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King’s College: 105 years of a culture of Greatness.

by Sanusi IsmailaSeptember 20, 2014

As a wide-eyed, nine-year-old kid who had just left Sokoto state (where I was born) for only the second time ever, the first real indication that King’s College Lagos was much different than anywhere else I had been wasn’t with the quaint architecture which is still a marvellous sight even today, or the cricket quadrangle or the fancy badges—which weren’t stitched to pockets, but rather clipped, or the ties and tie pins or the students in white and blue blazers that walked about gracefully. It was the school song.

 

Not the words of the song though, I didn’t know the words yet, but the way it was sung.

 

My multicultural parents raised I and my siblings up to be Nigerian first, and put all in everything we did, so even as a kid, the contrast between how I was supposed to behave and how almost everyone else behaved was evident. A great example of this contrast was the enthusiasm (or lack of—depending on who was singing) with which we sang school songs and the National anthem in primary school. I belted those songs out with all the enthusiasm in the world and with as much heart as my prepubescent voice could handle, because I was taught that those weren’t just songs to be sang routinely, but declarations that weren’t to be taken lightly.  However, I noticed that as we made the way up the classes in primary school, every one seemed to care less and less. Not at King’s College.

 

From the very first line of the King’s College School Song, I could hear the bass voices—hardened by the changes that happen at puberty of a group of chaps, singing the school song with more heart than I ever heard anywhere else. I couldn’t help but look back to see who could possibly be responsible for such passion. I saw was a group of young chaps; all decked in crisp blue blazers—senior boys (SS3 boys to be particular), leading by example. Such was the culture at King’s College, Lagos.

 

From day one, every single thing you passed through in that school was designed with one outcome—that you imbibed a culture of excellence. From the “half” and “quarter” essay punishments, to the way and manner in which you were taught to address one another with utmost respect and even the mundane things like dining table manners, everything gently nudged you towards being the best at everything you did.

 

It was such a strong culture to excel and carry one another along that bound us all so tightly together that we never had tribal or religious differences insides the four walls of King’s College (At least in my time), it is the same culture that allowed me to say “Floreat” to a then serving Governor as he walked past and cause him to break protocol for a minute to come say hi. It is the same culture that taught you that once you had made it into the four walls of King’s College, you could make it anywhere and be anything you want to be. It taught you that you were first among equals and could not be suppressed by any man or the boundaries of man’s imagination. It is the same culture that outsiders often mistake as arrogance.

The founding staff and principals of King’s College understood the power of culture and a narrative in molding the lives of young boys and girls into young men and

women
. As a result, nothing was taken to chance and everything—from
the mermaid
 on the badge to the
the names of the Houses
 and even the choice of the greek letter “alpha” over “B” in naming classes—had a purpose; a Legend.

 

As the great school marks its 105th anniversary today, I am proud to say no other institution at home or abroad has made as much impact in my life as King’s College Lagos has and while I had planned to write a long ode to my alma mater, there’s not much I can tell you about the culture which is passed down from generation to generation at King’s College, that isn’t already captured in the three stanzas of the school song below.

 

King's College Lagos School Song

1.  “Floreat Collegium” shall our motto be,

Let us shout it boldly, for her sons are we,

Nurtured in her classrooms in our early youth

Where we learn to cherish chivalry and truth

Learn to pull together each one with the rest

Playing up and striving each to do his best

CHORUS: This shall be our watchword, “Always play the game”

Sound the old school’s praises, trumpet forth her fame

Though of many nations we will not forget

That we all are brothers with a common debt

Let us pay by giving, as we forge ahead, Service to the living, honour to our dead.

2.This is what they teach in the good old school

“Only by obedience may you learn to rule”.

If you fail look closely, seek the reason why

You are power to conquer if you only try

Others went before you and attained the light

Where they wait to cheer you, victors in the fight.

CHORUS: This shall be our watchword, “Always play the game”

Sound the old school’s praises, trumpet forth her fame

Though of many nations we will not forget

That we all are brothers with a common debt

Let us pay by giving, as we forge ahead, Service to the living, honour to our dead.

3. Present, Past and Future from one mighty whole

Shining forth emblazoned on a muster roll.

When the call is sounded all must answer “HERE”!

Voice and bearing showing neither shame nor fear

Pointing to our honour, which untarnished stands

Bright as when we took it from our founder’s hands.

CHORUS: This shall be our watchword, “Always play the game”

Sound the old school’s praises, trumpet forth her fame

Though of many nations we will not forget

That we all are brothers with a common debt

Let us pay by giving, as we forge ahead, Service to the living, honour to our dead.

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Sanusi Ismaila
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