Alvan Ikoku Federal College of Education Owerri

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Fifty Years of Grace

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The Golden Jubilee celebrations finally kicked off with a Jubilee Holy Mass at Christ the King Chaplaincy (CKC) of the College in the Shell Camp area on Sunday, 27th October, 2013. The next couple of weeks promise to be exciting times in the College with several activities lined up all culminating in a Jubilee Convocation ceremony on the 6th of December, 2013.

Mass was celebrated by Rev. (Fr) Dr. Alaribe, the chaplain of the CKC and Head of the Department of Religion in the College. He was assisted by, among others, Rev. (Fr.) Dr. Donatus Nwachukwu, the former Dean of Student Affairs and recently retired Chief Lecturer in the Department of Psychology. As usual, the celebrated choir of the Catholic Chaplaincy thrilled worshipers among who were the Provost, Dr. (Mrs.) Blessing Ijioma and her Management team, staff and students of the College, who were all decked out in the colourful Jubilee textile.

In his Homily, Fr. Alaribe drew a parallel between the postures and prayers of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector  as recorded in Luke 18: 9-14. He commended the posture of the Tax Collector who was penitent and ashamed of his sins. The Pharisee on the other hand affected a haughty and proud attitude and practiced the ‘religion of self-help’ (the self made man). Fr. Alaribe enjoined that the grace of God is not earned and that it is God who makes a man to succeed. According to him the Publican practiced the ‘Religion of self-surrender,’ of grace made available; like St. Paul affirmed, “But the Lord stood by me and gave me strength to proclaim the Word fully…” (2nd Timothy: 16-18).

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As the College moves into the business end of the Jubilee year, it is paramount that activities kicked off with an enriching Holy Mass in which College staff and students were not only reminded that the achievements of the College these past fifty years come from the Grace of God, but that also Heaven would be won not by human efforts rather via the ‘gratuity’ of God which is His Grace.

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Superman came to Alvan: Using Comics to improve literacy

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A public lecture titled “Why creativity matters: exploration of literacy and learning through the comic book project,” was delivered in the College by Dr. Michael Bitz of the Centre for Educational Pathways, USA whose work with the Comic Book Project has reached over 100,000 youths, especially from the inner cities of America. Travelling in Nigeria on sponsorship from Ford Foundation, Dr. Bitz presented a public lecture that was both thought provoking and eye-catching, as the colourful yet innovative process of using comic books to explore and improve literacy was unveiled.

The College Provost, Dr. (Mrs.) Blessing Ijioma while making her remarks noted the impact of comics in American society: “Today, Americans are as likely to quote Charlie Brown as they are likely to quote Shakespeare or Benjamin Franklin.” She confessed that “ it is not in doubt that comics can hold the interest of young students or that it can be deployed to improve literacy and motivate learners, the challenge is developing comics that are set in our locality and our culture.”

While delivering his lecture, Dr. Bitz drew a history of modern American classrooms and highlighted the work of the acclaimed philosopher and educational reformer, John Dewey, who he said introduced creativity in classroom management.  The Wikipedia entry on John Dewey says: “According to Dewey, the teacher should not be one to stand at the front of the room doling out bits of information to be absorbed by passive students. Instead, the teacher’s role should be that of facilitator and guide.”

Dr. Bitz, who holds a Doctoral degree in education and taught for over twenty years in New York schools posited that young people want to be creative and desire that their ideas, feelings and experiences will be heard. He said that it was in other to leverage the students creativity to further literacy that the comic book project – where students are taught to learn chemistry, physics, biology, math, punctuation, grammar, social studies etc via drawing comic book panels – was founded.adventure of superman

The lively and highly animated lecture met with a lot of enthusiasm from staff and other attendees. An audience member recalled the challenges she had when she discovered that her nine year old couldn’t read. The child wasn’t the least interested in reading the regular Lady Bird series she provided but became excited and motivated to read when confronted with a super hero comic book. The child, eager to know what Superman was saying in the conversation bubbles, conquered the literacy challenge.

Alvan Ikoku is a foremost teacher training institution in the country and thus Dr. Bitz’s ideas and theories were received with enthusiasm as lecturers concurred that the comic book project is a laudable venture that should be tried out, along with music and theatre, to mitigate distraction in the classroom and motivate learners.

Already Dr. Bitz, who has a lot of experience and whose work has generated a lot of attention world-wide, including eliciting a 2008 editorial in the New York Times, is working to train some of our teachers in the art of comic book development as a creative way to inspire learning and literacy.

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Linus and Charlie Brown

Well, to the nominees working with Dr. Bitz, as Charles M. Schulz – the creator of Charlie Brown and the Peanuts Comic strip – said, “Try not to have a good time…this is supposed to be educational.”

Transformative Ethics and Responsibilities for a Golden Alvan

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The Senior Staff Union in Colleges of Education, Nigeria (SSUCOEN) Alvan Ikoku chapter has in the spirit of golden jubilee decided to partner with Management in training of staff and capacity development. The Union, in an unprecedented action in the history of the College, organised a one week staff training workshop for non-academic staff of the SSUCOEN persuasion.

The SSUCOEN Golden Jubilee Workshop, with the theme Transformation Ethics and Responsibilities for Better Service Delivery, had about 500 staff participating and is designed to teach non-academic staff the College history, proper ethics and responsibilities, job effectiveness and efficiency, responsible unionism and effective leadership strategies.

Since the advent of the Dr. (Mrs.) Blessing C. Ijioma led Management in mid 2010, the Alvan Ikoku Federal College staff have been receiving several in-service trainings at home and abroad with many staff also sponsored to further their education. The Provost recently stated that “All over the world, capacity development is the new approach to human resources management…..the human resource is the greatest driver of economies and nations and if people are not well trained then development will be slow no matter how rich in material and natural resources a nation may be.”

The SSUCOEN partnering with Management to develop staff means that the relationship between Management and the union is complimentary and that the premier staff union for non-academics in the College, led by the ebullient Sir Lawrence Osuji, understands the import of staff welfare and proper development.

A major highlight of the workshop series was the keynote lecture delivered by Dr. Dan Onwukwe – three times Provost (twice as acting) – who first arrived in the College in 1975 from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He drew a compelling history of the College, from its early years in the 1960’s, all the way to the Federal Government take-over in 2007, right up to this moment when the milestone of fifty years is being marked with a jubilee celebration. Staff, especially the new ones, where enthralled while soaking up the crash course in A History of Alvan.

The world class field of resource persons included the Registrar, Mrs. Ada Aguta, Rev. Paul Ndukwe, the College goodwill ambassador in Canada, Dr. Anthony Ekwe, A.B.C Toni Duruaku to name  a few.

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Staff actively participated and enthusiastically contributed to the various discourse. Many confessed that the workshops were enriching and armed them with tools to perform better at their jobs.

Alvan Ikoku, the Man

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By E.A.C. Orji

Alvan Azinna Ikoku was born at Amannagwu Village, Arochukwu in 1900. In 1920, while a student at Hope Waddel Training Institute, Calabar, he  attended a lecture delivered by Dr. James Emman Kwegyir Aggrey, alias Aggrey of Africa of the then Gold Coast (now Ghana). In his lecture, Dr. Aggrey reminded Africans that they have a role to play jointly with Whitemen on Earth and that they cannot play that role effectively unless they were fully developed through education. Inspired by Dr. Aggrey’s lecture, young Alvan Ikoku decided to become a graduate like Dr. Aggrey. Unable to travel abroad for university education, Alvan Ikoku studied at home through correspondence course given by Normal Correspondence College, England. Accordingly, studying with “hurricane” lantern, he passed the London Matriculation Examination in 1923.

Dr. Aggrey sent him presents of books and in 1928, he sat for and passed the B.A. Hons. Degree of the University of London in Philosophy, thus, becoming the first Nigerian Igbo graduate. Nnamdi Azikiwe followed in 1930 when he graduated B.A. from Lincoln University, USA (Nnamdi Azikiwe: My Odyssey – Spectrum Books, Ibadan, 1970 pp.149 -151).

Rather than take up a comfortable and enviable government appointment, for which he was eminently qualified, and live in comfort in government reserved area (GRA) in Lagos or elsewhere, Alvan Ikoku preferred to be a private educator and lived in Arochukwu amidst roaring mosquitoes, without electricity or telephone. From Arochukwu, he founded primary schools all over Eastern Nigeria and from time to time, traversed dreaded distances on a motorcycle from Arochukwu to inspect the schools.

In 1932, Alvan Ikoku founded Aggrey Memorial College, Arochukwu (named after his mentor, Dr  Aggrey), the first private co-educational secondary school in West Africa.  All of Alvan Ikoku’s children attended school at Aggrey (except Stella Aku) and while there, they were boarders and were forbidden to visit their family houses (located within the college campus) except on free days when other students could visit the town. Alvan Ikoku is reported to have remarked that if his children did not study at Aggrey Memorial College, then parents who enrolled their children there should have their heads examined.

This honest policy of Alvan Ikoku paid off to him as can be seen from the achievement of his seven  children – the late S.G Ikoku, renowned economist and front line politician; the late Ayo Ekanem, educationist and retired founding Principal of Federal Government College, Gboko; Chimere, a Professor of Chemistry, foundation Vice-Chancellor, the Federal University of Technology, Abeokuta and a two-term Vice-Chancellor of University of Nigeria ,  Nsukka;  Nkpanam, a Consultant  Haematologist in the United Kingdom; Veronica, a Medical Doctor; Chinyere, a Professor of Petroleum Engineering at the University of Port Harcourt; Stella Aku (late), a Molecular Biologist and erstwhile Senior Lecturer in Biochemistry and later publisher on the staff of Sunray Publications; and Enyinnaya, an economist in the United States of America. (Building on the Debris of a Great Past Vol.2; Magnet Business  Enterprises publication p.75).

In his desire to encourage parents to educate their children, Alvan Ikoku remarkably accepted the payment of school fees in  kind by receiving agricultural  products such as yams and cassava in lieu.

During his life time, Alvan Ikoku rendered service to his country in various capacities as Member of the West African Examination Council; Member of Governing Council of the University of Ibadan; President of the Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT), in addition to being Chairman or Member of many educational bodies too numerous to mention. Anyone wishing to know how much Alvan Ikoku contributed to education in Nigeria should read The Official History of NUT in which his name is mentioned in 54 out of the 300 pages of the book. (Raymond J. Smyke & Dennis C. Storer: Nigerian Union of Teachers, An Official History – Oxford University Press, Ibadan, 1974).

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In a special calendar once published by the Nigerian Government in which eminent Nigerians like Herbert Macaulay, Queen Amina of Zaria, King Jaja of Opobo were featured, one month bore Alvan Ikoku’s photograph and profile that ended in the following words: “For his lasting contributions to education he has been immortalised by the Federal Government of Nigeria as a national hero.” The climax is the fact that the Nigerian Ten Naira note bears his photograph.

When Alvan Ikoku died on November 18, 1971, the World Confederation of Organisations of the Teaching Profession sent a cable of condolence to the NUT and ‘Mr. R. J. Smyke wrote a tribute to the memory of this great Nigerian educator which appeared in the 24 December issue of West Africa’ (Official History of NUT, page 282).

From the above account, we can now see why the Advanced Teachers Training College, Owerri, was named after Alvan Ikoku.

This is an excerpt from an article  first published in the Leader Newspaper of 19th May, 2002.