In the last twenty-seven years since graduating from St Patrick’s Secondary School, Emene, now St Patrick’s College, Emene, I had, prior to this moment, visited the school two times. The first was in 1998 when I came to collect my certificate on my way to pursuing a university education, and the second was in 2015 when I arrived on a sight visit. This third visit however, is for me, the real homecoming. The truth is that, although I graduated from St Patrick’s in 1990, the school never left me. There are times when I simply look back on my days here and think how really privileged I am to have passed through this school, and wondering whether there’s any way I could show appreciation to it. I remember Reverend Bro. F. P. Okeke, the school principal, a great administrator and disciplinarian of the first order, Mrs. Ubani, Literature teacher, Mr Madu, Dom Aziude, Mathematics teacher and Mrs Bridget Ibe, English Language teacher. Although she probably didn’t know it, Mrs. Ibe, more than any other teacher, encouraged me more as a student either through word of mouth as revealed to me by a schoolmate or in her assessment of my effort in her tests. Wherever she may be today, I salute her. Openly encouraging students was perhaps, part of her teaching methodology, which may be different from some other teachers’. Like parents, teachers, regardless of their skills, react or interact with their subjects in ways they deem fit and which explains why some students, at some point in time may like or consider some as favourite but, whatever our impressions, what cannot be discountenanced is the personal and collective desire of teachers to improve and make their students better products, and for this, they deserve our gratitude.
I also wish to thank the current principal of St Patrick’s College, Emene, Reverend Fr. Chijioke Eze, without whose support I would not be here today.
This event marks the inaugural Anthony Akaeze Prize for the Best Graduating Student of St Patrick’s College, Emene but it probably wouldn’t have kicked off today had Reverend Fr. Eze not endorsed it. When I mulled the idea of this prize, I needed to get his approval and he didn’t waste a minute in giving his support. I thank him and, indeed, every other member of staff of this great college for their efforts, over the years, in grooming talents for this country. Their work is in line with the mission of the Catholic faith to improve the character of man, and by so doing, uplift society. The Catholic mission has an enviable reputation in school management and this is evident in St Patrick’s College, Emene. I am aware that the school suffered neglect during the period it was taken over by the government and much of what the Catholic mission through Reverend Fr. Eze has been saddled with since taking over responsibility in 2009, is reparation. I saw evidence of both the degradation and renovation in 2015. For a school established in 1960, St Patrick’s College, Emene has no doubt had its good and bad times but what no one denies is its contribution to nation building. The school has produced countless talents for Nigeria. Year in year out, we see boys from different backgrounds from far and near admitted here as upstarts and after undergoing training, leave sharpened and more knowledgeable, ready to face life’s inescapable challenges. The Catholic mission deserves every encouragement not just from the government but also from us old boys.
In respect to this prize, which carries a value of N30,000 for now, it is simply my humble way of identifying with my alma mater which I consider an extension of my family. Whichever way we look at it, family takes precedence for the end is inextricably linked to the beginning. St Patrick’s marked my first major beginning in life in terms of knowledge acquisition and I consider it both an honour and privilege to institute this prize which I hope will outlive me. I believe I owe it to the school, after all, whatever I may be today, and whatever I hope to be, it’s thanks to St Patrick’s as I think that the real foundation of my life was laid here.
At this juncture, permit me to congratulate the inaugural winner of this award, Okolo William Chibuoke. My hope is that you will go on to achieve greater success in life and fly the banner of this illustrious school as a worthy ambassador. I also urge other students not to give up on their dreams, no matter the odds. Although this prize is to identify with St Patrick’s College, it would please me if it emerges that some student felt challenged by it to want to aspire to the top.
Nothing good, it is said, comes easy and excellence can only be achieved through diligence and hardwork. In my days, the motto of St Patrick’s was “no substitute for learning.” It’s in line with the current vision of the school to “produce a society free of ignorant men.” I urge you never to give up on your dreams or allow your environment or circumstances dictate your future. It is my hope that you all will go on to graduate from this school as worthy ambassadors eager to contribute your quota to nation building.
Once again, thanks to the staff and management of St Patrick’s College, Emene for their support, and to you all here.
May the good Lord bless you all. And may He continue to bless and sustain St Patrick’s College Emene.
Anthony Akaeze, a journalist, delivered this speech at the launch of his initiative, Anthony Akaeze Prize for the Best Graduating Student of St Patrick’s College, Emene-Enugu which held at the school hall on Thursday, November 30, 2017.