There is something pleasantly unusual about Abolarin College located in Oke-Ila, a border community with Ekiti state in Ifedayo Local Government Area of Osun state. It is the first of its kind in this part of the world.
For any student to be admitted into the school even after passing its entrance examination, he must be from a poor home, where his/her parents cannot afford to send such child to a private school
It is a free boarding school established by the monarch of the town, the Oragun of Oke Ila, Oba Adedokun Abolarin where everything is provided free for the students.
Apart from provision of three square meals per day, the students are given free books, school uniforms and bags, shoes, house wears, toiletries and other essentials.
The school has 131 students from different parts of the country, who were either hawking on the streets, following their parents to farm, or wandering aimlessly in their communities. Some of the students, as in the case of 14-year-old Emmanuel Makinde, were formerly in correctional centres.
Sited on eight acres of land, the school has a block of a storey building with eight classrooms, a library, as well as a computer room. It has a football field, volleyball court and a school farm. There is also a multi-purpose hall which served as the school chapel.
Two bungalows of two bedroom flats serve as the girls’ hostels while another bungalow serve as the boys’ hostel and the house master’s apartment. Located within the girls hostel also are the dining hall and the kitchen, where meals are prepared and the students trained on how to cook.
Besides academic activities, the school offers vocational training for its students; the school farm is another platform for training the students in farming. They engage in planting crops such as yam, maize and vegetables.
According to the founder of the school, Oba Abolarin, the objective of the school was to give opportunity to the bright but poor students to have the best of education. He believes the rich in the society must help the poor in order to secure the future of Nigeria
With a conducive learning environment, decent classrooms, and a maximum of 28 students to a teacher, Abolarin college could be said to be a dream school giving hope to the hopeless and transforming destinies as the students themselves testify.
Life now has a meaning for us——Students
14-year-old Emmanuel Makinde was confined to juvenile home in Ile-Ife, Osun state without a glimmer of hope about life, because his father could not adequately take care of him after his mother left him early in his childhood. However, fortune smiled on him when he was selected into Abolarin College after passing its entrance examination.
For Emmanuel, life now has a meaning and offers hope and he’s ambitious to become a lawyer. “I don’t even want to meet my parents anymore, especially my mother who walked out on me, until I become successful and I have what it takes to take care of both of them. Since I was admitted into the school, I have been made to realise the meaning of hard work, to believe in one’s ability and to be determined, as all of these bring success. I want to be successful and I know I am in the right school”.
Similarly, Stella Adeola, an orphan from Epe in Ekiti state, who now understands the importance of having a dream and wants to become a lawyer, said nothing could stop her from achieving her dream. She said being admitted into the college has actually inspired her as she now believes that being an orphan should not be a barrier to becoming great in life.
Stella said that she had nothing to worry about, as Oba Abolarin provides everything for the students. According to her, “ours is a free full boarding school, kabiyesi provides all our needs, we get three square meals daily, we are given free uniforms, house wears, shoes, books, school bags and even toiletries. My father died before I was born, while my mum died while I was a baby, so I did not really know them, kabiyesi has provided parental care and I am now unstoppable. I want to study civil law so that I can advocate for orphans whose parents’ property were taken over by their relatives and thereby truncating their dreams. I believe there should be equal opportunity for every child irrespective of the parents’ social-economic background in order to have a better society”.
Drawing inspiration from great personalities
The monarch also makes use of his personal contacts who are the movers and shakers in the society to inspire his students.
The college cultural/dramatic group performed at the birthday ceremony of former President Olusegun Obasanjo at his farm house in Ota as well as that of Chief Bisi Akande, where the students met big personalities such as former Osun State Governor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola and were told the inspirational stories of their rise to stardom.
This, for Faith Oluwole, who dreams of becoming a neurosurgeon, has changed her perception about life. She said, “although I was born where I could not afford the luxury we enjoy in school, upon meeting the likes of Mr Deji Adeleke, Dr Kayode Fayemi, Arakunrin Rotimi Akeredolu and Mr Dele Momodu, they all inspired us that with persistence and hard work we could surpass their feat. One thing I will never forget in life when I become a successful neurosurgeon is to reciprocate what kabiyesi has done for me to others”.
When Saturday Vanguard visited the school, despite the holiday necessitated by the pandemic, over 20 students were still staying in the hostels because they did not want to go back home and be a burden to their parents or because there was no one to go back to.
According to Omosewa Kolawole, a 17-year-old SS 2 student, who lost her mother last year, “I don’t want to go home because there is no one to go to and I don’t want to further burden my sister, who is living on her own with. That’s why I stayed back and kabiyesi is taking adequate care of me and the others around|”.
However, for Balikis Oyewole, from Ila, a neighbouring town, she decided to stay back in school so as not be distracted from studies. “If I go back home, my parents will not have time to care for me and I don’t want to be lured by the antics of boys while wandering around”.
To ensure that the students who graduated from the school move on in their educational career, Oba Abolarin ensures that the final year students sit for the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board examination and helps them to secure admission. One of his students, Michael Gabriel, who used to hawk oranges on the streets of Ila, scored 266 in the recently concluded JAMB examinations and sought admission to the University of Lagos.