When the pantheon of educational institutions that influenced men and societies is unveiled, the name Etinan Institute will take its pride of place. Established in the year 1915, the institution has grown with the growth of the people of the old Eastern region offering a refreshing vista in the journey to self reliance.
Historical fossils show that Etinan Institute, Etinan was a free gift from a Presbyterian Minister who had willed that part of his money should be spent in building a school anywhere in West Africa for the education of Africans under the umbrella of Qua Iboe Mission. To this end, a delegation was sent abroad to negotiate the execution of this will through Rev. Kirk who was then acting for Rev. Samuel Bill who was on leave overseas. During this negotiation, Mr. Robert James Taylor, who later became the first Principal of the school was contacted. With the completion of negotiation, the school was first built at Okat in the present day Onna Local Government Area, as Qua Iboe Mission Boy’s Institute in 1891. It was a special primary school and remained at Okat from until 1896. In 1896 the school was transferred to Nditia in Ibeno and after seven years it was transferred to Ikot Edong in Abak. After more than a decade it was closed down. In 1915 it was re-opened as Boy’s Institute, Etinan. The historical details is a writer’s delight and will be saved for future treats.
The principal objective of the founding fathers of Etinan Institute in the early 20th century was to prepare its pupils for effective evangelistic work in the newly established Qua Iboe Churches. The pupils were to become preachers and teachers. It may interest you to know that at the inception of Etinan Institute, there were 30 pupils on the roll, most of who were village preachers engaged in teaching in the village schools. Some of these first set of students were older than then Principal, Mr. Taylor and many of them came to the boarding house with their own houseboys. These pupils were drawn from the Mission Districts of Ikot Ubo, Uyo, Ikot Edong and Etinan. The first set of pupils included, Pastor D. S. Usanga, Elder Frank U. Eshiet, Elder T. M. U. Etuk and Andrew Umoren. For about two years, Mr. Taylor served as the only teacher in the school. He was later assisted by some pioneer pupils like T. M. U. Etuk and Jimmy Mfon. For many years, no school fees were charged; the pupils brought their food from home and each was responsible for cooking his meal. The school became government grant-aided in 1928. From that time, each pupil was charged school fees. In the early days, much emphasis was placed on the teaching of the Scriptures, good handwriting and mental Arithmetic.
In terms of infrastructure, which is the kernel of this offering, the school started with only one building which consisted of a large hall and two small classrooms. Mud dormitories were used later and a few structures were built while a bungalow with corrugated iron sheets was built for the Principal, whose house was at that time used for administrative purposes.
The first girl pupils were among the pupils who took a one-year teacher training course in the Institute in 1942. However, the school became co-educational in 1949. The first set of female students were those brought back by Mrs. Mabel Tector from Calabar, when the Qua Iboe Church decided that it would not join in the establishment of the Christian Council Union Secondary School for girls at Ibiaku in present Ibiono Ibom Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State. Miss Nne Benson Akpaette, who later became the wife of Dr. Clement Isong, former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria and later also Governor of the old Cross River State, was the among the first set of female students.
The socio-econo-political development of Nigeria has been finely shaped by this great institutions. Its products have traversed the entire universe breaking new grounds and conquering it. Some of the prominent names of its old students include: Brigadier General Udokaha Jacob Esuene , pioneer Military Governor of South Eastern State;
Obong Akpan Isemin, first civilian Governor of Akwa Ibom State; Group Captain Idongesit Nkanga, former Military Governor of Akwa Ibom State; Group Captain Sam Enwang, former Military Governor of Ogun and Rivers States; Obong Ufot J. Ekaette, former Secretary to Government of the Federation; Prof. Sunday Peters, former Vice-Chancellor of Akwa Ibom State University; Late Prof. Monday Abasiattai, a renowned Historian; Late Prof. Ime Ikkideh, a renowned Professor of English; Late Prof. Akpan J. A. Esen, a prominent Educationist and former Provost of the Advanced Teacher’s Training College and later College of Education, Uyo (which metamorphosed into the University of Cross River State and later University of Uyo). Late Chief Charles Ekere, Permanent Secretary/Acting Secretary to Government of Eastern Region; Deaconess Nne Clement Isong, retired Permanent Secretary and wife of the Former Governor of old Cross River State; Elder Effiong Esang, former Secretary of Akwa Ibom State Government; Late Obong John Ekwere, a renowned broadcaster and community leader and not forgetting the ebullient commissioner for works, Akwa Ibom State, Akparawa Ephraim Inyangeyen, who was also a school prefect in his time. The list is more than a century old and therefore inexhaustible.
As Uwem Akpan of the University of Uyo notes, Etinan Institute has recorded remarkable strides in the annals of education in Nigeria. The institution has established an enviable tradition in academics and extra-curricular activities. Judging by the products of the institution in the last 100 years of its existence, it is certain that the school has consistently served as a veritable tool of nation building although the existing physical infrastructure cannot matched its relevance to the Nigerian nation.
Sadly, the growth has not greatly reflected on the physical outlook of the institution. The infrastructure has steadily decayed over the years and has begged for attention. Enter Governor Udom Emmanuel, a man with a proven penchant for restoring time tested institutions. It is that same spirit and vigour that inspired him to renovate and build new blocks at the St Luke’s Hospital, Anua. He took a step further to Cornelia Cornelly College where he built inner roads and gave several buildings in the school a face lift.
On Tuesday, 23rd August, 2016, Governor Udom Emmanuel through his Commissioner for works gladly announced government’s readiness to remodel the school, construct internal roads and rehabilitate classroom blocks. Credits must also go to the member representing Etinan State Constituency in the House of Assembly, Barr Dennis Akpan for his unwavering calls to give the school a face lift. Presenting the matter via a motion titled; “The Alarming Infrastructural Decay At The 100years Centre of Excellence, Etinan Institute, Etinan, on the floor of the house, Hon. Dennis Akpan said that the institute founded by missionaries in 1915 has not benefited from the massive renovation of infrastructures in the public schools across the State. He noted that “Education unarguably has become one of the dependable global indices that social, economic, culture and political developments of people in a different race and geographical location and predicated. In Akwa Ibom State, one educational institution that had carved out a name for herself as a center of excellence in the distant past in Etinan institute in Etinan Local Government”.
Governor Udom Emmanuel is passionate about education. He ensures prompt payment of primary and secondary school teacher’s salaries despite the economic situation and has also provided subvention for the payment of newly recruited staff of Akwa Ibom State University. As basic as this sounds, several states in the country are owing worker’s salaries for several months. The Government has not only offset WAEC and NABTEB examination fees for students, but have also provided funds for laboratory reagents for practical examinations. Governor Udom Emmanuel has provided counter- part funding to access UBEC fund for over 300 projects across schools in our state. ICT has been boosted with the commissioning of two ICT centres at Government Technical School, Ewet and Topfaith Int’l School, Mkpatak while releasing 250 laptops and computers to various other schools. Beyond the basic level, scholarships and grants are still on-going (like that for law and Medical students) 30 Akwa Ibomites recently returned from a government sponsored Master’s programme on ICT.
Timeless thanks will continue to go to the Qua Iboe Missionaries for establishing Etinan Institute with almost bare knuckles. As the Late Sir Udo Udoma once wrote “the evangelists (who built Etinan Institute) were not sponsored by any well established and recognized organized missionary association unlike the United Presbyterian Church of Scotland. The evangelists of the Qua Iboe Mission, were a daring and enterprising lot…resourceful and enterprising as they were, they lacked financial support from an organized body in Great Britain and Ireland”.
*Finbarr is Special Assistant to the Governor, Media