The Early Days

8th Mar, 1895
Image Post

The Scottish missionary Mary Mitchell Slessor, who had done much work with the Efik people around Calabar, was a driving force behind the establishment of the Institution. Edinburgh was hesitant about accepting Slessor's demand to establish an industrial training center, but eventually decided to set up an institute on similar lines to its two existing ones in Africa, Lovedale Institute in South Africa and Livingstonia in Nyasaland. Robert Laws, a United Presbyterian minister who had been involved with both of these institutions for a long time, was sent to make a feasibility study. Laws expressed complete confidence that the success of the other two schools could be replicated in Calabar. In his book, Hope Waddell Training Institution - Life & Work (1894 - 1978), the Late E. U. Aye, a former Principal of the school, notes: "In February 1895, Sir Claude Macdonald was in England to submit his report on the Institution to the British Parliament at Westminster. He made the following comments: A most important and useful departure has been made by the Presbyterian Missionary Society in starting industrial schools in Old Calabar. These Schools are assisted by a yearly grant of £200 from the revenue. A valuable piece of foreshore for the erection of saw mills, etc., and an excellent site for schools has also been granted free to the Society by the Government of the Protectorate. "The Board of the Mission in Scotland decided and requested the Synod of the United Presbyterian Church to commemorate the work of the Reverend Hope Masterton Waddell in Calabar by naming the Institution - Hope Waddell Training Institution. Reverend Waddell himself, a grand old pensioner aged ninety-one years, was living at home in Dublin. Unfortunately, he never heard of the proposal nor lived to see the monument in his name. He died on 18th of April, 1895, two days after the request was made. And no more deserving epitaph on him than what the Record bore on his behalf: 'No worthier wreath could the Synod lay upon his honoured grave than it has done by associating his name with what we trust will be for many years to come a fountain of ever growing blessing to Western Africa'." The first school building was a prefabricated classroom block of corrugated iron sheets and Scandinavian pitch pine, built by a Glasgow firm and shipped to Calabar where it was assembled in 1894. By March 1895 teaching had commenced. The school provided practical training, primarily tailored towards male students, in carpentry, masonry, blacksmithing, coopering, naval engineering, brickmaking, bricklaying, and other crafts. The school maintained a vessel on the Calabar River, "The Diamond" for use by students studying maritime subjects. The region of Calabar called Diamond Hill takes its name from the vessel. In 1898 the school began teaching tailoring and bakery, with the products sold in the city markets. Agricultural students who worked on maintaining the botanical gardens and public parks in Calabar were given free board, clothing and tuition and some pocket money. They showed that new plants to the region including mango, banana, coffee and especially lemon and orange could flourish, although local farmers resisted these innovations. In 1902, Rev. James Luke introduced soccer into the timetable despite opposition by parents, who thought it was a waste of time. Luke defended the sport as being healthy and teaching children cooperation and self-discipline. In the first two decades of the twentieth century, many Hope Waddell graduates moved to Lagos, from 1906 the capital of the new Protectorate of Southern Nigeria, to take white-collar jobs with the government. They brought with them their love of soccer, fostering the growth of teams in the city. Luke, who had picked up the game during seven years as a missionary in Jamaica, could thus perhaps be credited with introducing soccer to Nigeria.

Notice Board