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United in grief again (2)

On the completion of his studies at Higher College, he embarked upon what was to be a long and fulfilling career as a science teacher and educationist despite the strenuous efforts of his tutors to persuade him to study Medicine or Engineering, or one of the more prestigious and materially rewarding professions given his science background. He refused to be swayed, and often asserted that “Teaching is the poorest of trades, but the noblest of professions”. He was always proud to be referred to as a teacher. In his own words:

“I was sent from the Higher College, Yaba where I was pursuing the course for the Teachers Diploma (Physics & Mathematics) to Government College, Ibadan, in the last half of 1936, to learn to teach Mathematics under Mr. A.W.A. Spicer, a very effective teacher of the subject. I was posted to Edo College, Benin City in April 1937 to introduce science in the college, which had recently been established by the Nigerian Government. I was also to take charge of Mathematics in the college. Again, these experiences were most stimulating and rewarding.

I was transferred from Edo College to King’s College, Lagos in January 1939. I recall that I arrived in Lagos on 13th January 1939. I was at King’s College, Lagos from January 1939 to September 1944 and again from July 1949 to September 1957 making a total of fourteen years. From September 1944 to June 1949 I was on a Nigerian Government Scholarship in the United Kingdom to continue my study of Physics and Mathematics at degree level. On arrival at King’s College Lagos, I was warmly received by my former science teacher, Mr. A.J. Carpenter, who had appointed me as the science laboratory curator at Government College, Umuahia. During my 14 years at King’s College, Lagos I had the most rewarding experiences, not only in the teaching of science (including Mathematics) but also in other ways. I rose to be the Senior Science Master and was also in charge of mathematics at the college. It would be invidious to name only a few of the many young gentlemen. I had the pleasure of teaching at King’s College, Lagos. Suffice it to say that many of them have been very successful and are flourishing in practically all fields of endeavour. While I was at King’s College, I was approached by Miss W.W. Blackwell, the Principal of Queens College, Lagos (1931-1942) to teach science to selected girls of Queen’s College to enable them to have a background in general science. I undertook that assignment until I left Nigeria for Britain in September 1944.

I was truly proud to be a teacher or schoolmaster. It is also my very great pleasure to state that many of the students I taught are among my personal friends. This is the joy and reward of every successful schoolmaster”.

During his years of study in Britain from 1944 to 1949, he was associated with the Science Master’s Association (SMA). It was his keen desire to establish such an association in Nigeria to encourage the improvement of science teaching in Nigeria. He sent out invitations to selected teachers. The Science Teachers Association of Nigeria (STAN) was thus born and he was elected its first president and the first meeting was held in the Lecture Theatre of King’s College, Lagos in October 1957.

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In September 1957, Mr. Ajumogobia was transferred from King’s College, Lagos to the Lagos Education Office as Chief Education Officer. It was whilst he was there that where he implemented the Government’s decision to establish the Federal Emergency Science School at Onikan, Lagos. Soon after this, in 1958 a year later, he moved to the Nigeria Office as Education Adviser to the Nigerian Representative in London. In February 1959, he was asked to return to Nigeria to take on the post of Adviser on Secondary Education in the Federal Ministry of Education and subsequently Adviser on Post-Secondary Education in the Federal Ministry of Education. During this period he was actively involved in the establishment of theUniversity of Lagos and often reminisced about the citing of the university at its present location. At Nigeria’s independence on October 1st, 1960 he was appointed Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Education, the first Nigerian to hold the post. He retired voluntarily from the Federal Civil Service in June 1964 as Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Information and Culture and joined the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1964.

As Programme Specialist in Paris, his duties included the development of educational programmes and projects for the Africa Region. In 1965, UNESCO appointed him as their representative to the Economic Commission to Africa (ECA) and to the Ethiopian Government based in Addis Ababa. He was subsequently appointed UNESCO Chief of Mission to East and South-East Africa, covering Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Malawi, Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland, and based in Dar-es-Salaam.

He spent much of his time travelling between his various missions from where he unfailingly sent individual postcards to his wife and children. Each member of his family also received a telegram on their birthdays, and even after his retirement, despite the advent of fax, telex and email, it was always a thrill to receive his telegrams, sometimes several weeks after the actual date! Mr. Ajumogobia retired from UNESCO in 1974, he enjoyed a brief spell of research at his old college, King’s College, Cambridge, where in 1953 he had done postgraduate work in the History and Philosophy of Science. Upon his return to Nigeria, he settled in Port-Harcourt and was engaged by the Rivers State Government as Administrative Officer on Special Duties for 2 years after which he retired from active public service in 1977. In 1979, he was conferred with the National Award of Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON).

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