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HISTORY OF ST. COLUMBANUS SECONDARY SCHOOL IKWEN (SCOSSI)

INTRODUCTION

LET US TALK ABOUT ST. COLUMBANUS SECONDARY SCHOOL, IKWEN

Historically, St. Columbanus Secondary School a.k.a (SCOSSI) was established in 1959 when she was insignificantly instituted by the St. Patrick Missionary Fathers, Kiltegan (SPS), initially as Boys Grammar School. During the initial course of her growth, the School witnessed and experienced many turbulent times and years of sorrows, very particular and memorable are the havoc wrecked by the Nigeria Civil War that humanly speaking, completely brought this great name down. Next was her experience under the maladministration of the state government, which rendered her dormant or non-functional.

With the initiative of the Former Governor of Akwa Ibom State. Architech Obong Victor Attah to handover mission schools to the real owners, SCOSSI was blessed to be one of these schools handed over to Ikot Ekpene Catholic Diocese in 2007. The church in her vision and mission for her schools, constituted a body with the name Diocesan Education Commission (DEC) with Rev. Msgr. Inyangetoh as the Pioneer Chairman, followed by Mother Iwoh, H.H.C.J. The present chairman is Very Rev. Fr. Justin Udofia. This body was to look after revamping, resuscitating and re-directing these already ruined schools including SCOSSI.

With the choice of the administrators of this second phase of Missions´ outreach, we can confirm that academics, spirituality, morals and discipline were the church´s visions and missions propelling SCOSSI to renewed prominence. Hence, the title of this write-up: the Rebirth and Growth of St. Columbanus Secondary School Ikwen under the missions. Our stewardship is self suggestive. The work is divided into five sections. Section one briefly deals with the historical settings and initial take-off by the first missionaries. Section two views and exposes the conditions of SCOSSI after the civil war and the gradual take-over by the State Government. Section three looks at the second phase of the Mission Administration: the Rebirth of SCOSSI. Section four examines the present state of challenges. Section five finally brings to what could be known as SCOSSI´s Mission Statements: Forward ever Backward never- The four cardinal points of SCOSSI Agenda.

 

SECTION ONE

HISTORICAL SETTING AND INITIAL TAKE-OFF BY THE FIRST MISSIONARIES

What we have today as St. Columbanus Secondary School, Ikwen a.k.a SCOSSI came into existence in January 1959 when Bishop James Moynagh was the Bishop of then Calabar Diocese. Known initially as St. Pius XII Secondary School, two years later it was changed to St. Columbanus Secondary School at the initiative of St. Patrick Missionaries from Ireland.

The school was temporally sited at where we have the present day Sacred Heart primary School, Ikwen before being brought to the present permanent site.

The land on which the school is built is jointly owned by Atai Ikwen, Ikwen Ikot Udom, Ikot Ukana and Nto Esu villages. Positive contributions by the villagers and donors of this land towards a successful establishment of this school is in no little measure commendable.

The early missionaries and the host community worked assiduously and religiously with His eminence Late Dominic Cardinal Ekanem, the first Bishop of Ikot Ekpene and the proprietor of the school, to shepherd and nature spiritually, morally and academically the first batch of students which were about thirty in number. The selfless services and solid foundations laid by these initial formators following strict discipline and compulsory boarding of this first batch of students led to the excellent performance in their first Senior School Certificate Examination (SSCE) in 1963.

With this outstanding performance and high standard of discipline, the name of SCOSSI gradually became famous and the centre of attraction. During these years of formation and laying of foundations, worthy of mention too are Rev. Fr. O´ Reed (1964-1965) and Mr. D. Usanga (1965-1967) who successfully took over from Fr. O´ Malley and vigorously moved on the already established tempo.

 

THE WAR YEARS (1966-1969)

With the sudden emergence of the Nigeria/Biafran Civil War, the years of solid foundations laid by these early missionaries started to crumble drastically as SCOSSI was one of the war target centres. Due to the effects and influences of the afore mentioned crisis, the 1967 (SSCE) candidates (the first batch to offer separate Science subject) wrote their Examinations at Holy Family College (HOFACO), Oku Abak, where they took refuge during the 30 months war. Frankly speaking, the great SCOSSI was a no longer in existence because the school compound was turned into a war theatre and refugees camp.

 

SECTION TWO

POST WAR PERIOD (1970-1978) AND GRADUAL TAKE-OVER BY THE STATE GOVERNMENT

This period witnessed a great effort by the mission to revamp the war ravaged structures of the school, and interest by the State Government to take over the school. Although this did not immediately come to pass, history has it that the taking over of SCOSSI from the mission was amicably and gradually enhanced as the two parties were still partnering together for a long time in this administrative project.

After the civil war in January 1970, the Catholic mission went back to her abandoned project to revitalize the already ruined system with Rev. Fr. I. P. Umanah as the first post war principal. In fact, it was almost like starting from the cradle. The students population was remarkably very poor, with fourteen (14) students in class one and six (6) students in class two making a total number of twenty students and three (3) members of staff; Rev. Fr. I.P. Umanah as principal, Mr. S. E. Akpan as pivotal teacher and C. S. Okon as ordinary teacher to start with. On 1st june 1970ma new Principal in the person of Mr. A. S. Edet took over from Fr. Umanah. In the same time Rev. Fr. E. Affangideh and Mr. Aloysius B. Ekanem join the school staff. On 18th November 1970 the proprietor, His Eminence Cardinal Dominic Ekanem visited the school. This first visit after the war created a remarkable impact and change in the whole school system. The school from then started fully with three classes(1-3). It was a credit to SCOSSI that Agriculture Science as a teaching subject was introduced into the school curriculum and also approved for school to offer as a subject in WAEC with effect from 1972.

 

SILVER JUBILEE PERIOD (1983-1985)

The school celebrated her Silver Jubilee successfully in 1984. Very significant to this year was the successful maintaining of SCOSSI original status as Boys Grammar School. After that, she lost her former status to the present status of a co-educational institution. This change of status was necessitated by the then proliferation of co-educational institutions that sprang up within the entire length and breath of Ikot Ekpene L.G.A, where the school belonged. This was to improve enrolment. In addition changing to co-educational institution, the school was also approved to fully run both Junior (JSS) and Senior (SSS) Secondary School from 1985.

History cannot forget Rev. E. G. Edet who took over from Rev. Fr. Dr. S. T. Umoh of blessed memory in 1985 and started to implement on this new educational policy of 6-3-3-4. Very pertinent to note too was the total withdrawal of Government from the management of boarding in school. This led to a gradually decay of those vibrant boarding systems which had students filled to capacity in all the cottage such as, O’ Malley, Esu, Ekandem, Etukinam, Edet etc.

On the other note, the perennial problem of dependence on Nto Obio Ikang stream as the only source of water was partly alleviated by the availability of water pumping station located apposite the school.

Despite genuine efforts put in by some Principals during this government era to help SCOSSI from dying a natural death, the general remark is that in all ramifications the school was depreciating in value and quality seeking for the redeemer.

 

SECTION THREE

THE SECOND PHASE OF MISSION’S ADMINISTRATION

THE REBIRTH AND GROWTH OF SCOSSI

After all said and done during government administration, God’s appointed time to redeem SCOSSI was at hand. Before this, let us briefly comment that the graphical growth of SCOSSI during this period was depending mostly on who was in charge. From all that happened during the government era, the mission’s return came at a time a lot of harm had already been done to the system. It had virtually lost the Catholic character and the educational integrity. The following features characterised SCOSSI during that period:

(a) Loss of academic standard
(b) High rate of indiscipline
(c) Loss of integrity
(d) Reduction in Population
(e) Infrastructural decay
(f) Laissez faire attitude to moral and spiritual formation as a corresponding fade-out of the Catholic identity and total loss of parental confidence. Hence, there was need for a rebirth.


THE REBIRTH AND GROWTH OF SCOSSI


With the above enumerated factors, it was evidently conspicuous that little was moving well in SCOSSI. It was time to return SCOSSI to its roots. And so let us register our gratitude to the government of Akwa Ibom State led by the former Governor, Arch. (Obong) Victor Attah who positively intended to hand over mission schools to the owners.
The real planting of the seed of rebirth happened in 2007 when the government eventually handed over the already near-non-functional SCOSSI to Ikot Ekpene Catholic Diocese.

Let us appreciate too the courage and visionary spirit of Bishop Camillus Etokudoh, now Bishop of Port-Harcourt Diocese for the decision to take over this school and for the appointment of Rev. Fr. Cyril Udoudo as the first Principal assisted by Mr. S.P.U. Akuaibit. They had the initial responsibility of piloting this secondary missionary journey to redeem the image of SCOSSI and take it to a better standard. The constitution of the Diocesan Education Commission (DEC) with Msgr. P. A. Inyangetoh as its first Chairman was also in the right direction. This action of the Bishop gave the first spark that brought hope and a future to SCOSSI.

The problem now ‘hard starting.’ The spirit was willing but the flesh was not. With some financial assistance from the government, the DEC under the direction of Bishop Etokudoh, worked with the Principal and took the bull by the horns with high sense of responsibility. They started renovation and rebuilding. In addition, in order to combat the perennial problem of water and electricity supply, the opening of a new borehole and re-wiring of the newly rehabilitation structures were done. With the withdrawal of Government staff and introduction of fee payment, SCOSSI suffered the problem of under-population. The total number of students reduced to about fifty-one (51) and less than a half were able to afford to pay the required tuition fees.

The last strike that broke the carmel’s back was the introduction of free and compulsory education for primary to secondary schools in Akwa Ibom State by the present Governor, Chief Dr. Godwill Akpabio. Many students among this fifty-one were discourage while the poor ones had cheap alternatives to go school freely outside.

The only way to combat this was to maintain a good and enviable standard. This was not easy but everybody contributed positively. As acting Principal after the exit of Rev. Fr. Cyril Udoudoh who was transferred to Holy Family College, Abak (HOFACO), Mr. Akuaibit did his best to stabilize the system. He single handedly dualized school’s main avenue, planted street pines to beautify it, and the end constructed a wonderful round about to regulate all traffic into and out of the school. He spearheaded the re-introduction of boarding system. He revived the Catholic culture of strict observance of ANGELUS at stipulated hours. He initiated the plans for the celebration of the Golden Jubilee.

Mr. Akuaibit was later succeeded by Rev. Fr. DR. Emem Umoren towards the end of 2008 and he reverted to collaborate with him as the Vice Principal Administration. The efforts of the duo, with their team, have placed SCOSSI in the sky again.

THE GOLDEN JUBILEE (2009)

St. Columbanus Secondary Schol, Ikwen (SCOSSI) celebrated her Golden Jubilee in 2009. It was a week-long event which covered from November 23, 2009 the feast day of the Patron Saint of the school, (St. Columbanus). Rev. Fr. Emem Umoren newly came into power as Principal to partner with Mr. Akuaibit and prepare the ground for the forth-coming Golden Jubilee celebration as “Restoring our Seat of Wisdom,” so many gains and achievements came along with it to make SCOSSI a conducive domain for real acquisition of wisdom (sapientia).

The remaining old structures were renovated, already renovated ones were beautified by painting. The present beautiful fence that gives the first impression about SCOSSI was constructed as part of the first project Fr. Emem embarked upon.

In fact, everything was done humanly possible to ensure a successful Golden Jubilee celebration. Generally the Golden Jubilee came and went but it left everything Golden for SCOSSI.

 

SECTION FOUR

ST. COLUMBANUS TODAY: HER HEIGHTS AND CHALLENGES

By St. Columbanus today, we are referring to the post-Golden Jubilee SCOSSI, a period massively marked with the impact of the administration of Rev. Fr. (Dr) Emem Umoren. This is a period of great manifestations of past dreams about SCOSSI, through not without challenges.

Before we proceed, let us talk about the great brain behind great achievements. The man, Rev. Fr. Dr. Emem Umoren. He is a priest of the diocese of Ikot Ekpene, ordained in 1996. As Principal of SCOSSI, his administration started in January 2009. He is peaceful (as the name implies) and forgiving but of no nonsense, hardworking, generous, approachable and accommodating. He believes in excellence and quality, what should be done is worth doing well, in fact, his belief is that if 100% is possible, 99% is not good enough. That is the Principal that SCOSSI was privileged to have after 50 years. Only the best is good enough for Fr. Emem.

After his further studies in Rome, and in U.S.A, in January 2009, he was assigned to St. Columbanus Secondary School, Ikwen, to come and do what he knows best, that is, Administration. He did not hesitate to come back and took off immediately on good footing. He adopted the theme for the Golden Jubilee “Restring our seat of wisdom” as his guiding principle, to build upon the foundation already established by his predecessors, to promote the great image of SCOSSI which was almost lost.

In order to achieve this, he carried all along. Frankly speaking, SCOSSI is a natural home, that is why students, staff and parents do not only see him as a priest Principal, but as a good father and brother whom they run to when they are in difficulties.

He is a leader who believes in positive change wherever he finds himself. He is administrator par excellence, who combines and coverts intelligence, and wisdom into action; planning and programming with high level of achievements. You only need to visit SCOSSI and you will believe that this paper only bears the least about this man. With him, SCOSSI leapt from mediocrity to excellence.

What is evident today in SCOSSI is the work of his hands, a product of experience and exposure. Really, a leader is known by action not by persuasion – Robert Green. Some of the many achievements of Fr. Emem as Principal would include.

  • He commenced his administrative work from the main gate by changing and turning the painting into papal colour (white and yellow).

  • The construction and painting of school fence

  • He bought a new set of school band and uniform

  • He composed the school Anthem and the pledge

  • He furnished a new Principal’s office and a new spacious staff room for teachers.

  • He single handedly constructed a new staff quarters.

  • In terms of discipline he is 100% good, in fact his new principle of zero tolerance to indiscipline is commendable.

  • Outstanding sanitary condition of SCOSSI is remarkable. Our students believe that cleanliness is next to Godliness

  • Academically SCOSSI is rated very high. This can be attested to by the excellent performances of the students in their terminal and final examinations. This is a credit to this present administration. Matters related to academic are not treated with levity in SCOSSI that is why qualified and experienced teachers are employed to work round the clock to meet this target. SCOSSI students are not only taught to pass examinations but to acquire a holistic knowledge that will make them spiritually, physically, intellectually, emotionally and socially balanced for tomorrow. That is why SCOSSI’s Logo carries SAPIENTA Wisdom. It is SCOSSI that wisdom is defined.

  • Sequel to this, we are proud to note that recently a group of NECO officials from Minna visited our school and scored her very high among the qualified schools in the State to register for JSS3 NECO 2013/2014. This examination was successfully sat for by the immediate past JS3 students and the result is as usual (100%).

  • This administration has also arranged for an exchange programme for student and staff with our sister school in Northern Carolina. This project will soon be actualized.

  • Morally our students are up to date. Etiquette is introduced as a compulsory subject to all the students irrespective of the class, to impact moral discipline to them. This is reflected practically in their lives. Parents can testify to this.

  • The administration applies to the Diocese for a seminarian every year to assist in this aspect. Academic without character is nonsense.

  • Spiritually our students believe that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, and they do not play with their spiritual lives. To encourage them on this, the administration as successful put up this new magnificent and befitting place of worship for SCOSSI.

  • Very remarkable also are constant supply of water and light especially at night. These and many more have made what SCOSSI is today. The Administration has promised to continue in this spirit.

 

SECTION FIVE

Forward ever backward never: SCOSSI’S four(4) cardinal points of focus is summarized into the acronym ADMS
A = Academic
D = Discipline
M = Morals
S = Spirituality

Everything done by the SCOSSI’s Administration is directed towards realizing these four goals. SCOSSI therefore will ever remain faithful to her genuine pursuit. ADMS in our task, it is our watch word.

Forward ever to restoring our seat of wisdom, to development, maintaining full boarding and co-educational system, SCOSSI shall intensify effort to help the students to remain God fearing, respectful and hardworking, to attain true wisdom in academic and morals, to be responsible to formation given to them for their own good, that is, to conform to the culture of discipline, purity, honesty and abstain from everything that is contrary to SCOSSI’s rules and regulations.

SCOSSI shall never go backward to maladministration, to anarchy or lawlessness, indiscipline and moral decadence, low academic standard and laissez-fair attitude by members of staff and students. SCOSSI can never be taken over by government again, nor being degraded to day school system. SCOSSI will do everything within her reach to discourage anything that will bring discord or disunity to the SCOSSI family. These and many more are our target.

It is not easy to achieve these, unless with the co-operation of all: Teachers, Parents, Diocese, Communities, Students and well wishers. Come let us build together and set a standard for the rest. SCOSSI remains our pride.

ANTICIPATIONS
With our efforts and God on our side, we wish to anticipate with pleasure and excitement that in no distant time, the name SCOSSI will go beyond national to international and intercontinental.

That there shall come to be St. Columbanus Nursery and Primary School to nature from the cradle (SCONPSI). And one day our students will graduate into the University of St. Columbanus Ikwen (UNISCOI).

Finally, with SCOSSI’s Alumni as good ambassadors everywhere, the name SCOSSI shall be and remain a reference point with regards to Academic, Discipline, Moral and Spirituality (ADMS).