Hugged on one side by the Atlantic Ocean, Hope Waddell Institution was established 119 years ago, and it has had a total of 21 principals, and thousands of old students have streamed out of its gates .Mr. Edet Inyang, current Principal of the school ,and an old boy himself, says that the institution has always attracted students from across West Africa. His words ‘The school is not just limited to Calabar or to Nigeria.It has attracted students from Cameroon, Ghana, Sierra Leone, and Liberia. Our students have always gone out to do us proud.’ The register of Alumni of the institution presents names which indicate a catchment that covered West Africa. Virtually everything relating to the school was written down in a log book, by all those who governed the school at various times. Thus there are many handwritten records detailing various aspects of the growth of the school. Once inside the school, you have the impression that memorable events must have taken place there at some time, or that the school itself is an inspiration for great deeds.
One of such deeds was the game of football. The game of football was first played on the grounds of this school in 1902. Before this date it had not been played in the country,and not even on the continent. At that time it was called ‘Calabar game’. Later, graduates of the school took football to Lagos, where it quickly caught on. The same goes for Cricket which was first played at Hope Waddell in 1903, another first by the school.This too had never previously been played on the continent .Nnamdi Azikiwe,Nigeria’s first President, was a keen sportsman, and its fair to say that his sporting energies might have been stirred at Hope Waddell.
Africa’s 1st printing press
It did not only make a name in sports only, the school surged forward and had the first printing press on the continent, making it as good as any similar school in Europe,or on the continent ,and giving the boys a useful orientation. No wonder the school attracted staff from not only Britain, but also Jamaica,who came with rich experiences which helped to shape the school and its boys, in a formidable way, producing Presidents and pioneers in many directions. This multicultural staff strength gave the school a cosmopolitan complexion, which helped the orientation of the boys. The printing press was also linked to the beginnings of the newspaper as we know it,in the Calabar area. Perhaps Nnamdi Azikiwe’s interest in journalism was nurtured at Hope Waddell . E.U.Aye writes in Hope Waddell Training Institution (1894 -1978)‘The Mission Press in Hope Waddell produced the first issue of the Calabar Observer on May 30,1902.’On this the principal adds ‘Hope Waddell played a major role in promoting printing in West Africa,in particular, and Africa in general. Some newspapers were also printed here during the colonial times.’
Focus on cultures
The school took an active interest in African languages, and, remarkably, Nnamdi Azikiwe himself was multilingual. The principal says that Hope Waddell ventured into the teaching of African languages such as Efik and Igbo,and this was for purposes of preparing a crop of translators for the missionaries.It also took bold steps in terms of hygiene and home economics. Home Management was taught to women and girls at Hope Waddell. As at 1906 the school had admitted its first female student. The principal adds ‘The idea of the teaching and learning of African culture began in this school.The ethics and norms relating to Africa were emphasised here. Thus Hope Waddell played a role in grooming future leaders on the continent, such as Nnamdi Azikiwe, by drawing their attention to ethics, values and the power of African culture.’
The boys were also encouraged to acquire entrepreneurial skills. The school once had a carpentary, tailoring, and metal work departments. The principal says ‘Even poultry farms and all sorts of agricultural work in the south eastern region started in Hope Waddell.’ He adds that the school played a fundamental role in educating the people in the southern protectorate, of which Calabar was the capital. Anyone who arrives Hope Waddell and immediately feels that great deeds had occurred at the school, would be right.
Great old boys
Linked to this is the fact that the school has many other firsts associated with its name.Again, Aye writes ‘In 1907, there was only one Nigerian certificated teacher on the staff, Mr. Edem Edet,and the only one too in the whole of Nigeria. In 1918, there were 16 and all had been trained in the institution.’ Francis Akanu Ibiam, one time Governor of the Eastern region was also an old boy of Hope Waddell. Infact, he had been appointed Principal of the school, from which post he became Governor. The school has an impressive list of formidable old boys. These include Eni Njoku, first Vice Chancellor of the University of Lagos, Kingsley Mbadiwe,statesman and former Minister, Dennis Osadebay, former Premier of the Mid Western Region, Anya O. Anya, Professor of Parasitology, and Eyo Ita, leader of the Eastern regional government in 1951, some of whom are late.
The architecture of the school is worth a word or two,and this must have rubbed off on the students. Most of the buildings are made of brick and stone, and reflect the best of 19th/early 20th century British architectural forms. Some were prefabricated and imported from Scotland in the 19th century. Aye writes ‘Towards the close of 1894 the first two storey prefabricated building was completed on the new site. The work was done by a Glasgow firm, with corrugated iron sheets and Scandinavian pitch pine’. After passing the gate, a long tarred road leads into the school,and a number of other roads also turn off it, leading to other equally grand buildings, creating an impression of order in the architectural plan of the school. A young boy admitted into the school in 1903, would have been overjoyed to sense that he would be in these lofty surroundings, studying for a number of years. The buildings themselves, in their silent power which is rooted in marvelous brick or stone work, seem to spur the individual to excel in his chosen field.It is a quiet ,dignified environment which conduced for academic work. Let the reader imagine a young Nnamdi Azikiwe or Akanu Ibiam, in the school, and beholding all this physical greatness.
Then the school is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean, which gives it a natural advantage over schools in the same region, which may not be so close to the ocean. To hear the waves break at night when you are about to sleep, or while at prep, or even to view the ships on the waters from a break in the vegetation, can be something nice and unforgettable for a schoolboy, and may constitute some of his fond memories. Then the lawns are also very neat, and there is a football field nearby, as well as hostels, some of which are not in use.
There is also a memorial in honour of Hope Waddell himself. At the end of the road by the block which houses the principal’s office, is a life like bust of Reverend Hope Waddell, after whom the school is named.A knowing smile seems to play on his lips, as you step forward and raise your head to peer into his
welcoming face. A little moss is on his chin. Hope Waddell led the ‘Calabar mission’ of 1846 to take Christianity to Calabar and contiguous communities.He led a team of Scottish and Jamaican missionaries to Calabar. Printed literature obtained from the school indicates ‘His arrival marked the beginning of the Church of Scotland Mission (which later became the Presbyterian Church) in Calabar and the Cross River Basin.He worked in the Calabar area with dedication for 36 years. He died two days after the request to name the school after him was made. This means that he never saw the school after whom he is named, which says something about the values of discipline and reward for hard work,which still animate and drive the school.
The Hope Waddell Institution was set up by the Presbyterian Church of Scotland in 1895,making it 119 years old today. It also owes its origins to the pressure exerted by Mary Slessor, a Scottish Missionary, who was already doing beautiful work among the communities around Calabar at about 1894. E.U. Aye writing on the early days of the school states ‘By 1900 the institution was fully recognized by the government as a major factor in the educational development in West Africa,and received its first official visit by an inspector of schools sent from Lagos.’ (p.15). Frederick Lugard visited the school on December 12, 1912.Aye quotes Lugard ‘I am able to offer my honest congratulations to Mr. Macgregor and his staff on what seems to me an admirably conducted school on the right lines.’In 1927 Mr A.G. Fraser, the Principal of Achimota College, Ghana visited the school.Aye refers to his comments thus ‘I have greatly enjoyed seeing this very fine Institution and its scholars at work. My visit was short, but I saw much to admire and nothing to criticize.’
A golden example
Reverend Macgregor was its longest serving principal, having served for 36 years.His impact on the school was great, and he played a role in shaping the character of the school and its boys, for many years. Aye writes ‘If ever Hope Waddell was famous and important,it was almost solely through the influence of Rev. Macgregor.The modern impression of the institution is what Macgregor left behind and we are merely trying to uphold its traditions.’ The principal stresses that Hope Waddell instilled discipline into its students, and it has become known as the home of discipline and character building in the country.
New Hope Waddell
There is a plan to remodel the school, especially since some of its buildings are over a hundred years old, and were the same buildings Nnamdi Azikiwe saw when he was a school boy. David Edem, National Secretary Hope Waddell Old Students Association says ‘The old students of the school in Nigeria,in collaboration with old students in North America,plan to remodel the entire school. We have done a survey of the school. We plan to keep the buildings that are of historic importance to the school. Those that do not fit this framework will be demolished.’ He says that the group will levy itself to fund the project, and adds that the academic calendar will not be disrupted, while the remodeling is going on. The remodeling will be done in phases, he emphasises. By the time the remodeling is done, he adds that the school would have returned to being a co-educational school as it used to be a long time ago.This is the rich universe which included a faithful adherence to Church doctrines at the school, that produced leaders in Nigeria and Africa. The schools motto is ‘In spe Gloriae Dei’ which means ‘In hope of the Glory of the Almighty’, and it has served the graduates well, given the heights they have attained in different human endeavours.