(Dedicated to all the 2018 graduates of Queen of Apostles Seminary Afaha Obong, Notre Dame Girls Secondary School, Urua Edet Obo, Loreto Girls Juniorate, Eriam, Holy Family College, Oku Abak, Holy Child Girls Secondary School, Ifuho, St. Columbanus Secondary School, Ikwen, Stella Maris Girls College, Ikot Etim & all other graduates of the schools that promote the Catholic Educational values)
My dear 2018 graduating students,
Good day! How are you doing? I hope all is well. As you graduate, I considered it fitting to write down a few lines to you from some far distant isles. At least the new media have permitted me to do so. Indeed, though far away, I am very near to you and my love for you will go on. I know for many years you have been tutored, you have been formed, you have been mentored and taught the right conduct and the ability to make right and correct choices, please do not depart from this learning.
As I always say, the first 20 years of your life is like laying a bed on which you will lie on for the rest of your years. Of this first 20 years, the ones I consider very crucial for character and intellectual formation are the six years spent in the secondary school. These years are so crucial and important. That is why your parents had to spend their hard-earned resources to make sure you are given this crucial foundation. Please my dear graduating students value these years and make them count.
Among all the millions of schools, your parents or guardian sent you to a school that promote the values of Catholic Education not minding the cost because they know that indeed the school offers more than the cost per se. Someone once said, if education is so costly try ignorance. And I know that if you are true to yourself, they were right. Please do not make them feel disappointed by your actual output.
While in school the rules were rigorously set out for you: you wake up every morning and the first point of call was always a Thanksgiving to God in your magnificent Chapel, then the Morning functions, the Breakfast, The Assembly, Classes, Midday prayers, Lunch, Siesta, Afternoon prep, Games or Labour, the Vespers/Evening Rosary, Supper, Night prep and then the last point of call again was the Chapel for the Night prayers. And then the lights out. As you see dear friend, the activities were so structured in such a way to seek God´s assistance in all moments and activities of the day as well as to make God the beginning and end of all you do. Never graduate without assimilating this most important lesson. The difference you will now see after school is that while these regulations remain in your subconsciousness, there will no longer be any Rector or principal, nor auxiliaries nor compound Master, nor prefects, nor regulator to enforce these rules. You will now be your own Rector and Principal, Prefect and Regulator. Indeed, a sense of freedom at last sets in. Watch it my dear friend this is where many got it wrong.
While in school, you did not just learn in the class room (Intellectual), learning took many other forms: you were made to belong to one school club or the other, the school choir, the band, the cultural group, the football and other sports team (basketball, volleyball, athletics etc), the press club, debating club, mathematics club, you can name them yourselves. Please my dear student, try to put into efficient use, the good talents that you discovered while in school, keep developing and harnessing them, they could really be of great help in the rainy days.
While in school, you were assigned to a responsibility role: some of you were school senior prefects, Masters of Ceremony, Sacristans, Refectory prefects, Labour prefects, Toilet prefects, Sanitary prefects, Dormitory prefects, Study hall prefects, you can name the rest. These were meant to form you in leadership roles and to inculcate in you the human virtues of accountability and responsibility. My dear student, if there is anything wrong with your Nigeria and my Nigeria, it is that these human and social virtues have been undermined by the country´s successive leadership. It is left for you and me to correct these in our own days. Be responsible and accountable with any position of leadership that will be entrusted to you in the days that lies ahead.
Yes, indeed, you deserve to be congratulated for having completed this phase of your life. Accept my heartfelt felicitations but let your actions speak volumes for you. You were taught to be a civilized and educated human being: a gentleman and a lady, please be good ambassadors.
In the university, the 3rd phase of your educational career, there are many challenges that lies ahead. Your secondary school education has given you all you need to surmount those challenges. However, let me not fail to admonish you: strive to do the right things at the right times and stay safe. Try to avoid going to the wrong places. Avoid the company of those that cannot add value to your life. Dress properly as you have been taught to avoid being embarrassed. A university post reads: “As you dress, so shall you be addressed.” A good dressing gives you confidence and dignity. If your right hand, eye, or leg as the Bible says causes you to sin cut it off. If you notice that you are with the wrong friend and in the wrong company, make a conscious resolution to cut off the relationship. Avoid anything and the company of persons associated with cultism, lesbianism and homosexuality, they are not only moral sins but societal crimes. Avoid smoking and excessive alcoholism, it doesn’t add any value to you, it only exposes you to innumerable heart and related diseases.
As you go into the larger society, keep the fire burning, keep the flag flying, keep the star in you shinning, wake up the Einstein (creative ingenuity) in you and keep soaring like an eagle…the Lord is your strength! Beware of bad company, it corrupts good character. Don’t forget God, it is in Him we live, move and have our being…Respect your elders, it is a guarantee that you will someday be an elder; keep the rules of life, it keeps you going; live and let others live…it is the basic rule of co-existence. On the overall, be good, be nice to all you will ever meet…you do not know what tomorrow holds…
Someone once said, if you can read and write, then thank your teachers. Always be grateful to your teachers and formators. You can never thank them enough. A little courtesy, a wave, a “hi” or “hello”, a good morning, when you see them in the bus station or in your locality gives them some encouragement. Try to keep the companionship of the good friends you have made in school, among your classmates, even your younger ones, you can never tell what tomorrow holds. Many successful people today were helped by the friends they made in secondary school.
Before I conclude, learn to be creative and proactive. While you are expecting your admission processes into the universities to get through and even while undergoing your university education, you can also pick interest in learning something new or developing some naturally endowed talents. For instance, you can learn fashion designing, cake-making, decoration or web page developing and management (not just computer school to learn how to type), public speaking, musical instruments like Guitar, violin, or keyboard, music composition, music recording, video making and photography or photo editing etc. My dear, experiences have shown that many people who ventured into these areas of life also became successful. Your talents and any vocational training you undergo can also add to your income in the future, they can save you in the rainy days especially in these moments our dear country´s economy is experiencing high rate of unemployment.
Above all, in all you do, and whatever you will be tomorrow, make God your number one refuge and stronghold. The many spiritual activities in school were meant to emphasize this very crucial point.
As St Paul will say when addressing his letters to his audience, I am not writing to you as a stranger, rather as one who by a special mandate and grace of God journeyed with you for some years, as one who had been privileged to teach some of you in class, pray with you and for you in the Chapel, play with you in the football field, relax and recreate with you at social events and dine with you in the refectory, but not fail to reprimand and correct you as well when you fell into error. Therefore, I implore you as you graduate, to consider seriously these things and I know that your future is brighter, better and greater.
May the God of peace be with you all!
Once again, congratulations!
Best wishes from your friend and animator,
Fr. Valentine Umoh