools like GSS, Afaha-Eket, that has done the state proud at several national JETS and Science Competitions, especially the classroom blocks, hostels, laboratories, and library.
He called on old students, parents, government and corporate bodies to contribute in providing good infrastructures and equipment in public schools to produce the type of products desired and thanked the Alumni Association for deciding to give back to society towards reviving the fortunes of the school, and expressed confidence that when they return for the next graduation ceremony the state of disrepair in the school would have been history.
The principal of the school, Mr. Godwin Ekong, observed that the presence and support of members of the school alumni marked the opening of a new chapter in the history of the school, saying the school has never had it so good.
Ekong listed the school’s commendable strides in academics and competitions including recording the best result in the last five years in the West African Senior School Certificate Examination and National Examination Council (NECO) Examinations, as well as being an undisputed science quiz champion in Akwa Ibom and the second-best in Mathematics, third in Biology, Technology and Chemistry in Nigeria.
Notwithstanding the state disrepair and decay in the school’s infrastructures, he pledged the determination to bring back the lost glory of the school as the teachers have resolved to give the students the best in morals and academics in a peaceful environment despite all the shortcomings, and appealed to all lovers of education, eminent sons and daughters of Eket to rise up and save the school from decay.
The valedictorian, Master Faith Christopher Brown, listed many feats recorded by the 2017 graduating students to include, a strong Science team, of which he was a member, that won several trophies and medals at state and national competitions; the best female athlete in the state; a strong football team; the students’ parliament of the school.
According to him, the success stories were possible because of the way the school tackled some of the pressing needs most schools have fallen short of. He particularly noted the sense of discipline and punctuality among teachers, who never miss their lessons, which rubbed-off positively on the students as well as the cleanliness of students and the school premises.
On behalf of the graduating students, he appreciated the Alumni Association for adding colour to their graduation ceremony and promised not to let them down nor let their expectation of them as good ambassadors of the school to be cut off, saying “They will hear of us for excellence and their good works in us shall not be a waste”.
A former teacher in the school, Pastor U. U. Anwan, who taught Mathematics and Further Mathematics before later serving as principal in the school, thanked the Alumni for the honour done them and for appreciating what they got from them when they were their students and prayed God’s blessings on members of the alumni.
He expressed satisfaction with the level of education and academic excellence in the school that has always brought joy and encouraged the graduating students to remain focused, saying, “I know what we have put into our students here. I know the stuff students of Government Secondary School Afaha Eket carry. Keep it up”.
Another former teacher, Mrs. Elizabeth Akpanokpo, who taught Physics, said she served in the school for 17 years and for over 10 years, was the only Physics teacher.
Hear her: “I am always proud of students of this school. When I set questions for the Mock Examination, I was sure a student who scored ‘C’ grade would have ‘A’ in WAEC. Our greatest joy and reward is seeing our students excel”.
She thanked the Alumni Association for the honour done them and for what they were doing in the school, maintaining that, “This seed you have sown will germinate, grow and bear precious seeds.”
Chairman, Alumni Sponsorship and Reward Advisory Committee, Mr. Francis Odoro, said they depend on “individual and collective resolve and zeal to turn around the ruins and rubbles that remain of our alma mater and the declining and depreciating quest for knowledge that pervades our society and generation today.
“The task before us is that of building a future rallying point for the many products of the great Government Secondary School, Afaha-Eket”, Odoro added and urged everyone to join hands and work towards bridging the past, present, and the future by collectively seeking a befitting future for posterity.
In a brief exhortation drawn from 2 Chronicles 26:5, Pastor George Umana encouraged the graduating students to remain focused because their best was ahead, urging them to have a dream. He said although there may be challenges on the way to realising their dream, they should choose to be determined, pursue excellence and most importantly put God first and God will help them to soar into the best he planned for their lives.
At the Reunion Dinner, the president of the Alumni Association Mr. David Lawrence listed key areas of focus in the last 18 months such as registration with the Corporate Affairs Commission and membership growth with old students of different sets signing up and being financially active.
Lawrence hinted that the award and sponsorship programme instituted in 2016 has about 30 sponsorships by the old students, and sought to reward excellence in academic and non-academic categories and recognize former teachers to engender academic excellence in their alma mater and hinted of plans to expand the scope to include scholarships.
He said last year, the Association partnered Alrange Limited owned by an old student to sponsor a one-day mentorship and career counseling workshop for students of their alma mater and some students selected from other neighbouring schools in Eket.
“Given the success recorded at that event, we decided to again sponsor an expanded mentoring seminar as part of the 2017 Reunion events, primarily for 300 students of our alma mater. We hope to continue this as an annual event”, he added.
Most importantly, the association had embarked on a classroom block renovation project in 2015 as a core project worth doing for use by students. The Reunion Dinner was therefore arranged to raise N15 million to move the project forward in a more purposeful manner with the coming on board of more old students, since the project did not receive expected support before now, due also to the economic downturn in the country.
The lawmaker said the theme of the 2017 Reunion: Rebuilding For Growth, was consciously chosen for this purpose and called on all old students to make a firm commitment by rededicating themselves to support efforts aimed at raising the educational standard and updating infrastructures in the school.
He hoped that efforts of the Alumni Association in this direction would attract like-minded fellows, government and institutions to partner the Association to bring lasting values and development to the school to enable it to achieve a pre-eminent position as one of the best secondary schools in Akwa Ibom.
The principal of the school, Mr. Godwin Ekong, said when he was transferred to the school, his vision was to turn the school around, assuring that teachers in the school have resolved not to let the efforts of the Alumni to be wasted and listed areas of need to include renovation of classrooms, hostels, laboratories, and stocking of school library.
Chairman, Reunion Planning Committee, Mr. Jack Etteh, expressed dismay at the poor state of infrastructures in the school. He told Weekend Pioneer that “A recent tour of infrastructures in the school revealed a high degree of decay due to many years of neglect and lack of maintenance. The roof of some buildings is leaking in different degrees that have affected the concrete structures and reduced habitable space for teaching and learning in the school that has over 5,000 students population”.
Highpoints of the Reunion were the mentorship session, presentation of 26 categories of awards to some graduating students adjudged the best in each category, recognition of former principals and teachers of the school for the impact they had on students’ academic success as well as the presentation of the School’s magazine, The Prime Herald, while the old students made pledges to the tune of N11 million towards the N15million classroom renovation project.