25 years on, Samuel Bill school deserves respite

“The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next,” according to Abraham Lincoln. Samuel Bill College, the only secondary school named after Samuel Alexander Bill, has seen its philosophy in the government of this generation but sadly, the next generation seems set to lose out on such insights. The school was closed by the school authorities in 1991 after students’ demonstration and it is surprising that the Qua Iboe Church (United Evangelical Church) is yet to reopen the important legacy of their founder.

The boys-only school established in 1979 was noted for instilling strict Christian values and tenets in students and it is no wonder that it produced some of the best results in the West African Examination Council (WAEC) and notable citizens who have distinguished themselves in politics, sports and various professions.

Mr. Emem Udosen, a pioneer graduand and President of the alumni association (worldwide), who works in an oil company based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) said that the old boys’ association was in talks with the church authorities to reopen the school. He confirmed that the alumni association was ready to support the church to reopen the school and carry on the legacy of the school.

In December 1887, when Africa was unattractive to tour and referred to as the Dark Continent because little was known about the mysterious land and people, Samuel Alexander Bill, an Irish Christian Missionary, set sail without financial backing and berthed at the mouth of the Qua Iboe River (modern day Ibeno in Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria) where he began missionary activities. He established the Qua Iboe Mission (named after the Qua Iboe River where the mission began), schools, hospitals and other welfare institutions, which still cater for the needs of the communities they operate till date. Today, the church is deeply rooted across Nigeria, other African countries and in the United Kingdom.

Samuel Bill was a contemporary of Mary Slessor and inspired many in Ireland to Overseas Christian service. He passed on in 1942, leaving behind a strong mission and other humanitarian institutions.
Samuel Bill Secondary School, a Befitting Legacy

Given the efforts of Samuel Alexander Bill which is still evident in his mission offices all over the world, it is important for the church to close ranks and ensure that the only secondary school named after the founding missionary is not allowed to die. Apart from preserving the legacy, there is a dearth of schools in Ikot Ekang / Ikot Akpabio axis, the locality where Samuel Bill College was situated. The community members have to travel far out of the area to attend schools. Secondly, the school represents the most important economic activity in the rural area besides farming and the communities look forward to employment of their young people in various functions in the school.

While commenting on modalities to reopen the school, Engineer (Elder) Iniobong Alex, an alumni and one of the church leaders noted that “the school license is still valid and the space the school used to occupy is still available.” He added, “Though a whole lot of resources will be required to upgrade the old structures and employ new staff the church is capable of rebuilding the school if the project is brought to the front burner.”

Schools are economically viable projects and offer an opportunity to impact the society positively by grooming the next generation. In addition to a strong membership base which include many prominent people in the society, the church is understood to still get support from the Church of Scotland, the parent church of Reverend Samuel Bill; so financial support for the project is achievable.

It is time the church and stakeholders sit together and form a committee to set out modalities to reopen the school within the next two academic sessions as a mark of honour to Late Reverend Samuel Alexander Bill, and to cater for the educational needs of children in and around the country.

Udo is a social commentator based in Lagos.

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