History of MBHS

school-staff-1927In 1859, the C.M.S. Grammar School, Lagos, was established by Rev. T.B. Macaulay.This school which was a response to the strong demand by the educated Africans for the provision of higher education for their children was the first Secondary Grammar School in Nigeria.

The success of this school stimulated the desire of the African members of the Methodist communion for a similar institution. This desire was first expressed in 1868. In 1870, it was brought to the attention of the resident Minister, but nothing came out of this.

On January 13, 1874, a public meeting was summoned to ascertain the wishes of members of the Church on this issue. This meeting was held at Olowogbowo Methodist Church under the direction of Rev. John Milum, the Superintendent of the Circuit. The leading members of the mission present at that meeting were Rev. N. Jones, Messrs. J.11. Thomas, J.S. Leigh, W.P. Richards, T. F. Cole I.A. Byass and C.J. George.

The meeting decided unanimously in favour of having a high school and pledged itself to raise the sum of £500 towards the erection of a new building that would befit the school, since the mission house was too dilapidated to serve as a school building. It was also decided that another meeting be reconvened within two weeks to discuss the memorial which LB. Thomas was requested to prepare.

The adjourned meeting resumed on the 22nd. The memorial was warmly received and was signed by twenty-five leading members of the Wesleyan Methodist Society Porter, LB. Thomas, E.T. Davies, T.F. Cole, J. Richards, John Metzar, Thomas Joe, T.G. Hoare, J.S. Leigh, W. Euba, H.C. Sawyer, R.A. Alder, J.B. Bucknor, C.J. George, W.P. Richards, LW. Cole, John L. Baptist, LB. Carrol, J.J. Williams, LT. Ashley, C.W. Cole, I.A. Byass, E.T. Ludlow, S.S. Davies and C.W. Pratt. These men pledged themselves to raise the £500 needed for the project. The memorial was then submitted to Rev. John Milum for submission to the District meeting and the Missionary Committee in England, as he was on his way back to England after a spell of three years on the West Coast.

The memorial made abundantly clear the reasons behind the demand for the school. It stated, with some exaggeration, that lack of a secondary school by the Wesleyan Mission made many converts to methodism turn to the Anglican Church, because many of them had to go to the C.M.S. Grammar School for their secondary education and in the process were influenced to become churchmen. Secondly, that such an institution was needed for the training of African agents for the mission.

The school was therefore to serve a two-fold object; a training institution for African agents and a Grammar School, although the emphasis was on the latter as the number of students to be admitted for training as agents was limited to eight.

The memorial was submitted to the District meeting, which recommended it to the Missionary Committee. The Committee gave it its blessing. Following this, a meeting was held on the 4th of April, 1875 under the chairmanship of Rev. John Milurn to receive subscriptions and to take positive steps to achieve the objective. A Building Committee was set up and Messrs. J.L. Baptist and J.J. Williams were mandated to prepare a plan for the building. This was done and construction work started in earnest. The building was completed in June 1877 and was described as being "beautifully furnished with educational appliances of the most modem description".

Formal Opening

On March 14, 1878 the school was formally opened by the Governor, John D.A. Dumaresq., C.M.G., with Rev. W. Terry Coppin as the first Principal with two assistants, W.B. Euba and J.H. Samuel both of whom later entered the Ministry and served the school as Principals. The first, batch of students was taken in in April 1878. There were 12 names on the roll. Among the twelve was George Stone Smith, the first on the list and therefore the Senior Foundation Scholar. George Smith became known later as Dr. Orishadipe Obasa of Ikija, a leader of society and the co-founder with Dr. John Randle of the Peoples' Union in 1909, the first purely political association in modem Nigeria. There were in addition to these twelve-six mission agents-in-training. By the end of the year the number on roll had increased to 23 boys and 7 agents and work had commenced in earnest.

The school uniform, which was worn on special occasions only, consisted of black trousers and a white coat and the school colours were white and gold. The uniform was changed in the twenties to white trousers, brown blazer with the school badge and straw hat with the school hatband, and the colours changed to chocolate, blue and gold; and the school motto was Numquam non paratus: "Be always prepared". The uniform was later changed into white short or trousers, white jacket with the school badge and the school cap instead of the straw hat.

The blazer is now worn on important occasions. It has remained so till today.

The school declared as its aim the preparation of young men for commercial and literary life. There can be little doubt that it was directed at the professional and businessmen in Lagos. It listed in its prospectus the subjects that were to be offered. These included English and Orthography, Writing, Dictation, Arithmetic, Algebra, Grammar, History (secular and sacred), Geography, Classics, Prose Writers and Prose. Other subjects could be given at extra cost and these were: Latin, Greek, Hebrew, French and other Modem Languages, Geometry, Trigonometry, Bookkeeping, Drawing, Rhetoric and Logic, Moral Philosophy and Political Economy. There were still others such as Roman and Grecian Histories, Mythology and Antiquities, Natural Philosophy, Astronomy, Chemistry, Physiology, Geology and Botany. This prospectus was certainly too, ambitious. It aimed, too high. Even a well-equipped secondary school nowadays would be incapable of offering all the courses listed in the prospectus. It is not surprising that Ajayi had this to say about it:

"The more ambitious among us might feel envious of what rich intellectual education we missed until we remember that the Principal had but two assistants, and they were not supermen."1

However, the Principal added a proviso and that is, that he reserved the right to decide in consultation with parents and guardians what additional subject each pupil shall take up because as he stated: "premature attention to higher studies is often disastrous to real educational advancement."

Although the prospectus placed emphasis on preparing students for commercial and literary fife it also dwelt on the need to produce men of character. As the Rev. E.W. Thompson, Secretary of the Wesleyan Mission reminded those in charge of the school in 1928 "your object is to fashion men into the likeness of Christ, for He is the standard and pattern of manhood for all races". The school did take seriously from the start not only the task of imparting knowledge but of really fashioning men "unto the likeness of God". The students were given strict Christian upbringing. Attendance at morning service was compulsory at the Trinity Methodist Church and in the evening at Wesleyan Church, Olowogbowo. Attendance at Sunday School at Tinubu was also compulsory. As part of character training, boys of the school maintained for several years a bed in the Wesley Guild Hospital, Ilesha and contributed £15 annually to the British and Foreign Bible Society. This was a practical way of inculcating in the students the spirit of love and charity. That tradition has survived till today. To further generate absolute upselfishness the original motto of the school which was Numquam non paratus was changed during Euba's Principalship to Non sibi sed aliis: "Not for us but for others".

Management of the School

Until 1890 the Missionary Committee managed the school. In that year an agreement was signed between that body and the Lagos Circuit whereby the school was transferred to the latter.

Under the agreement, the Lagos Circuit was to pay to the Missionary Committee for the house, furniture, school appliances, out-houses, and the entire premises an annual rent of four pounds (£4) in equal quarterly instalments and further maintain the entire premises in good and thorough repairs, except repairs which might be needed for the-wall adjoining the Mission House Compound.

The cost of such repairs was to be equally shared between the Mission Committee and the Lagos Circuit. The general Missionary Committee in London agreed to grant to the Lagos Circuit for purpose of running the school a sum of (£100) One hundred pounds for the year 1890,and would continue making grants diminishing by £10 per year up to and including 1899.

It also agreed to make a donation of £10 for 1890 and 1891 respectively; the amountto be paid in four equal instalments. It further agreed to pay to the Lagos Circuit for theboard and education of mission agents-in-training at the rate of £12 per year for each student and with the proviso, that if at any time a surplus remained after meeting all expenses, this should be applied to the purposes of the school at the discretion of the Local Committee. The Committee also reserved to itself the right to revoke the arrangement if it should prove unsatisfactory. Finally, the whole property including buildings, furniture and school appliances were to remain the property of the Wesleyan Missionary Committee and were to revert to that Committee if at any time the arrangement was annulled.

The agreement was signed by John T.F. Halligey, (Chairman and General Superintendent); and on behalf of the Lagos Circuit by A.C. Franklin, (Circuit Superintendent); J.B. Williams, (Circuit Steward)',. G.J. Cole, (Circuit Secretary);

J.S.Leigh, (Treasurer, School Committee). Following this agreement, a Local Committee was appointed for the school, by the Quarterly Meeting of the Lagos Circuit. It consisted of twelve members of the Wesleyan Methodist Society in the Lagos Section of the then Gold Coast and Lagos District. The Treasurer and the Secretary were elected from these twelve. The Committee was to be reappointed or readjusted at the first meeting, of the Circuit Quarterly Meeting held in each year. The Chairman of the Committee was the GeneralSuperintendent of the Lagos District. The 1890 Committee members were J.T.F. Halligey, (Chairman); A.C. Franklin (Vice-Chairman); Messrs. J.S. Leigh, J.S. Bucknor, J.J. Thomas, LB. Williams, H.C. Sawyer, G.T. Cole, J.0. Connor Williams, Chas V. Randle, J.B. Bunyann and C.I.R. Cole. Others that served on the Committee over the years with distinction included Dr. Obasa (appointed Secretary in 1898); J.J. Thomas, C.A. Sapara-Williams, C.J. Porter, (Secretary); and Rev. J.B.L. Lawson, (Secretary).

The composition of the Management Committee has not changed much. With changing times, it was reorganised to include representatives of the Ministry of Education as well as of the Old Boys' Association.

  1. J.F. Ade Ajayi, 'The Development of Secondary Grammar School Education in Nigeria" in Journal of the Historical of Nigeria. Vol.2, No.4, December 1963, p.504.

It is in these various ways that efforts have been made to provide students with a broad and sound education thereby equipping them for effective roles in their society.

The Early Years

By the end of 1879 barely a year after it started, the number of students on the roll had risen to 35 with 5 mission students. On the 23rd of December of that year, the first prize-giving ceremony was held. His Excellency, Governor Moloney distributed the prizes. There were 16 prizes in all to be shared by 35 lucky students, and George Smith (Obasa) headed the list of prize-winners, thus demonstrating his ability right from the outset.

By 1896 the number of students had risen to 70 and the staff to 8 and with the opening of the Wesley College, Ibadan in 1905, the training of mission agents ceased to be undertaken by the school.

Although the school grew steadily in population and stature within the first thirty years, there were teething problems which were not fully surmounted until the post World War I period when the Colonial administration began to take more seriously its responsibility for education by increasing substantially grants-in-aid to schools.

One of the problems facing the school was how. to obtain qualified teachers. Apart from shortage of well-trained teachers, there was the fact that teachers were not well paid much more so by the missions. In addition, their conditions of service left a great deal to be desired. There was no specific scale of salaries and teachers applied for increment whenever they felt they deserved more pay, and this could be granted or refused. The result was that it was difficult to retain their services for a long time, except for the few dedicated ones. To make matters worse, they were not paid regularly because of lack of fund by the school. For example, it was reported in October 1895 that the school staff had not been paid for the past two months. The school sometime had to resort to monitorial system to fill gaps. Some of the senior boys were appointed monitors or pupil teachers and were given inducements such as reduction in their school fees. For instance, in 1903, there were 68 names on the roll and the teaching staff was made up of only the Principal and two teachers. Obviously, the three of them could not manage the students effectively. Consequently, Theo Solanke and Allworthy Craig, senior students, were appointed pupil teachers at the rate of 30/- each per month. This amount was to include boarding, books and pocket allowance.

A major problem and one that continued to plague the school until the first decade of this century was that of inadequate finance. The schools depended on the school fees, grants-in-aid from the Missionary Committee and from the government in order to meet its commitments. The grants-in-aid were most inadequate. In fact, it was not until 1892 that the school received its first grants-in-aid of £71.9.0d. Though the grants increased with the passage of time, nevertheless, they were still not adequate. As late as 1922, the Annual Report on Departments of Education (Northern and Southern Provinces), stated that the problems facing education was basically lack of funds; that the mission schools were qualified in every way to be put on the assisted list, but they had to be refused because the required funds was not available.

It continued: "In most cases the missionary societies have incurred considerable expense in bringing the schools up to the standard and are naturally very disappointed when their applications are refused on financial grounds.2 The grant from the mission did not go far either. Consequently, the school had to rely on school fees to meet its financial requirements. But this did not help much. The trouble was not that school fees being charged were not adequate but that the fees were not regularly paid. For example, in March 1890 the balance of fees outstanding was £27.5.1d.

By June it was £28.11.3d. In September the picture was much better. The outstanding fees for the month being £17.13.5d. But in December of that year, outstanding fees amounted to £64.19.2d. In the meantime all monies in hand had been spent on the boarders without corresponding return. The situation was so bad that in December of that year, it was decided that tuition fees must be paid at the beginning of or at the end of each quarter, and any student who did not pay within 14 days of the quarter shall be sent out of school; that all outstanding fees must be paid before the close of the year and that the school would resort to law to collect from those still owing the school by the time the school re-opened in 1891.

The School Committee wanted to make it abundantly clear that a High School was not a primary school where allowance could be made for poverty and that parents and guardians must be made to realize that if they wanted a higher education for their boys, they must be ready to pay for it. Circulars were accordingly sent to all parents and guardians of pupils attending the school. To make matters worse, members of the Wesleyan Society and some members of the School Management Committee were defaulters. In fact, members of the Wesleyan Society were owing the school for their children a total amount of £94. As a solution to this, Mr. LA. King, a member of the School. Committee was appointed Financial Secretary to the school with powers to collect and sue in court for monies owing on account of the school.

He was paid £1.1/, to employ a messenger in connection with this responsibility. In May 1891 the first legal action was taken when a solicitor, C.A. Williams, was employed to collect money for board and books from a defaulting parent. The amount was £63.15.1d. Williams sued the parent concerned to court. This, however, did not deter defaulters, because solicitors continued to be employed up to this century to collect debts from those owing the school on behalf of their children and wards. For example, Kitoyi Ajasa was appointed to do this in April 1901 and in May, Otunba Payne was appointed to do the same with the proviso that he would be paid a retainer fee of £5. 5/- and 15 per cent of all amounts collected.

As a result of this problem the school found itself unable to pay its teachers on a number of occasions. On the 26th September, 1890, Rev. W.B. Euba reported that the Committee was still owing the school £5.5.10d, being the balance of grants-in-aid from the Committee in London and that he had no money in hand to defray the expenses of the school for the current quarter, and that he had not been paid his salary for the last five months. In 1896, the whole staff of the school could not be paid for the quarter ending September of that year and some were not paid for the past two quarters. This continuous financial problem made it difficult to improve facilities in the school. In 1891, the school building needed repairs but this could not be carried out because of lack of fund. In that same year Rev. W.B. Euba was twice brought before the District Court and fined 5/- each occasion for lack of necessary repairs to the building. On the 3rd of March 1891 the building was inspected aid it was recommended that the commode (toilet) be removed from its existing site and that a building be erected for it on the 'North-west' of the yard. Furthermore the dining rooms were to be repaired and the wall must be located near the kitchen and the one in use be closed up and the following repairs carried out during the Easter vacation:

  1. Removing cement from the floor of the school only and repairing it with bricks.
  2. White-washing the whole building and outhouses.

These could not be carried out because of lack of funds. It was only the school hall, which was badly in need of repairs, was renovated. Even the house occupied by the Principal was in such a deplorable condition that it was decided to supply him with a new accommodation; but lack of fund was again a handicap. The situation was so bad that fear was entertained that the Department of Education might close down the school.

Academic Performance

What is impressive about the school was that despite this serious handicap, it made significant progress both in population and academic -excellence. As we have already noted, by 1896 the number of students had risen to 70 and the staff to 8. By 1910 the number on the roll had risen to 150 and the need for more- classroom accommodation was beginning to be felt. Consequently in 1912 additions were made to the front of the school hall, thereby making available several new classrooms. And in 1916 a spacious hall measuring 78 ft. by 42 ft. was constructed near the Broad Street entrance. That hall still remains today though with some modifications.

As regards academic performance, the school's reputation was very high. In 1891the Principal, Rev. W.B. Euba, introduced the College of Preceptors Examinations and at the end of that year 14 candidates were successful.

By, 1894 no less than 47 certificates had been awarded to the pupils of the school, the highest number of any school on the West Coast. 3

  1. Acting Secretary, S.P. to Chief Secretary, June 1, 1923, CSO 26.
  2. Jubilee Souvenir, 1878-1928, p. 21

The high standard maintained by the school can also be substantiated by reports of Inspectors of Education. In 1889, for example, the Inspectors complained of the undesirable state of the classrooms (a regular complaint) but stated as regards to performance that the general standard subjects were fairly dealt with.

In 1891 the report noted that hall and classrooms were satisfactory and admirably suited for school purposes and that there were sufficient number of desks. It went on to note that the standard of organisation and discipline was good and that in terms of performance considerable improvement was observed.

In 1893 the report emphasised that there was substantial progress made. It noted that much sounder work was done but that there was still room for improvement and that school buildings and classrooms were satisfactory while organization and discipline were good and that the school had improved considerably.

In 1899 Governor MacGregor, M.D., K.C.M.G., C.B visited the school, examined the Senior Classes in several subjects and was impressed by the standard achieved. And in 1900 the Inspector of Education noted that the school had not for sometime past had such good teaching staff as at present. He concluded: "I am glad to report the improvement in school mechanism and method of instruction".

There were, of course, years in which the reports were unfavourable but these were few and *far between. On the whole, and in relation to other schools in the country, the performance was very satisfactory.

Right from its early days the school attempted not only to produce thoroughly competent scholars but youths with well-rounded education. Thus as early as 1886 there existed a Debating Society and a Field Club. The Field Club's activities included going around the countryside on Wednesdays and Saturdays identifying flowers, birds and animals, one main aim being to secure the correct correlation of English and Yoruba names for these objects. In 1891 a School Magazine - Grapnel was started. It was issued twice a month. It was handwritten and entirely run by the boys. Because of its irksome method of production it did not survive long. Five years later another magazine -The High Schoolian - made its appearance. This one did not survive for more than two years owing to reasons that were obscure. Nevertheless, efforts continued to be made over the years in establishing a school magazine and various ones with different titles have appeared at different times. In May 1916 the Rev. L.C. Mead began a branch of the Scout Movement in the school.

It was the second branch in Lagos and survives till today. At one stage, it was the only school with the largest number of King's Scout and the first school to win the Scouting competition. Numerous other societies-Red Cross, Dramatic Society, Musical Society-abound till today.