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The Pioneers in Education

By Emmanuel Ugwu

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Alvan Azinwa Ikoku

Alvan Ikoku easily ranks among the most outstanding educationists Nigeria has ever produced. He was born on August 1, 1900 in the small town of Amanaguwu in Arochukwu Abia State. He came from a wealthy merchant family and received good education.

Ikoku was educated at Government School and Hope Waddell College all in Calabar. In 1920, he got his first teaching appointment with the Presbyterian Church of Scotland at Itigidi and two years later became a senior tutor at St. Paul’s Teachers’ Training College, Awka, Anambra State. It was while at Awka that Ikoku earned the University of London degree in philosophy in 1928 through private correspondence.

Ikoku established his own, the Aggrey Memorial College, Arochukwu in 1931. He named the institution after James E.K. Aggrey, the eminent Ghanaian educationist.

Following the constitutional changes in 1946 which allowed for more Nigerians in the legislative chambers, Ikoku was nominated to Eastern Nigeria House of Assembly. He was assigned to the ministry of education. In 1947 he went to the Legislative council in Lagos as one of the three representatives of the Eastern Region.

In government, Ikoku exerted his influence to foster the interest of the NUT and promote education. He was instrumental to the legislative council’s acceptance of 44 of NUT’s proposals for amendments to various educational ordinances.

Ikoku worked for the introduction of uniform education in Nigeria through the NUT. The union made recommendations for the uniformity of education in Nigeria but the colonial government rejected them. Ikoku and his union were vindicated after independence when the recommendations became the foundation of official policy on education.

Ikoku served on various educational bodies in the country. He was a member of WAEC and the council of the University of Ibadan as well as chairman, board of governors of the Aviation Training Centre. In 1965 Ikoku was awarded an honorary degree of doctor of law at a special convocation of the University of Ibadan in recognition of his contributions to the growth of the university. He died in 1971.


Henry Rawlingson Carr

Carr was the first student of Fourah Bay College, Sierra Leone to obtain an honours degree and the first African resident commissioner of the colony of Lagos. Carr was the son of a Sierra Leonean emigrant of Yoruba extraction. He was born on August 15, 1863 in Lagos. He attended St. Paul’s School, Breadfruit and Olowogbowo Wesleyan Elementary School in Lagos. He went to Sierra Leone for his secondary education which he received at the newly opened Wesleyan Boys’ High School, Freetown.

In 1877, Carr entered Fourah Bay College and obtained a bachelor of arts degree in Mathematics and Physics in 1882. He left for Britain and enrolled at Lincoln’s Inn, St Mark’s College in Chelsea and the Royal College of Science in South Kensington, London.

After 12 years of academic pursuit abroad, Carr returned to Nigeria in June 1885 and was appointed senior assistant master at the Church Missionary Society, CMS, Grammar School, Lagos. He joined the civil service in 1889 as chief clerk and sub-inspector of schools for Lagos. The following year, he became the assistant colonial secretary for native affairs.

Carr returned to the department of education as provincial inspector, then a chief inspector of schools in Southern Nigeria and commissioner (Resident) of the colony of Lagos. He retired on August 1, 1924 at the age of 61.

Throughout his career, the main interest of Carr was education. Because he believed that education was a necessity for the development of the individual and the nation, Carr advocated that it should be a prominent feature in government programmes. His published works include Key to Locks’s Trigonometry, and The General Reports of Education in Lagos. In 1906, Carr received master’s of arts and bachelor of civil law degrees from Durham University and was honoured with companion of the Imperial Service in 1920 and Commander of the Order of the British Empire. He died on March 6, 1945.

Kenneth Onwuka Dike

A distinguished educationist, historian and university administrator, Kenneth Dike devoted his scholarship to promote African history as an essential element of African education.

Dike was born on December 17, 1917 in Awka, Anambra State. He was educated at Dennis Memorial Grammar School, Onitsha and Achimota College, Ghana as well as Fourah Bay College, Freetown, Sierra Leone. For his graduate and post-graduate education, Dike successively attended the University of Durham, the University of Aberdeen and the University of London, all in the United Kingdom.

His Ph.D thesis, Trade and Politics of the Nigeria Delta 1830-1890, was adjudged one of the greatest contributions to historiography When the work was eventually published in 1956, it marked a milestone in the appreciation of African history as seen through an African eye. His other works included Reports on the Preservation and Administration of Historical Records in Nigeria, A Hundred Years of British Rule in Nigeria, and The Origins of the Niger Mission.

In 1956, Dike was made a professor of history at the University of Ibadan and became the first Nigerian to head the institution . He successfully Africanised the history department and reformed the curriculum to create a truly African approach to the teaching of African history. He initiated a lot of scholarly research projects, the results of which made Ibadan history department famous for pioneering the new historiography in Africa.

After founding the historical society of Nigeria in 1956, Dike promoted the interaction of scholars to promote the proper study of history at all levels of education in the country. The collaborative efforts of the society, the history department and the West African Examinations Council, led to the birth of new syllabuses in African history for secondary schools in West Africa.

Eni Njoku

Born in November 6, 1917 in Ebem, Ohafia, Abia State, Eni Njoku was educated at Ebem Primary School and attended Hope Waddell Training Institute, Calabar between 1933 and 1936. He went to Yaba Higher School (now Yaba College of Technology) Lagos in 1937.

Njoku studied botany at the University of Manchester in England. He graduated with a first class honours degree in 1947 and obtained his M.A. degree the following year. In 1954, he obtained his doctorate from the University of London.

When he returned to Nigeria, Njoku took up teaching appointment at the University of Ibadan as a lecturer. Later he became a senior lecturer and then professor. He was head and dean of the faculty of science. He was chairman of the Electricity Corporation of Nigeria in 1956. In 1962, he became the first vice-chancellor of the University of Lagos. Following a major crisis in 1965 over his re-appointment, he resigned and became a visiting professor at the Michigan State University, USA In 1966, Njoku was made the vice-chancellor of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka where he remained till the outbreak of the civil war in 1967.

Njoku served on the boards of the Commonwealth Scientific Committee, the United Nations Advisory Committee on the Application of Science and Technology as well as the UNESCO Advisory Committee in Natural Sciences. He also served in the councils of the Universities of Zambia and Zaire (Democratic Republic of Congo). He wrote several books and articles in international journals. He received the honorary D.Sc. degree from the University of Nigeria in 1964, and in 1966 Michigan State University conferred on him an honorary doctor of laws degree and in 1973 Unilag awarded its first vice-chancellor an honorary D.Sc. degree.

Tai Solarin

Tai Solarin established the famous Mayflower School, Ikenne, Ogun State in 1956. Solarin was assumed to have been born on August 20 1922 at Ikenne. He attended St. Jame’s School, Iperu, Wesley School, Ogere, Ogun State, Otapete Wesley School, Ilesha, Osun State and Wesley College, Ibadan. He received his university education between 1956-66 at Manchester University, England, and University of London. In 1952, Solarin became the principal of Molusi College, Ijebu Igbo, a post he held till 1956 when he became the proprietor and principal of Mayflower School.

Solarin published several books, including Towards Nigeria’s Moral Self-Government, Thinking with You, A message for Young Nigerians and To Mother With Love. Though he held various public posts at various times, he remained committed to the sustenance of academic excellence in Mayflower School.

David Adamu Baikie

Born on October 2, 1931 in Zaria, Kaduna State, David Adamu Baikie was educated at Holy Trinity School, Kano, Holy Trinity School, Lokoja, CMS Middle School , Wusasa, Zaria, St. Peter’s College, Zaria and the Nigeria College of Arts, Science and Technology, Zaria, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana, USA and obtained B.Ed, M-Ed and D.Ed degrees. Between 1951 and 1952, he served variously as teacher, assistant headmaster and headmaster in Gusau and Zaria. In 1964, he became an assistant lecturer at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria and became a professor of education in 1971. Between 1971 and 1974, he was the dean, faculty of education, ABU.

In 1978, Baikie became the vice-chancellor, University of Benin and returned to ABU in 1988. The following year, he was appointed vice-chancellor, University of Maseru, Roma, Lesotho. He is a member of the Association of Education for Educational Communication and Technology and also member, Association for Teacher Education for Africa.

Samuel Tunde Bajah

A renowned science teacher, Tunde Bajah was born on April 24, 1934 in Warri, Delta State. He schooled at St. Andrew’s CMS School, Warri and Hussey College also in Warri. His university education was at the University of Ibadan where he obtained a B.Sc degree in chemistry. He attended the University of Dakota USA and holds M.A and Ed.D degrees.

Bajah started his teaching career as a chemistry teacher both at the International School, University of Ibadan and Hussey College, Warri. He later became a professor of science education and dean of education, Institute of Education, University of Ibadan. He belongs to the Royal Institute of Chemistry, UK and member Association of Science Education, USA. Bajah is also a member of the Science Teachers’ Association of Nigeria, STAN.

Chemistry students in Nigerian secondary schools are quite familiar with Bajah’s books which include Chemistry: A New Certificate Approach, Laboratory Exercises In Volumetric Analysis. He also authored Primary Science for Nigerian Schools, African Science: Facts or Fiction.

Aliu Babantunde Fafunwa

In so many ways, Babatunde Fafunwa has given a lot to education in Nigeria. He has been a teacher at both the secondary and tertiary levels of education. He has helped in the formulation of education policies and also published books and articles in his


chosen field of endeavour.

Born on September 23, 1923 at Isale-Eko Lagos, Fafunwa attended Ahmadiyyah School, Lagos and CMS Grammar School also in Lagos before proceeding to Bethune-Cookman College, Florida, USA and New York University USA. In 1950, he became an instructor, English and Social Studies. Between 1951 and 1955, he worked at the United Nations Secretariat as area specialist and assistant Nigerian liaison officer at the British Embassy Washington DC.

Fafunwa returned home in 1956 to become senior tutor, Ahmadiyyah College, Agege Lagos. He joined the University of Nigeria Nsukka as a senior lecturer in 1961 and later headed the College of education Fafunwa has been honoured internationally. He became a recipient of Franklin Book Award for outstanding contribution to educational development, New York in 1973. And in the same year Teachers’ Colleges Columbia University awarded him Distinguished Service Medal. In 1982, New York University gave him Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award.

The two universities where he made immense contributions in teaching and administration have also honoured him. In 1987, UNN awarded him honorary doctor of laws degree, Hons. LL.D and OAU followed suit in 1987 conferring on him honorary doctor of letters, Hon. D,Litt.

A former minister of education, Fafunwa has engineered a number of policies and programmes for the development of education in Nigeria. He is well remembered as an advocate and specialist of mother tongue education. His published works include: New Perspectives in African Education, History of Nigerian Higher Education, History of Education in Nigeria, African Education: A comparative Study, among others.

For three years, 1976-79, Fafunwa was the chairman Lagos State Teaching Service Commission and at the same time, chairman of Think-Tank, a National Policy Development Centre. In 1984, he was appointed chairman Federal government study group in funding of private education and four years later chairman of National Primary Education Commission. At various times, he served as chairman and pro-chancellor and chairman of council, University of Calabar.

At the international level, Fafunwa also made his mark in education administration. From 1965-67, he was co-chairman, African Primary Science Programme, Kenya Commission on Teachers and member Sierra Leone Commission on Higher education, 1969-70 and president Association for Teachers’ Education in Africa, 1971-73. In 1983, he became a distinguished fellow international council on education for teaching, Washington DC, USA and became its vice-president in 1985.

Grace Alele –Williams

In 1985, Grace Alele-Williams became Nigeria’s first female vice-chancellor when she was appointed to head the University of Benin. Alele-Williams was born in Warri, Delta State on December 16, 1932 and attended at Government School Warri and Queen’s College, Lagos. She attended the University College (now the University of Ibadan), University of Vermont, USA and University of Chicago also in USA.

Her teaching career started at Queen’s School, Ede Osun State, where she was mathematics master from 1954 to 57. She left for the University of Vermont to become a graduate assistant and later assistant professor. Between 1963 and 65, Alele-Williams was a post doctoral research fellow, department (and institute) of Education, University of Ibadan from where she was appointed a professor of mathematics at Unilag in 1976.

By serving in various committees and boards, Alele-Williams had made useful contributions in the development of education in Nigeria. She was chairman curriculum review committee, former Bendel State 1973-79.And from 1979-85, she served variously as chairman in Lagos State Curriculum Review Committee and Lagos State Examinations Boards.

Alele-Williams was a member of governing council, UNESCO Institute of Education. She is also a consultant to UNESCO and Institute of International Education Planning. For a decade, 1963-73 she was a member, African Mathematics Programme, Newton, Massachunsetts, USA. She was also vice-president World Organisation for Early Childhood Education and later president of the Nigerian chapter. Alele-Williams has published a book modern Mathematics Handbooks for teachers. published a book Modern Mathematics Handbook for Teachers.

Dennis J. Slattery

Dennis Slattery, a Catholic priest is a pastor of souls. Slattery came to Nigeria at the invitation of Leo Taylor, then Archbishop of Lagos, only two years after his ordination. He was 5 years old. Slattery belongs to the Society of African Missions, SMA . In 1942,

he was posted to St. Gregory’s College Obalende, where, for two years, he taught English language, Latin, football and athletics.

In 1943, Slattery was appointed editor of the Catholic Herald. In 1956 Slattery was invited back to the classroom. This time, he was specifically charged by Taylor to establish a secondary school In Lagos. Thus Slattery founded St. Finbarr’s College, a technical grammar school in January 1956. For him, it was an opportunity to make a big contribution to the Nigerian society not only as an educationist but also a sports administrator.The new school came with an innovation in that it played a dual role of being a technical and grammar school.

Born on February 16, 1916 into a family of eight children in Fermoy, Cork, Ireland, Slattery has become more of a Nigerian. He speaks Yoruba fluently. Now almost 84 years, Slattery devoted his active life to the training of young Nigerians in academics and sports.

Gabriel Osawaru Igbinedion

Gabriel Igbinedion started his working life as a teacher in Benin divisional council and was later appointed adult education assistant. He later joined the police force from which he resigned to go into private business.

After succeeding in business, he has invested a lot of resources in the development of education. Igbinedion International School has become a famous secondary school. He has now added a university.

Born on September 11, 1934, at Okada, in Edo State, Igbinedion was educated at Benin Baptist Primary School and Eko Boys, High School.

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