It is every man’s obligation to put back into the world at least the equivalent of what he takes of it. – Albert Einstein
If you are reading this, you are most likely a graduate of secondary school, college, polytechnic or university. There is no question that in present day Nigeria, attending one form of school or another is a privilege to many considering millions of school age children who should be in school but are not due to reasons we all know of but very few are willing to discuss; unfortunately. To you that have had access to education and graduated from any of the categories of school listed above, in addition to being grateful to Allah (SWA), it is about time you plan your first homecoming to that same old school that accepted you above many other equally-qualified candidates. It also trained, tested, examined and certified you as a graduate, thereby propelling you to your present position.
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Homecoming is an American annual tradition that started around 1909 with various claims about University of Missouri, Baylor University or University of Illinois as the first to officially start this event. As an annual event, homecoming literally means a kind of coming back not just to your family home, but coming back to your former school; an opportunity for each school’s alumni to visit their alma mater where their journey to the world of endless opportunities began. It is a kind of visit that avails the alumni the chance to see and gauge what progress their former school has recorded, meet their former classmates, old friends, teachers and members of the school’s community they were once part of.
Sometimes it is the school that organises the annual homecoming event in order to welcome back and celebrate their alumni as part of the school’s larger community. Activities during this celebration among American schools and their alumni vary widely.
However, most schools in the United States organise this around a central event – American football. Other important events include activities for students and alumni, banquet or dancing as part of the culture of the first people who are believed to have started the homecoming event.
Back home in Nigeria, schools or former students of any school should come together and organise a homecoming gathering where activities such as school/teacher-students-alumni engagement and general issues on how to move the school forward would be discussed. Everyone can achieve more when there is synergy in form of a homecoming gathering among alumni, students and their teachers
The deteriorating conditions of schools in Nigeria are well known to all and discussing how to make it better should be the concern of everyone rather than repeating the endless lists of the challenges.
The coming together of former and present students with their teachers, during homecoming can be the best forum for proffering solutions to challenges facing their alma mater. Therefore, as you plan for your maiden homecoming either as individual or group, alumni should consider looking at where the school presently is in relations to where it should actually be. Your wealth of experience should enable you to understand what the school has been doing and what it has not been doing first, and come up with ways on how together as a team, you can close the gaps. Some might think this is going to be tough given the economic situation in the country, however with sincerity of purpose; it is absolutely within not just the realm of possibility, but in fact within the realm of likelihood.
For example, during my Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant (FLTA) scholarship at Michigan State University, USA, I lived in the prestigious Owen Graduate Hall. It is a fully furnished living and learning environment for graduate and professional students that also include weekly housekeeping. That state-of-the-art students’ hostel was built in 1960 and named after Floyd Owen, a former student of the university’s class of 1902 who provided part of the funding to build the hall, presumably during one of the university’s homecoming students-alumni activities.
Stories of generous donations to schools by their former students are many. This shows that former students of any college or university can choose to serve as pillars and donors who can upgrade dilapidating schools across the country, provide learning materials and or the much-needed funding for research and publications for university’s faculty and students through active participation, donations and engagements with school’s management and other stakeholders.
If you finally decide to embark on your first homecoming, kindly remember what Albert Einstein said, “The value of a man resides in what he gives and not in what he is capable of receiving.”
Therefore, visit them, greet them and give them (that little gift which you think is insignificant) with dignity. You will be surprised how you will be celebrated by your former teachers and most importantly how happy everyone will be with that first homecoming. Your donations might be smaller than what can make a headline, but too great to be forgotten by your former teachers and the school community. You can also be a strong partner in this chain of giving-back-to-base through encouraging your friends and former classmates to organise your first ever homecoming to that place (school) where you first met as strangers and gradually metamorphosed into brothers from different parents.
A carefully organised homecoming event in any of the nation’s institution of learning especially at this trying moment of the nation’s history, would be capable of healing the country. It could also provide alumni the needed atmosphere to discuss issues of national importance leveraging their existing school spirit.
Another advantage of homecoming is that, it brings back good memories and allows alumni reminisce about their school. Reflecting on those good times and looking at the present will make everyone appreciate and acknowledge one another. Above all, it will allow alumni to renew their friendship, determination and commitment to ensure not only the success of their members or their former schools, but also that of the nation and the world at large.
I look forward to reading about your first homecoming events and their impact on your life.
Abubakar G. Bala is a Fulbright FLTA, Toastmasters International Generation Change Fellow-USIP – firstname.lastname@example.org