First Secondary School in Nigeria

The history and Establishment of the First Secondary School in Nigeria, Fact you need to know about the School, past and Current Principal, board members and academic policy.

With the introduction of western style education during the colonization era, the first primary (elementary) school was created in Badagry in the first half of the 19th century. Shortly after this, the first secondary (high) school was established in Lagos.

This article will focus on western education in Nigeria.

On June 6, 1859, The Church Missionary Society founded the first secondary (high) school in Lagos. The school was called CMS Grammar School. The school was modeled after the CMS Grammar School in Freetown, Sierra Leone.  The school is even older than the British Colony of Lagos which was established 2 years later.

See: Best Medical Schools in Nigeria

CMS Grammar School, Lagos started with just six students who were all boarders housed in a building on Broad street, Lagos. The subject taught included English, Logic, Greek, Arithmetic, Geometry, Geography, History, Bible Knowledge and Latin. The first principal – a theologian and scholar named Babington Macaulay served from 1859 until his death in 1878.

Since the colonial government tasked the job of educating (western style) the local population to the missionary, it was not surprising that this secondary school would produced most the African clergymen and administrative staffs used by the Colonial government.

The school is currently located at Tijani Ashogbon St, Somolu, Lagos and it’s motto is “NISI DOMINUS FRUSTRA”.  The motto is from Psalm 127, meaning “Without God we labour in vain”.

  • Moved from Original location (Cotton House) to Broad & Odunlami Street
  • First School Science Laboratory was built in 1929
  • Herbert Macaulay – Founding Father of Nigeria (Nationalist Party)
  • Ernest Shonekan – Interim President of Nigeria (1993)
  • Akintola Williams (1st chartered Accountant in Nigeria)
  • Frederick Rotimi Williams
  • Emeka Ojukwu
First Secondary School in Nigeria
Queens College Students Photo Credit: Bella Naija

The education system in Nigeria mirrored that of the British education system from colonial period until the early 1980s. Until the change in the 1980s, secondary school took 11 years to complete. Students take a national examination after completing the 9th year. Then at the end of the 11th year, they take the General Certificate of Education Ordinary (GCE ‘O’) Level examination and receive a school leaving certificate. However, for students who wanted to further their education by attending a university, they would have to continue on a two-year Sixth Form after the 11th year. After the additional two years, they can then take the General Certificate of Education Advanced Level (GCE “A” Level) which allows them to enroll in a university.

So the education system was a 9-2-2 (9 years at the Junior Secondary School, 2 years at the Senior Secondary School and 2 years at the advance level school) for students who planned on enrolling into university. Otherwise, it was a 9-2 system (9 years at the Junior Secondary School and 2 years at the Senior Secondary School).

First Secondary School in NigeriaThis educational system changed in 1982, this new system reduced the number of years spent in a secondary school from 11-13 years to 6 years. Under the new system, students spend three years at the Junior Secondary School level and another three years at the Senior Secondary School level. At the end of the 3rd year in Junior Secondary School, students take a national examination and are awarded a Junior School Leaving Certificate. In order to continue into Senior Secondary school, students must have passing grades on the Junior Secondary School National Examination.

Students are required to take another examination at the end of their 3rd year of Senior Secondary School before a School Leaving Certificate (diploma) can be awarded. Both the national examination taken in Junior and Senior Secondary School is administered by the West African Examinations Council (WAEC). For students who want to enroll in the university, they would have to take another examination in addition to the West African Senior School Certificate Examination. The other examination they would have to take is called the Joint Admissions & Matriculation Board (JAMB).

The same challenges facing the public primary schools affects the public secondary schools.

Overcrowding of public secondary schools and teacher shortage are one of the problems facing public secondary schools in Nigeria. The achievement gap between the public and private schools continue to widen.

Some actions have been taken to close this achievement gap. Actions such as the restoration of the buildings and facilities, provision of educational technology equipment to schools and scholarships to students in need among others are already underway in fixing the problems. However, most of the actions are carried out not by the government but by alumni of the public secondary schools.

  • All Secondary school students wear uniforms.
    First Secondary School in Nigeria
    Holy Child College Photo Credit: Spelling Bee
  •  The majority of students start taking some of the examination between their 2nd & 3rd year of Senior Secondary School. In total, they take between 3 – 7 examinations by the end of the 3rd year in Senior Secondary School.
  • Most students are paranoid about not getting into the University of their Choice so they take WAEC, NECO, JAMB, GCE O Levels, GCE A Levels, ACT/SAT and TOEFL to increase their chances of getting into one.

P.S, I took the WAEC, NECO, JAMB, GCE A Levels, TOEFL and SAT.

  • Most of the notable scholars, politicians and activists attended CMS Grammar School or one of the other older Secondary School.
  • The uniform for Junior and Senior Secondary school is different. The boys in Junior Secondary wear shorts while in Senior Secondary School, they wear long pants. For the girls, they wear pinafore in Junior Secondary and in Senior Secondary, they switch to Skirts.

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