Dear Old Boys,
The brief history of BFHS I am about to post is a recount of the compendium of information at my disposal all of which came into my possession from stories told to me by some of the Pioneer Old Boys during my personal interaction with them during my several years tenor as President of BIFOBA and from documentation coming into my possession from the School records/ personal notes of some of our Teachers, the likes of Chief Olayeye, Mr R.H White etc. This historical Account which I have made general and summarized is not intended to cast any aspersions and should NOT be made a subject of controversy by Old Boys. On the contrary, it is to be deemed educational materials showcasing the rich and proud heritage of our Alma which a lot of Old Boys are not aware of.
These information were handed over to me by Old Boys and Teachers, some of whom have passed on and I am also handing these records over to the next generation peradventure I also pass, so the next generations are aware of the proud and rich heritage of our School. Let me acknowledge members of the Pioneer Sets both alive and of blessed memories who continually updated me with Sterling stories of our School as they occurred: Engr BON Ehirim, Prince Ben Ukadike, Messrs Adesugba, Engr Olokun, my late Brother Mr. Johnson Dinyo, Mr. Folawewo, Mr. Adegun and several others who I cannot mention.
Sincere thanks to these Gentlemen for making sure the true history of BFHS is not lost but is updated and passed to the next generation.
Fellow Old Boys, I am doing same, not individually as was done to me but on a wider scale and larger reach through this medium
Enjoy the Literature.
BIRCH FREEMAN HIGH SCHOOL:- a unique Secondary School created for Boys.
The Late Dr. David Dale’Story Angle.
Sometimes in the late ‘50s, it was contemplated by the then Western Regional Govt to set up and own a School to compete with the Federal Govt owned Kings College Lagos, whose Admission Policy was gradually becoming tilted and unfair to the children of the then Westerners, despite performing better in the Schools Entrance Exams.
That idea of the new School being contemplated eventually became a reality and various Missions were called to vie for and run the School. The Methodist Mission won the Bid to run the School (that was how the relationship with the Methodist mission started) and the Mission chose to name the School after the Reverend Thomas Birch Freeman, the Gentleman that brought the Methodist Faith to Nigeria., so Birch Freeman High School (BFHS) was birthed in 1959 with the 1st Set of students resuming at Obele Primary School in Surulere pending when the Classrooms are completed at the School’s permanent Site in Akobi Crescent also in Surulere.
Having won the bid to run this new school, the Methodist Mission was faced with the responsibility of appointing a Principal that will run the School that will truly give King’s College a fierce competition in terms of Academics, moral behavior and in all other aspects from among its retinue of Teachers. After their search and deliberations (the now late )Mr. M. J Etuk (who years later became Nigeria’s Ambassador to Uganda) and who was the Vice Principal of Methodist Boys High School, LAGOS was eventually picked to run the new School.
The late Mr. Etuk was a boisterous, no-nonsense experienced Teacher who believed that Boys must be trained and well rounded in all areas of life.
He was set to raise young Boys who can hold their own against the Boys of NOT only Kings College but all colleges in Nigeria and everywhere else in the world and was also going to train boys better than those of Methodist Boys High School where he was coming from.
Such is the confidence and objective of Mr. Etuk at the time.
With his objectives in mind, Mr. Etuk in conjunction with the Ministry of Education officials proceeded to begin to put together a Management Team of Teachers and Administrators that will produce Results matching his vision.
With a strong team that will beat all Schools headed by Mr Etuk having been put in place, a very tough and competitive Admission Examination was conducted and thorough but very rigorous Interview process was also conducted and the 1st Set of Boys (Pioneers) were admitted to BFHS and started Classes in 1961 in the premises of Obele Primary. School.
It was a Herculean task to gain admission into the School at the time as you had to be one of the very best academically and morally, you have to be sound with good parental upbringing. You must be a product of Methodist parents or someone of great influence in the Methodist Church had to write and vouch for you, despite being brilliant before you could be admitted.
Such is the caliber of the Pioneer students that started BFHS. These are students that were brilliant, well rounded, confident and can hold their own against any student anywhere in the world. This was not just a vision, they indeed competed with and won fair and square any competition, Academic, Debates, Sports Morality, name it and BFHS was there.
In an attempt to be different from the other Schools, the Administrators of the School were bent on making the School uniquely different from all other Schools which informed why it was only BFHS students that wore a white Blazer, different from all other Schools, and was the only school that had a uniquely different Badge, the oval shaped Badge.
All other Schools had heart-shaped School Badges,
(I doubt if any other school still have an oval-shaped badge till today)
In just one year of its existence, It didn’t take anybody long to realize that a new School making waves was in town and became a darling School that everybody wanted their Children or Wards to attend.
Several of these Pioneer students Gentlemen have passed on now, but those who are still alive, if you see them, you will observe the quiet yet calculated confidence in them and this rich heritage is what these Gentlemen have handed over to future generations over the years, albeit, now diluted with time and especially when Govt took over all Secondary Schools.
With the intake of the Pioneer students, the need to appoint Prefects from among the students became imperative and a young and youthful looking David Dale was appointed the Senior Prefect alongside other Prefects to maintain a high moral standard amongst the Students themselves.
David Dale was an Arts inclined student and showed promise at that time to be a great Artist. He was so good at the time that Mr. Onabolu, the Schools Arts Teacher could not help but admit how good David Dale was.
To design a Badge for the School at that time, Mr. Etuk charged David Dale to come up with a different but unique design for the School’s Badge telling him what the Badge will contain and the concept/ meaning behind the contents. He gave him 2 days off from school to come up with a design and working with Mr. Onabolu finally came up with the unique School Badge that we have today.
Now, in the area of Academic performance, Mr. Etuk Set an exceptionally high standard for the students.
Usually, at that time, the Ministry of Education always insists that “new” Schools must use a minimum of 6 years to train their pioneer students before presenting them to sit for WASC Exams so as not to depress the results of the Western Region area who were normally regarded as the most educated at that time.
Our boisterous Mr. Etuk, however, fought with the Ministry officials and insisted that he wasn’t going to use 6 years. 3 new Schools were going to present their pioneer students for the Exams namely BFHS, St Finbarrs, and Ansarudeen Isolo but Mr. Etuk wasn’t even going to use the regular 5 years. Being so sure of himself and his Staff, Mr. Etuk was going to present his 1st Batch of Students to write WASC Exams in Form 4.
The Ministry officials rejected his Proposal, he insisted and after several representations to the Minister of Education as they were referred to then, he was given the go ahead to present them in 5 years with warnings that he would suffer the consequences if the students do not perform well. St Finbarrs and Ansar Udeen had to wait 6 years to present their pioneer students.
Mr. Etuk, therefore, had to create an extremely high academic standard for the School to follow.
Shortly thereafter, Mr. Etuk had to travel to the UK to run a Masters Program and the mantle of running the school fell on the Late Pa D.S.O Soremekun standing in for him and the other members of staff to run the School in his absence.
Given his charge to present his 1st Set of Students to write WASC in after 5 years of Tutelage, the School had to ensure that only the best students must be put forward for the exam consequently early in the Schools’s history, a Policy that all students must pass Mathematics and English before proceeding to the next Class “No pass in Maths & English, No promotion to the next Class” was a Parlance all students of BFHS knew in those days and the School Authorities strictly enforced that Policy. That Policy created by Mr. Etuk in BFHS at that time eventually became the Govt’s Policy adopted even till today.
Such was the vision of our Mr. MJ Etuk of blessed memory.
Several students ran foul of that Policy and had to repeat classes because of that singular Policy which students believe was draconian at that time.
Eventually, Mr. Etuk presented his 1st Batch of a few but well-tutored Students for WASC and the results when it came out was “phenomenal”. 100% success.
Virtually all of the students came up with Grade 1 and a few Grade 2s.
History was made, it had never happened before. Mr. Etuk became an Enigma and BFHS became the School to send your children to.
That is the proud heritage of BFHS. BFHS knocked all the other Schools down and BFHS students held their heads high anywhere and at any Event subsequently.
We became the School to attempt to beat.
The older Schools, CMS Grammar School. Igbobi College, Baptist Academy, our Neighbor EKO Boys and even the Federal Govt owned King’s College couldn’t believe what happened. BFHS stunned everybody.
The David Dale angle.
Yes David Dale designed the School Badge, yes he was the 1st Senior Prefect and a fantastic Artist, however, in his 3rd year, he ran foul of the No pass in Maths and English Policy and was asked to repeat the Class. He made several representations to Mr. Etuk and requested for a waiver of that Policy. He did all possible to get promoted but Mr. Etuk was not going to show any favoritism. He stood his ground and told David Dale that there was not going to be any exceptions to the Rule, that he was the Senior Prefect notwithstanding.
Mr. Etuk insisted that he was not going to present a Candidate he wasn’t sure will make the WASC Exams.
David Dale was subsequently stripped of the Senior Prefect position and same-handed over to Mr. Orioye who became the 2nd Pioneer Senior Prefect, and annually went on to Mr. Adesugba and next to Mr. Folawewo.
David Dale expectedly, was unhappy but rather than accept the position as had happened to some of his Classmates, he chose to change School and got admitted to St Gregorys ‘College.
David Dale walked out of BFHS premises and never looked back at the School. He cut off all links and relationships with the School and completely erased BFHS from his Resume. That, Gentlemen, is the reason why you will NOT find any mention of BFHS in the late Dr. David Dale’s Profile.
As an Artist, David Dale was good and turned out to be one of the best Artists that Nigeria has ever produced.
He also had a younger Brother Julius Dale in BFHS of the 1974 Set who was also Fine Art inclined. I guess Fine Arts runs in their family.
GUILD MEMBERSHIP ANGLE.
Some couple of years back, when Dr. David Dale attained International status and was all over the news worldwide on his Arts Achievements, some of his Classmates recommended him to the Awards Committee for consideration for BIFOBA’s Award of Excellence based on his Accomplishments as an Artist.
The Awards Committee considered the request but had to turn the request down because the main ingredient of the Award he was to be considered for, was that the Candidate through his Achievements must have projected the name of our School BFHS positively, into the limelight.
For the Awards Committee, it was a case of how do you give such an award to someone who does NOT want to have anything to do with your School and who in-fact deliberately removed any link with BFHS from his Profile?
How do you want to give an Award of our Association and School’s highest order to someone who wasn’t even going to submit his CV to the Awards Committee?
So, much as some of his friends/ Classmates tried to push his case for an Award, on both occasions, his nominations were turned down.
Dr. Dale was therefore NOT going to be considered for an Award in BFHS at that time or anytime in the near future for as long as he does not identify with BFHS.
Unfortunately, he held his position until he passed on and for those who do not know the complete story of Dr. David Dale and who are of the view that a posthumous Award be considered, I do believe will change their mind as BIFOBA’s position on its Awards especially for the Gentleman is NOT likely to change.
That, however, does not in any way preclude BIFOBA and BFHS from recognizing the Gentleman’s achievement in the art world and the fact that he was indeed instrumental to the design of our unique School Badge.
The above Gentlemen is part of History as was told to me by Old Boys of the Pioneer Sets and some of the documentation and personal notes of Teachers that I had access to during my Presidency of BIFOBA.