Sunday, June 23, 2013

Founded in Nigeria by Church of Scotland Mission, Hope Waddell alumni celebrate Alma mater in America


Form Five B, Class of 1972. PHOTO: HWOSA-NA
In barely 24 months, Hope Waddell Training Institution (HWTI) or Howad as the school is fondly called will clock 120 years old. Founded in 1895 by functionaries of the Church of Scotland (Presbyterian) Mission, Howad is located on Diamond Hill in Calabar, capital of Cross River State.

Howad is unique in many respects. It was the first secondary school in the entire area that made up the now-defunct Eastern Region of Nigeria; namely: The States of Abia, Akwa Ibom, Anambra, Bayelsa, Cross River, Ebonyi, Enugu, Imo and Rivers.

The late Rt. Hon. Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, Nigeria’s first president; Eze Akanu Ibiam, physician and one-time premier of then Eastern Region; Vice Admiral Edet Akinwale Wey, a former Chief of Naval Staff and later Chief of Staff Supreme Headquarters; and, Dr. Kingsley Ozumba Mbadiwe, late politician; all passed through Howad.

Interestingly, students also came from other parts of Nigeria. For instance: Otunba Adeniran Ogunsanya, a former Commissioner for Education, Lagos State; was a product of Howad. Similarly, another Lagosian, Chief Torch Taire, art collector extraordinaire and MD of Stanley Torch Limited also attended HWTI.

Although HWTI is believed to be the third oldest secondary school in Nigeria, the Calabar-based College is the only one, among the country’s three oldest high schools, still standing on its original grounds with several ancient structures extant.

Howad is also unique because it was on its premises two games, football and cricket, were first played in Nigeria. The latter, was first played in Nigeria in 1903, while the first football game in the country took place within HWTI compound a year earlier; in 1902.

“After Reverend Thompson, the founding Principal; his immediate successor, Reverend Luke, was the man who brought the game of football to Nigeria. Football came to Nigeria in 1902 and a year after, Mr. F.A. Foster, a West Indian, brought the game of cricket to Calabar in 1903. Although most of you may not know this, the first game of football to be played in Nigeria took place on Hope Waddell grounds in Calabar. In fact, until the 1930s, football was commonly referred to as ‘Calabar Game’ by Nigerians in other parts of this country”; Chief Efiong Ukpong Aye told me during a 2010 interview.

Chief Efiong Ukpong Aye is a one-time student and later two-time principal of Howad; and, some of this school’s facts are laid bare in one of his books, Hope Waddell Training Institution: Life and Work, 1894-1978. This particular volume was published in 1986 by Messrs Paico Limited Press and Books.

Although Nigeria’s first-ever newspaper, Iwe Irohin, was published by Henry Townsend in 1859 in Abeokuta, capital of today’s Ogun State in the country’s south-western parts; the first English language newspaper ever printed in Nigeria, Calabar Observer, was launched at Hope Waddell in 1903. Interestingly, the printing machine that used to roll off Calabar Observer can still be viewed within Howad premises.

Although Howad is not among Nigeria’s 65 Declared National Monuments, it deserves to be one because in terms of history, heritage and monuments et cetera, this school and its structures boast enough endowments to join the league of Declared National Monuments, to be candid.

Howad ex-students say their school is a global brand. This owes to the fact that, in its halcyon day, the student population of this institution included non-Nigerians like Cameroonians, Sierra Leoneans, Ghana et cetera and even non-Africans from as far away as the Caribbeans.

Every Howad alumnus would tell you that the grooming they got at their Alma mater was excellent as well as uncommon and is therefore, “A proud tradition worth celebrating”. So, for three days; from 5 July to the 7th, Howad alumni in the North American continent will celebrate their Alma mater at Las Vegas Marriot in The State of Nevada, USA.

Naturally, the organisers are Howad ex-students and members of HWOSA-NA (Hope Waddell Old Students’ Association-North America). Although the event is annually held to mark the anniversary of HWOSA-NA Founders’ Day, it also dovetails with US National Day observances, which falls on 4th of July.

Although HWOSA-NA was formally constituted on 2 July, 2004 at a business meeting attended by members from all regions of the United States, the body’s seed was literally sowed by old HWTI students residing in the Washington, DC metropolitan area that year. Subsequently, an inaugural reunion was held at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Crystal City, State of Virginia during the weekend of the 4th of July, 2004.

The theme for the inaugural reunion was to “increase the boarding capacity at HWTI and funds were raised at the reunion to support the Kitchen renovation project”, recalled Mr. Eno Udo, Executive Committee President of HWOSA-NA. However, HWOSA-NA Reunion 2013 will revolve around the theme, Making a difference, back to the basics-education first.

Members of HWOSA-NA current Executive Committee are Eno Udo, Asuquo Inyang, Steven Ikpim, Mfoniso Eka and Obaji Nyambi; i.e President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer and Public Relations Officer (PRO) respectively.

Interestingly, the composition of HWOSA-NA incumbent Board of Directors’ members reflects the school’s cosmopolitan nature since its early days. Roll call: Onye Akwari, Kalada Harry, Sonni Aribiah and Bassey Ekanem (immediate-past President).

Yes, Howad did a lot for these and numerous other US-based technocrats and, not surprisingly, they feel wont to give something back to the institution that laid the foundation upon which they built to arrive at where they are, today. Hear Mr. Udo: “HWOSA-NA is proud to present another exciting three days of fun and nostalgia at its tenth annual reunion in Las Vegas, Nevada. If you had fun or heard about the wonderful time everyone had at last year’s reunion, this year’s reunion promises to be even more exciting. Come and join us in celebrating our Hope Waddell legacy, and share your memories of your Hope Waddell wonder years”.

But, the Howad story is not altogether blighter-free. Like every other educational institution across Nigeria, Howad has also suffered its share of atrophy.

Howad started as a co-educational institution, but it somehow morphed into a boys-only school decades ago. Also, Hope Waddell Training Institution, which began with various sections, including an infant class (Kindergarten?), a primary school and teacher’s training college, alongside a printing press, a bakery, block-making and haberdashery et cetera; now operates purely as a high school that prepares students for West African School Certificate Examination and other external exams.

In its halcyon day, Howad’s haberdashery section had a tailoring unit, while the block-making section produced building components for the Public Works Department (PWD); the printing press published The Calabar Observer; and, the bakery made bread and other pastry sold in Calabar; with the teacher’s training college grooming prospective educators. 

Expectedly, the event will not be entirely about wining and dining: There will be serious deliberations about the state of education in Nigeria as well as the nature of infrastructure at HWTI. For example, the embarrassing state of disrepair of the existing kitchen facilities came to light in 2004.

This state of disrepair of the kitchen facilities was graphically captured by photographs taken by an old-boy of Howad, Ekopimo Ibia, during a personal trip to Nigeria in August of that year. Consequently, a task force was constituted with a view to redressing the situation.

Udo again: “The taskforce approached its assignment by opening up communication lines and investigating the physical and operating conditions of the existing kitchen. Communication was initiated with the Principal and his response highlighted the state of disrepair of the physical condition of that kitchen”.

It would seem that the kitchen was practically finished, going by reports that areas needing immediate attention included: “Replacement of roof structural members and roofing sheets; Replacement of damaged ceiling; Replacement of windows, frames and hardware; Rewiring of entire kitchen; Extensive plumbing and drainage of entire kitchen; Provision of doors and hardware; Provision of kitchen storage; Provision of supervisor’s office and staff changing rooms; Replacement of covered walkway to Refectory and Reconstruction of outdoor kitchen”.

Through contributions and donations the kitchen was subsequently fixed. Now, HWOSA-NA is embarking on new tasks and Udo revealed they could do with public support. With regard to raising funds to continue rehabilitation work at various sections of HWTI, Udo appealed to Nigerian/US-based corporate giants, thus: “As a global brand with significant business interest in Nigeria, we are convinced that you are passionate and deeply committed to building a strong community in Nigeria to create an environment that maximizes the value of your products and services in that country. Informed by that conviction, we request your financial sponsorship to rebuild and restore Hope Waddell Training Institution, Calabar”.

He said that apart from cash, such assistance could also come in kind. These other ways of support could be through event sponsorship, promotion or taking on specific project’s execution such as endowment of department or faculty chairs.

A celebration of the invaluable contribution of the late Chief Efiong Ukpong Aye will also feature in HWOSA-NA Reunion 2013, according to Mr. Udo, who spoke with mauricearchibongtravels. Chief Aye was a son of the late Madam Nsa Essien Eyo and a scion of the legendary Efik sovereign, King Eyo Honesty.

Born in Adakuko, Creek Town on 15 June, 1928; Chief Aye died at the age of 94 on 28 November, 2012. Aye’s mortal remains were buried on Friday, 8 March, 2013 at Hope Waddell Chapel grounds and it is worth noting that his burial date, 8 March, coincided with Hope Waddell Founders’ Day.

Author of 10 books and holder of the National Honour MFR (Member of the Federal Republic), the late Pa Aye was a truly remarkable being. He was one of extremely few Nigerian academics, whose teaching career traversed all tiers of education. Aye taught at different times, primary, secondary and university students; some of whose doctoral theses he supervised.

Invaluable information on HWTI and Chief Aye are available in From the Abyss of Memory: Efiong Ukpong Aye, a biography of the late Pa Aye by Winifred E. Akoda PhD, Department of History and International Studies, University of Calabar.

Admission fees

Although members of the public are welcome to HWOSA-NA 2013 Reunion, only those that registered to attend the event will gain access. Curiosly, whereas each HWOSA-NA member is expected to cough out $100 admission fee, a non-member that is above 25 years of age is charged only $50. Admission is free for everyone younger than 16 years, but each person within the 16-25 age-bracket is expected to pay $25.

Concluding, Udo explained: “HWOSA-NA is organised exclusively for charitable, religious, educational and scientific purposes, including the making of donations to organisations that qualify as exempt organisation under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code or the corresponding section of any future federal tax code”.

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