RANSOME-KUTI Isaac Oludotun

Clergyman, Educationist by(Ademola Adegbamigbe). everend Isaac Oludotun Ransome-Kuti was a hero in his own right. A contemporary of the likes ofHerbertMacaulay,H. O. Davies and other nationalists, Ransome-Kuti'sturfwasnot politics, but the realm of the mind.While politicians worked against the oppression of colonialism, Kuti's preoccupation was against the universal tormentor of man- ignorance. He devoted his life to education. It is logical to say, therefore, that what Ransome-Kuti achieved was more fundamental, in that with education, one is in a better position to excel in any field of human endeavour,be it politics, business, the arts or science and technology. In his battle against the enslavement of the human psyche, Ransome-Kuti'sachievementswere lofty. These were in the areas of training of pupils; cooperation with other schools outside his area; education of women, the welfare of teachers,which led to the formation of the Nigerian Union of Teachers; and the establishment of the University of Ibadan,Nigeria and the University of Legon,Ghana. Born on 30 April 1891, at Gbagura Church Parsonage, Abeokuta, Ogun State, Oludotun Ransome-Kuti could be regarded as having an aristocratic background. His father was Reverend Canon Jesse Josiah Ransome-Kuti,a graduate of the Church Missionary Training Institute,Lagos,who devoted his life to preaching,secular teaching and music.His wife, a qualified teacher,was a product of the Church Missionary Society(CMS)Girls' Grammar School, Lagos. Their marriage was blessed with children, and Oludotun was one of them Oludotun had his early education in Sunren Village Church School between 1896and 1897,and later attended the CMS Grammar School,Lagos.He moved to Abeokuta Grammar School as one of the pioneer students, when it was established in July 1908.His transfer from Lagos to Abeokuta was made possible by the Reverend M.S Cole,the first principal of the Abeokuta school, who had heard about Oludotun's academic brilliance. When Ransome-Kuti got to Abeokuta, he did not disappoint his principal. When he completed his education, it was not difficult for Cole to persuade the Board of Governors of Abeokuta Grammar School to retain the young man asatutor, though he was only seventeen. Apart from teaching,he was also the house master and school pianist. In addition, he carried out any official duties delegated to him by his boss. He even served as secretary of the building planning committee of the school's main campus,the foundation stone of which was laid by Sir Walter Egerton, governor of the Southern Protectorate of Nigeria on 21 December1910. Not a man to be satisfied with half education, Ransome-Kuti proceeded to Fourah Bay College, Sierra Leone between 1913 and 1916,and obtained a Bachelor of Arts and Licentiate in Theology. He capped all these up with a Master of Art (MA) degree. Reverend Cole, Kuti's former principal, who had been following his progress since his day sat CMS Grammar School, Lagos and Abeokuta Grammar School, was bent on having his man back. But the CMS Grammar School principal, who had also noticed Ransome-Kuti's hard work and intelligence, pulled some strings with the colonial authorities.As a result, Ransome-Kuti became an assistant tutor at CMS Grammar School, Lagos, between 1917 and 1918. When Reverend S.C Phillips,the principal of Ijebu-Ode Grammar School was transferred to Ibadan Grammar School,there was an opening for Ransome Kuti. He thus became the principal ofIjebu Ode Grammar School in January 1919. Under Kuti, the students excelled in academics and sports, and they were disciplined. The reverse was the case at Abeokuta Grammar School, Kuti's almamater. The Department of Education and the proprietors of the school intervened and had the principal of the school transferred. Kuti was brought in to replace him in 1932. He worked there till he retired in 1955. Ransome-Kuti not only turned the school around, he also influenced the locality outside the school. He fought for the education of women. Chief Tunde Adeyanju, the author of The Rev. Israel Oludotun Ransome-Kuti, Teacher and Nation Builder, writes that when Christianity was introduced into Nigeriain the 19th century, "a good number of men and a number of beneficiaries rose steadily,but women who had access to it were few". He added that it was the practice for parents not to send their girls to school. The few women who benefited did so by"accident of their birth".Miss Funmilayo Thomas(later Kuti's wife)was one of them. Rev. Ransome-Kuti took his appeal for an increase in the enrolment of women for secondary education to the synod of his church, specifically asking for Abeokuta Grammar School to be made co-educational. The synod refused on the grounds that such an arrangement would encourage sexual immorality. They suggested separate schools for girls, but Kuti maintained that under him, the stern discipline heen forced would not allow that. "One important advantage was that such children would have the opportunity of learning to live together in harmony in preparation for a peaceful co-existence of the citizenry", Adeyanju quoted Kuti. The argument became so heated that the synod president shouted Kuti down three times, but he stood his ground. Ransome-Kuti used logic to drive home his point.He argued that the Church of England,which the president represented, had done a lot for the educational development of Nigeria through Reverends Henry Townsend, John B. Wood and his wife, Elsie. He emphasized the efforts of Elsie Wood in the education of women in Abeokuta. He concluded by saying that if the president's attitude was meant to put"a stigma on the enviable record of his predecessor," then let it be!The synod president capitulated. "It should be mentioned that there was no case or event of sexual immorality in the school when Reverend Kuti was incontrol," Adeyanju maintains. Outside Abeokuta, Kuti advocated cooperation between mission secondary schools. This gave birth to the IONIAN brotherhood, coined from the names of the four schools that constituted it. They were Abeokuta Grammar School, Ijebu-Ode Grammar School, Ibadan Grammar School and Ondo Boys' High School. Apart from cooperation inthe academic arena, they engaged insports, vocational education, cultural cooperation, and made input intothe educational poli cies andjointadmission policies for members. They also ensured the maintenance ofhigh standards inthe schools. The IONIAN'S social integration, as Adeyanju puts it, "wasa thing nobody else had ever done until 1973 when the (Gen. Yakubu) Gowon ad ministration established the National Youth Service Corps". Reverend Ransome-Kuti's influence grew with his involvement in the formation ofthe Nigerian Un ion ofTeachers (NUT). In order to ensure adequate manpowertraining in Nigeria,a necessity which Kuti had realized since 1919, he stepped up the number of the arms of some classes in his school. The colonial education authorities kicked against it, because there were not enough qualified teachers, i.e., products of teacher training colleges. Since teachers were leaving for other professions, however, there was the need to fight for theirwelfare. At a time when the Michael Imoudus and Raji Abdallas ofthis world were experiencingdifficulttimes with the colonial authorities, Ransome-Kuti did not feel discouraged to establish yet another professional pressure group. As the principal ofIjebu-Ode Gram mar School, he travelledto different parts ofthe coun try "forthe purpose ofdiscussing with them the cru cial issue of their conditions of service and ... to convenea meetingto inaugurate a union," Adeyanju narrates. The NUT was established in 1931 with Ransome-Kuti as its first president. To enablehim work more efficiently, Kuti trav elled to Britain, where he visited many school organi zations to acquire managementexpertise in education and union matters. He personally bore theexpenses of the tour. When he returned to Nigeria, he carried out a reorganization which has endured till today. As the NUT president, he tackled the problem of brain drain, which he believed was a result of the "poor remuneration of teachers." Kuti sought the support of the press, the synod and the legislative council for the improvement of teachers' welfare.This has remained the goal of the NUT till today. Reverend Kuti laid a solid foundation for the NUT. Today, the union ranks as one ofthe most forceful professional unions in the country. Rev. Ransome-Kuti was also a member of the Mihet Commission between 1943 and 1945. The commission was responsible for working out the modalities for the establishment of a university in Nigeria. One fruit of the commission's labour was the University of Ibadan. As a member of the commission, Kuti was quoted by Reverend Canon J. S. Adepegba, former ABS principal, in May 1945: "he subscribed his signature to that which advocated a university college for each of the sister colonies of the Gold Coast (Ghana) and Nigeria as a result of the deep conviction that a university for West Africa would not be adequate". The University of Ghana, Legon, was another fruit of the advocacy. The late educationist was not completely a political. He represented Abeokuta and later Western Nigeria at the constitutional conference that produced the Macpherson Constitution. Oludotun Ransome-Kuti retired in April 1955. When he was invited by the Ibadan branch of the IONIAN group to mark his retirement, he took ill on the way and was rushed to Jericho Hospital, Ibadan. He was survived by a daughter and three sons:Dolupo, a nursing sister; Olikoye, a doctor of medicine; the late Fela, the afro-beat musician and Bekololari, an other medical practitioner and human rights activist.
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