It was an educational milestone for Esan people. It was the first Community-owned educational Institution in Esanland. It was the unprecedented public collaboration of Esan people to achieve a comon goal.
It represented the first (albeit unconscious) recognition that government alone could not (or should not) always be the sole provider of the public utilities, and indeed, her birth also established that self-effort or actualization pays and that such conduct is the most fulfilling undertaking.
The establishment of Esan Grammar School, Uromi, was the culmination of a long and frustrated agitation by Esan people for a Secondary School from both the Government and the Missionary Authorities. When the people's hope for one was becoming interminable, the Education Board of the then Ishan Divisional Council took matters into their hands but the politics of the School's eventual location confused a final decision on (the date of) its take-off.
In the ensuing period of indecision, the Roman Catholic Authorities seemingly compounded the local rivalry or jostling by establishing the Annunciation Catholic College (ACC) in January, 1955, at Irrua, which was then neither the population centre nor the community with the greatest Roman Catholic following in Esanland! Though fulfilling the general expectation, ACC was nonetheless seen gratuitously. To assuage ruffled feathers and achieve a semblance of balance in the spread of second-tier educational institutions in Ishan Division then, which were hitherto totally Teacher Training Colleges, the newly created Uromi-Uzea District Council seized the initiative to spearhead the establishment of Ishan Grammar School (as the college was first known) at Ubierumu, Uromi. The Roman Catholic Mission, to further moderate frayed nerves, succumbed to agreeing to provide its teaching staff.
The original spirit of common heritage in the agitation for a secondary school in Esanland was not only maintained but exceeded in the composition of the in-take of pioneer students of Esan Grammar School by recruiting children from the whole of the old Midwest Region of Nigeria. This added rainbow coloration of the college's studentship subsisted over the years, highlighting its universal scholarship.
The first principal was the Rev. Father James Byrne of Ireland. He conducted the interviews from which the 66 pioneer students were selected at the Catholic Primary School, Uromi (now Okpuje Primary School). The formed the double-stream, first classes of the College when it started off in the makeshift premises of the Local Government Primary School, Ubierumu-Uromi, in the evening of 24th September 1956. Rev. Byrne took up residence in one small rectangular block of the Primary School, which was partitioned to provide his bedroom and a car park while the students were quartered in another but larger block that was also partitioned to include the classrooms. Both Principal and the first African Tutor, late Mr. A.U. Okokhere, were the only staff that taught the first classes.
In the middle of 1957, the school moved into its permanent and boarding facilities site, across the old Uromi-Agbor Road - a vast grassland and woodland, which has since accommodated a breath-taking, four football-field frontage.
Esan Grammar School's phenomenal growth in academics and ascendancy in college sports are a matter of historical documentation, and sufficient glimpses of her outstanding pre-eminence in the shaping of human capital in Nigeria are contained in the reminiscences of the Old Students, in the Golden Jubilee brochure.
Yet, it bears relating that by the 1970s and Eighties, products of Esan Grammar School had attained Olympian heights, especially in athletics. In 1976, we had Old Boy, Benjamin Omodiale, in Canada for the Montreal Olympic Games but Nigerian, Nay African participation, was aborted in the 11th hour of continental boycott of the Games in protest against the Apartheid policy of South Africa.
In 1978, Old Boys Peter Okodogbe and (Abraham) Brown Ebewele respectively won Silver in the 100 metres sprints as well as the Decathlon and Hammer in the All Africa Games. In 1980, Peter Okodogbe and another Old Boy, Felix Imadiyi were in that year’s Olympics, Peter in the 100 metres and Felix in the 400 metres races. Both got as far as the semi-finals in their events. But Felix got one better: he was in the 400 metres relay quarter that won gold.
As you may be aware, Brown Ebewele was the Director of Sports, Edo State.