‘Government is responsible for decadence in education system’
Mr. Smart Fadayomi is the National President, St. Thomas Aquinas College, Akure, Old Students’ Association (ACAOSA). He attended the college from 1962 to 1966 . He has also held many positions in the Oil and Gas industry. In this interview with ENO BASSEY and ADAKU ONYENUCHEYA, he spoke about the decadence in education system and blames it on the government as well as the association’s contributions to improve education standard in the country.
As an ex student of St. Thomas Aquinas College, Akure, how would you assess the quality of education in the college now compared to when you left school?
The standards have generally fallen. In Akure, St. Aquina is still the best. We don’t want to be local champions, we want to be nationally and internationally recognised as a model school. Our mission as old students is for current students to enjoy what we did, 50 years ago.If you go the school now, the classrooms are dilapidated; laboratories are deteriorating. There is decay. The old students have started contributing money to refurbish the dilapidated classrooms.
What could be responsible for the decadence in the system?
Of course it is the government. When the missionaries were handling the schools, the supervisions were very thorough. Civil servants that have not being paid for three years, you want them to be supervising schools? There is indiscipline and corruption in the civil service and so they are not as dedicated as they used to be, which is why the system has almost decayed. If the missionary were to be handling the school, they would do much better than the government. The government is biting more than it can chew. They have been playing politics; they say it is free education. Our own mission as old students’ association is that we want to strike a balance. We want very high standards. We want a fee that is affordable to the common man, such that everybody can afford and access quality education.
As the National President of Aquinas College Akure Old Students’ Association (ACAOSA), what have you done for your alma mater?
The school management is very happy about my commitment to my alma mater. We have we handed over three well-equipped laboratories: Physics, Chemistry and Biology to the school. We also provided a modern toilet facility for the hostels. We donated computers to the school, but unfortunately, they were stolen and we have since replaced them. We have also provided white marker boards in classrooms. Our next project is to refurbish some classrooms and other decayed facilities.
Where do you see the college in the next 10 years and what other plans does the association have for the school?
In the next years, we want to restore its past glory. We want the college to be the best. The laboratories must be up to date. There must be some sustainability built into it and we want to pursue that.We also want St Aquinas to take its place in the place of pride in sports, but these things should be done gradually.
So Aquinas must return tops in academics and also morals. We went there and saw children jumping out of the window because there was no morale, so we have to teach them those morals.
In Akure, Ondo state now, they think Aquinas is like an Eldorado, but I guess that the new generation who didn’t know what Aquinas was many years, because if they knew, they would say they should be doing better than this. We need to improve on the facilities.
We want the school to be returned to the missionary and we have set up a committee, they are working and I am participating with them, even last Monday, November 26, we had a meeting with the Bishops, Catholic Bishop, the Anglican Bishop, representative of the Baptist and Methodist Bishops, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Chairman – we all met in Akure just to strategise on how to return schools from the government to missionary.We looked at it because of the way schools are now – decadence, it is going to cost the missionary a lot of money to maintain these schools taken over by the government. We have asked them to go back and look at the schools they want government to return.
So they will now come with the number they think they can handle, and then we go to the government. Fortunately the Governor of Akure is an old boy of the school, he spent two years in the school and then went to Loyola, which is our sister school.
How can governor Rotimi Akeredolu come in to help the school, since he is an old boy, including other missionary-owned schools in Ondo State?
How he can help is to devote more resources to education, give the schools greater funding and rehabilitate structures in the schools, but of course his hands are a little bit tight and resources are not enough, he has to distribute resources among the several project of the state government. But what we are saying is that since he is there and as an old boy, he must make a stand and set a good standard as an old boy of Aquinas College and be proud to say that while he was governor of the state, this was where he lifted it.
We also want him to give back some of these schools to the missionaries. So we expect much from him.
Generally, what is your advice to government in terms of restoring quality to the sector?
I want government to put more resources on education, which is so important. The government should try and develop its own public schools to be disciplined and academic excellence.When we talk about schools we forget the teachers who impart their knowledge unto these children. The government has to look after the teachers, pay them well so that they would be comfortable imparting knowledge.We want the school to be returned to the missionaries so we can restore its lost glory.
What makes St Thomas Aquinas College unique?
It is the only school in Nigeria with three Nigerian National Order of Merit awardees. The Nigerian National Order of Merit is for scientists, who have reached their peak by making discoveries and outstanding achievements. They include: Prof. O.S. Adegoke. He got the award for Geology. Another one is Prof. Adewusi Gureje , who got the Nigerian National Merit award in Sciences. Another is Abiodun Oluwole, who just celebrated his 80th birthday a few weeks ago. He is a Nuclear Physicist.
He established the nuclear facility at the University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University. The immediate past principal of Kings College, Seyi Thomas is also an alumnus.The college has produced many dignitaries.It was a science oriented – school at its inception. Emphasis was laid on physics, chemistry and biology. Laboratories were well stocked. Many people studied sciences, so art inclination was limited until after we left in 1966.
When did you become the National President?
I was elected five years ago in absentia. The elders put my name forward. We have many branches. We have the home branch at Akure, Ondo State, headed by Dr. Ade Abitoye. He was the Minister of State for Education many years ago. We also have one in Lagos, headed by Pastor David Ajao and Surveyor Abiodun heads that of Ekiti State. We have in London and the Chairman is Ben Ogedengbe. We also have in Port Harcourt. Pastor Femi Ogunmola heads Abuja branch.
You have been an icon in the Oil and Gas industry, can you tell us about your journey?
I was born September 16, 1948 at Alade Idanre, Akure, Ondo State.I attended Aquinas College from 1962 to 1966; from there I went to Comprehensive High School, Aiyetoro from 1967 to 1968 for my high school. I graduated after my A level then went to University of Ibadan in 1969 to study Physics. I graduated in June 1972 with Bachelor of Science second-class upper division and then I joined the defunct Nigeria National Oil Corporate (NNOC), which is the precursor of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) on May 1, 1973. The company actually started in 1972 and we were the second set. Then later in 1977, it became NNPC.I joined as a Geophysicist and I worked with them for five years in which they sent me for Masters at Imperial College of Science and Technology, London in 1978 to 1979 and I came back with Masters degree in Geophysics and Diploma of Imperial College.
I continued working with NNPC and rose to the ranks and held very many positions in the exploration department, I rose to the Exploration Manager in 1993 and I became the General Manager in 1999. In 2004 I was made the Managing Director, Nigeria Gas Company in Warrior and from there, I spent one and a half years before I was moved to Abuja as Group General Manager, LLG and Powers.There after I was moved to Benin, Edo State in 2005 as the Managing Director, Nigeria Petroleum Development Company and I retired in December 2006.
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