By Constaincia Uruakpa
Glitz pervaded the atmosphere, when the Class of 21 of St. Gregory’s College Obalende, Lagos held its valedictory service, Saturday, October 2, 2021, amid pomp and praise, at the school premises.
The celebration, which started with Mass at the school chapel, culminated into reception at the school hall that featured presentation of songs, among other things, where the students showcased their talents, to the delight of all present at the event.
Expressing his joy on the occasion, Fr. Emmanuel Ayeni, Administrator, St. Gregory’s College, said he was happy to see things turn out wonderfully for the graduating students, who happen to be the ﬁrst set of students that he admitted into the school.
He said: “Today, I feel so great. e main reason is because this is the ﬁrst set of students that I admitted into the college six years ago, and when we started, we just started by relying on God. And look at us today, God has done it so well. You can see how proud the boys are, and their parents. For me, I am just overwhelmed because I didn’t know everything will turn out this wonderful.
“I was just hoping, praying and just keeping tab, ensuring that I tell God everything that we need, and he has taken care of us. And today, as these boys graduate, I feel so honoured, and I give God all the thanks for making it a reality. Yes, I came in January of that year, they came in September… So, they were the ﬁrst set I admitted, the other set I met on ground, so, that’s why today, I just feel so good.
Fr. Ayeni urged the students to be men of integrity and agents of change, adding that if there are any set of persons that are going to change the country, it is this current generation.
He said: “I was meeting with them every week throughout their SS 3, and we discussed. The summary of everything that I told them was for them to be men of integrity, and to be men that are hard working and also to see themselves as the future of this nation. I don’t think there is any Nigerian now, objectively speaking, that is happy with our country.
So, I have told them that as young men, if you are not happy with what you are experiencing, then, you should be agents of change. And so, if there are any set of persons that are going to change this country, it should be this current generation. They must have better prospects, better plans for this country, to make it great. He father urged them to put God at the centre of everything that they do.
“Without God, there is nothing we can achieve. We make sure that every night; they go before the Grotto of Our Lady, to pray there. It was part of that attachment toGod, to say that God is the one who makes everything whole, the one who makes everything real, who brings about our success; without him, there is nothing we can do (John 25:5).
So, I have told them to hold on to God, and always remember the case of Peter in the Bible. When Peter was drowning, he called upon Jesus, he said, ‘Lord, save me for I am drowning’ then, Jesus helped him. “In other words, as God is helping them, they must also work hard because it’s a two-way reality. God is ready to help us, but we must also be ready to work hard. God said ask. Ask! It doesn’t have to do with just the words of your mouth. Through action, you ask. Through your hard work, you are asking God for success, and he grants it to you”, he said.
On the state of education in thecountry, Fr. Ayeni said: Education in Nigeria is not where it’s supposed to be. We are so blessed in this country with a lot of intelligent minds. But, we are not stressing enough the essence of hard work to our children. The nation Nigeria today, is just something that I would say is jaundiced, in other words, not whole because there are a lot of upheavals, here and there.
The ministry of education needs a programme that is more deﬁning; a curriculum that addresses our issue as a nation. “A lot of the things that we are teaching our children are borrowed. So, they just bring in bodies of knowledge from wherever, and then impose on us to teach our children. We need curriculum that are home based, that will help to address the current situation that we are in.
Yes, it’s a good thing to-day that they say even from Junior School go back to history; we need to understand the history of our nation. Yes, it is in understanding that we decide to say, ‘ok, there is need for change, here and there. We need an indication that is more homely, one that addresses our challenges as a nation, one that will help us gradually, to meet the League of Nations.
The world is advancing, it seems as if we are sitting and just watching.” Emphasizing on the place of God in education, Fr. Ayeni said that academic knowledge, without character, and the fear of God, will amount to nothing. ‘In St. Gregory’s College, it is about character, and then, learning. We must go back to all those religious studies, we must compute them, and bring them to the heart of our learning, so that as our children make excellent results, they also have the fear of God.
If you put all of these together, then, we are sure that we will make headway in this country”, he said. Advising the young ones, he said: “My ﬁnal word to them is our popular mantra in St. Gregory’s, that every child is a bundle of positive possibilities. They have what it takes. They should not be afraid of anything. They should go for it, as long as it is something good. They must never be lost in the crowd. No. They must deﬁne themselves.
They must stand for something, and whatever they are standing for must be something positive; must be in line with the will of God, must be something that will make not only St. Gregory’s College or whatever school these children are attending great, but that will make the entire nation great. They must see themselves as true faces of Nigeria, a Nigeria that will be well respected, all over the world. They have greatness in them, let them go ahead and achieve it.” The event was attended by dignitaries, including Sir Steve Omojiafor, Member Governing Council, St. Gregory’s College, Old Students’ Association of the school, family and friends of the graduating students.