There is something pleasantly unusual about Abolarin College located in Oke-Ila, a border community with Ekiti state in Ifedayo Local Government Area of Osun state. It is the first of its kind in this part of the world.
For any student to be admitted into the school even after passing its entrance examination, he must be from a poor home, where his/her parents cannot afford to send such child to a private school
It is a free boarding school established by the monarch of the town, the Oragun of Oke Ila, Oba Adedokun Abolarin where everything is provided free for the students.
Apart from provision of three square meals per day, the students are given free books, school uniforms and bags, shoes, house wears, toiletries and other essentials.
The school has 131 students from different parts of the country, who were either hawking on the streets, following their parents to farm, or wandering aimlessly in their communities. Some of the students, as in the case of 14-year-old Emmanuel Makinde, were formerly in correctional centres.
Sited on eight acres of land, the school has a block of a storey building with eight classrooms, a library, as well as a computer room. It has a football field, volleyball court and a school farm. There is also a multi-purpose hall which served as the school chapel.
Two bungalows of two bedroom flats serve as the girls’ hostels while another bungalow serve as the boys’ hostel and the house master’s apartment. Located within the girls hostel also are the dining hall and the kitchen, where meals are prepared and the students trained on how to cook.
Besides academic activities, the school offers vocational training for its students; the school farm is another platform for training the students in farming. They engage in planting crops such as yam, maize and vegetables.
According to the founder of the school, Oba Abolarin, the objective of the school was to give opportunity to the bright but poor students to have the best of education. He believes the rich in the society must help the poor in order to secure the future of Nigeria
With a conducive learning environment, decent classrooms, and a maximum of 28 students to a teacher, Abolarin college could be said to be a dream school giving hope to the hopeless and transforming destinies as the students themselves testify.
Life now has a meaning for us——Students
14-year-old Emmanuel Makinde was confined to juvenile home in Ile-Ife, Osun state without a glimmer of hope about life, because his father could not adequately take care of him after his mother left him early in his childhood. However, fortune smiled on him when he was selected into Abolarin College after passing its entrance examination.
For Emmanuel, life now has a meaning and offers hope and he’s ambitious to become a lawyer. “I don’t even want to meet my parents anymore, especially my mother who walked out on me, until I become successful and I have what it takes to take care of both of them. Since I was admitted into the school, I have been made to realise the meaning of hard work, to believe in one’s ability and to be determined, as all of these bring success. I want to be successful and I know I am in the right school”.
Similarly, Stella Adeola, an orphan from Epe in Ekiti state, who now understands the importance of having a dream and wants to become a lawyer, said nothing could stop her from achieving her dream. She said being admitted into the college has actually inspired her as she now believes that being an orphan should not be a barrier to becoming great in life.
Stella said that she had nothing to worry about, as Oba Abolarin provides everything for the students. According to her, “ours is a free full boarding school, kabiyesi provides all our needs, we get three square meals daily, we are given free uniforms, house wears, shoes, books, school bags and even toiletries. My father died before I was born, while my mum died while I was a baby, so I did not really know them, kabiyesi has provided parental care and I am now unstoppable. I want to study civil law so that I can advocate for orphans whose parents’ property were taken over by their relatives and thereby truncating their dreams. I believe there should be equal opportunity for every child irrespective of the parents’ social-economic background in order to have a better society”.
Drawing inspiration from great personalities
The monarch also makes use of his personal contacts who are the movers and shakers in the society to inspire his students.
The college cultural/dramatic group performed at the birthday ceremony of former President Olusegun Obasanjo at his farm house in Ota as well as that of Chief Bisi Akande, where the students met big personalities such as former Osun State Governor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola and were told the inspirational stories of their rise to stardom.
This, for Faith Oluwole, who dreams of becoming a neurosurgeon, has changed her perception about life. She said, “although I was born where I could not afford the luxury we enjoy in school, upon meeting the likes of Mr Deji Adeleke, Dr Kayode Fayemi, Arakunrin Rotimi Akeredolu and Mr Dele Momodu, they all inspired us that with persistence and hard work we could surpass their feat. One thing I will never forget in life when I become a successful neurosurgeon is to reciprocate what kabiyesi has done for me to others”.
When Saturday Vanguard visited the school, despite the holiday necessitated by the pandemic, over 20 students were still staying in the hostels because they did not want to go back home and be a burden to their parents or because there was no one to go back to.
According to Omosewa Kolawole, a 17-year-old SS 2 student, who lost her mother last year, “I don’t want to go home because there is no one to go to and I don’t want to further burden my sister, who is living on her own with. That’s why I stayed back and kabiyesi is taking adequate care of me and the others around|”.
However, for Balikis Oyewole, from Ila, a neighbouring town, she decided to stay back in school so as not be distracted from studies. “If I go back home, my parents will not have time to care for me and I don’t want to be lured by the antics of boys while wandering around”.
To ensure that the students who graduated from the school move on in their educational career, Oba Abolarin ensures that the final year students sit for the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board examination and helps them to secure admission. One of his students, Michael Gabriel, who used to hawk oranges on the streets of Ila, scored 266 in the recently concluded JAMB examinations and sought admission to the University of Lagos.
The Orangun of Oke-Ila, Oba Abolarin Adedokun, who also engaged himself as a social worker in his school, disclosed in this interview, the reason behind establishing a free full boarding school, where students are admitted because they are poor.
Kabiyesi, looking at all the facilities around here, what actually inspired you to float a school like this?
To the glory of God, I know the importance of education. I read political science as my first degree and had my Masters degree in International Relations before becoming a lawyer. I know with education you can change the world. I live in the means of poverty here, there is poverty everywhere in Osogbo, so with my little education, and with my stool, I believe I should use the little platform that I have to make an impact on humanity and the future that I would not be part of.
Chief Obafemi Awolowo who enslaved himself for our today is no longer here. So, the only way that I can impact on our future is by establishing institutions and that’s why I have a school. The children who are coming after us should be able to learn from our life experiences, and to encourage them that they can do better than us and as well inculcate strong values into them. And I resolved that for me to do that I should concentrate with the poor
What are the criteria for getting admission into the school?
The only condition is poverty, the students must be indigent. My school is not for the children of the rich. I belong to that class though, but I am not rich. People think that by virtue of my education and the institution that I represent, I am a rich person. I know that we have so many advantages over the poor in our society and they are not happy with us. I was able to establish that as the traditional ruler but there must be a synergy between the poor and the rich.
They must love us, they must see that we think about them and that we are interested in their plight. That’s why I have a school established for the poor and I pride my self as an ambassador of the poor and it is in accordance with Biblical injunction which says “do this for the poor, do this for the weak”.
It is also like that in the holy Qur’an on the issue of “zakat”. School is very important, we cannot afford not to take care of the weak and the poor. If we want Nigeria to achieve greatness, the Federal Government as well as governments at all levels across the country must now emphasize reducing poverty among the people. It is in the interest of the elites, if the poor are not taken care of, their children will not allow the children of the elites to live peacefully.
As a traditional monarch who only gets meagre salary from a local government, how do you sustain this school?
It is God. Because what we are doing is Godly, the Chairman of the school is God. What we are doing is a missionary work. Besides, I must also thank my friends all over the world who provide bags of rice, bags of beans and the rest. There is a widow who always gives the school N2,000 every month. That is how the school is being sustained, I am not a rich man, I do not practice law any longer, I don’t even have a law office anymore. But the Lord has been sustaining the school probably because of what we are doing and that is why I know that the school will outlive me.
Will you agree for a collaboration with NGOs or private organisations?
Of course, yes, we want them to assist us, we want help in some areas. We need teachers in the science, Physics, Mathematics, Chemistry because we are interested in grooming our children in science and technology. We want our children to be great, they have a lot of work to do for the Nigerian society. They must be responsible to their various communities, and their schools. So, they can not afford to be selfish, they can not afford to be self-centred and that is why we train them in different endeavours, for them to know what is it to be active and be creative.
We have a lot of dropouts among young men who are turning into charlatans, how do you think they can be rehabilitated
I believe over time we can have a sports academy and we can then work on those children from the streets and make them to be useful for Nigeria. The children that we have here are from the streets, majority of them used to hawk. Whenever they recounted their life story people would be crying but we have become used to the story and they are happy here. All the children must be given proper exposure to enable them maximise their God given talent. But government alone can not do it, that is why it is important for the government and the private sector including reputable institutions work together to build a better future. We should learn from the past and use that to plan where we want Nigeria to be in the next 50 years. If we work and pray, Nigeria can be the best country in the whole world because the potentials are there.
This is holiday period because of the pandemic, yet over 20 students are in the school, how are they being taken care of?
They are in the school because they have nowhere to go but the Lord is taking care of them. The school is a better environment for them to stay, even there are those of them who were at home wanted to come back to school but we cannot afford to keep all of them. Also, we have to abide with government measures on coronavirus. But these twenty students cannot go anywhere, however, to the glory of God, we have been taking care of them with what the Lord has given to me, that’s my ministry.
What is your admonition to the rich individuals in the society?
Many people have been doing a good job by giving to organisations like ours. I am happy to have friends among them who are assisting us to do the little we are doing here. But the elites need to work more, in their own interest for a better future for the Nigerian society. All of us have a duty to change Nigeria for good. The Head Boy of the school is from Niger Delta, he is from Abraka. I have my son John Chigoze from Ebonyi State, I have Elizabeth and Okebe from Benue state. I have Fatimah, she is Fulani from Ilorin. We can create a better society for all.