By Dare Owolabi and Rufus Adu
For many members of our generation of students of Anglican Grammar School, Igbara-Oke (AGSI), Ondo State, the memory of Pa Samuel Agbebi, whose body would be buried today, would linger for some reasons. In particular was his beautifully crafted cursive writing embodied in the end -of -term report of every student?At the end of his comments was his inimitable signature, which was legible enough to be read as “S O Agbebi”, the distinguished school principal. Such was the dedication of teachers in those days that Agbebi had something to say about academic performance and character of each of the hundreds of students in the school.
The 1972/76 to which we proudly belong would remember Agbebi especially for the fact he was the principal when we were admitted to the school 44 years ago. However, by the time we left school 40 years ago, Agbebi had been transferred to another secondary school. By the time he retired in 1984 he had moved to the Christ School, Ado-Ekiti. Agbebi’s time at AGSI was doubtless glorious. We can bear testimony to his good work as a dedicated teacher and eminent school administrator. Not a few would readily describe the period of leadership as part of the golden era of the school. It was a period of absolute dedication to teaching and commitment to moulding the character of students under the care of teachers. In those years thathe served as principal in Igbara-Oke, Agbebi gave leadership to his colleagues who were excellent teachers in various subjects. As the principal, he found time to teach English with emphasis on phonetics. Among his colleagues who taught various subjects during our time were Agbebi’s able deputy, Mr. F.A. Adenegan (Geography); Mr. Modupe Ayodele (Government); Mr. R.O. Akindusoye (English); Mr. Aknwunmi (Religious Knowledge); Mr. Owoeye (Economics); Mr. Oguntuase (Geography); Mr. P.A. Kayode (English); Mr. Adegoroye (History); Mr. Falebita (Physical Education and Gamesmater); Mr. Udai Kuma Rohatgai (Biology/Chemistry); Mr. Onilemo (Mathematics) and Mrs. Sophie Oluwole (Yoruba), who later became a professor of philosophy at the University of Lagos.
Many of the students who benefited from sound education at the school during Agbebi’s time have today distinguished themselves in medicine, engineering, teaching, law, accountancy and other professions. The years of the Agbebis as teachers were years in which quality education was readily available in public schools. There were not many private schools at the time.
Now on reflection, we are firmly convinced that Agbebi diligently served in Igbara-Oke in the 1960s and 1970s within a definable context. And this is instructive given the condition of the school today. In other words, the great achievements of Agbebi and his colleagues as teachers were partly due to a good mix of human and structural factors. The teachers were properly trained, many of them armed with chains of degrees to teach secondary school students. They also loved their job with uncommon passion. This was unmistakable in the psychological atmosphere that pervaded the school during the Agbebi years.
As principal, Agbebi conductedthe daily morning assembly of students of all classes. He did so with immense enthusiasm. Hymns from the Songs of Praise, the famous S.O.P, were deleteriously rendered before a teacher would lead the assembly in prayers. A fascinating feature of the assembly was the reading of chosen passages in the Bible, a task that senior students performedwith poise and panache. It was indeed an exciting thing for a senior student to be given a date to read the Bible to the assembly. Such an occasion was a great opportunity to display one’s mastery of phonetics under the watch of the revered principal.Remarkably, the daily morning assembly was also an opportunity for Agbebi to enforce discipline as names of violators of school rules were announced and verdicts promptly passed. The assembly often became subdued in silence when punishments were handed down to offenders.
Debonair and radiating a gentle mien with red spots on his lips, Agbebi inspired his students with awe. So for Agbebi and his colleagues, the rod was never spared; looking back now it is soul-lifting that many of the children of those days have become great men and women today. This is a deserved tribute to the sense of discipline in the Agbebi years.For this, Agbebi indisputably earned the respect of his students.
It is also worth stating, of course, that salaries of teachers were paid as and when due in those days. So Agbebi had the moral authority to go round the classes morning and afternoon making sure that teachers were doing what they were paid to do – teaching and setting good examples to their students. Agbebi himself rode in a good car. He livedin a suitably furnished apartment. The welfare of his colleagues was also fairly good. Agbebi and other teachers were respected within the community. They were prominent among the small elite found in the community. There was a synergy of purpose between Agbebi and the community.
By the way, the school began as an idea of the Igbara-Oke community in 1957 before government took it over in later years. Agbebi personally interacted with the Igbara-Oke elite who lived outside the community who were interested in the development of the school in particular and the community in general. He also had such relationships with parents who were not from Igbara-Oke. No doubt, Agbebi went beyond the call of duty to ensure that the students under his care received the best of education.
It is regrettable that more than 40years after Agbebi left Igbara-Oke; the condition of AGSI has deteriorated in many ways. The beautiful structures within which Agbebi and his team operated decades ago are now a shadow of themselves. The school atmosphere is no more inviting for teachers and students alike. The decline is sadly manifest.
However, wemake boldto saythat Agbebi played his part well. For us, he was an exemplar of good teachers. As Agbebi’s body is buried today in Osi-Ekiti, Ekiti State, we salute his illustrious memory as we offer sincere condolences to the Agbebi family.
May His Soul Rest in Peace.
* Messrs Owolabi and Adu are President and Secretary respectively of the 1972/76 Set of Anglican Grammar School, Igbara-Oke, and Ondo State. They sent this tribute from Akure on behalf of the Set.