Government College Umuahia

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Government College, Umuahia

Coordinates5°29′58″N 7°32′17″E / 5.499367°N 7.538167°E / 5.499367; 7.538167Coordinates: 5°29′58″N 7°32′17″E / 5.499367°N 7.538167°E / 5.499367; 7.538167
TypeSecondary school
MottoIn Unum Luceant
(May We Shine as One)
FounderRev. Robert Fisher
Principal/Head MasterAnaclayto Springfield
Age11 to 18
Houses11 (Cozens, Erekosima, Extension, Fisher, Kent, New, Niger, Nile, School, Simpson, Wareham)
Colour(s)Red, Pink & Brown    
PublicationThe Umuahian (formerly "The Eastern Star" and "The Red Star")
Former pupilsUmuahians, Old Boys
Spouses of Old BoysYoung Girls

Government College Umuahia, or GCU, is an independent secondary school for boys located on Umuahia-Ikot Ekpene road in Umuahia, Nigeria.

Twenty years after the establishment of Kings College, the first government-owned high school, by the British colonial government, three similar public schools were founded in 1929. These three institutions, Government College Umuahia (GCU), Government College, Ibadan and Government College Zaria (now Barewa College), were designed to follow the traditions of British public schools such as Eton, Harrow and Winchester. The GCU was known as the 'Eton of the East,' at that time because it was located in Nigeria's orient and was known for its elite standards and selectivity.

Rev. Robert Fisher was the founding principal of GCU.[1]

On December 22, 2014, a Deed of Trust was signed with the Abia State government, thereby vesting the Fisher Educational Trust with all legal interests, rights and power pertaining to ownership, management, operation, control and funding of Government College Umuahia. The trust was set up by the Government College Umuahia Old Boys Association.


In 1927 the British Colonial Government in Lagos started three new secondary schools for boys, namely a school in Ibadan (Government College, Ibadan), in Zaria (now Barewa College) and in Umuahia (Government College Umuahia). King's College, Lagos had started twenty years earlier in 1909. These four schools were modeled after the famous English public schools – Eton and Harrow. The Queen's College, Lagos (for girls) had opened that year. The onus for starting the Government College Umuahia fell on an English educator, mathematician, and Anglican priest, the Rev. Robert Fisher who had been a teacher at the Achimota College, Accra, and education administrator in the Gold Coast, now Ghana. He served as the first principal of the Government College Umuahia from 1929 to 1939.

Robert Fisher arrived in Umuahia in 1927 and acquired land of 10 square miles (26 km2). On January 29, 1929 he opened the gates of the school to 25 students drawn from all parts of Nigeria and West Africa, but with catchment in Eastern Nigeria, and the Southern Cameroons. The Government College Umuahia began in 1929 as a teacher training institute and in 1930, converted to a secondary school. Fisher ran this school until 1939 when, at the start of the Second World War, he left for England on retirement and was replaced by W. N. Tolfree. The school was closed thereafter, and for three years it was used as a Prisoner of War camp for detaining German and Italian prisoners captured in Cameroon by the British and the students and staff were suddenly dispersed to King's College, Lagos and to other mission schools east of the Niger.[1]


GCU has drawn students from among the best performing from Nigeria and Southern Cameroons.[2] It has classrooms and laboratories. Its students consistently achieve high scores in exam results at SSCE, O-Level and A-Level. All students complete core courses in the Arts and Sciences.

Students participate in sports like cricket, hockey, handball and football There are two standard fields (the Upper and Lower fields), cricket pavilions, seven lawn tennis courts, basketball court; and Olympic-size track field. It has a nine-hole golf course; a botanical garden, and an aquarium.

The English artist and archeologist, Kenneth C. Murray, pioneered modern art education in Nigeria when he left Balliol College, Oxford and arrived Nigeria in 1927 to teach art. He taught art at the Government College Umuahia from 1933 to 1939 and started the Art Gallery which had in its collection, the works of C.C. Ibeto, Uthman Ibrahim, and the early charcoal drawings of Ben Enwonwu. The gallery was looted and destroyed during the Nigerian-Biafra civil war (1967–70), when the school was closed to serve as the General Staff Headquarters of the secessionist Republic of Biafra. K.C. Murray himself had left Umuahia in 1939 to become Director/Surveyor of Nigerian Antiquities, and the editor of the Nigeria Magazine from work he did at Umuahia.

The Government College Umuahia also had an Officer Cadet Corps that offered instruction camps in field drills, and adventure training. It produced professionally trained military officers before the Nigerian civil war including General George Kurubo, first Southern Nigerian to be trained at Sandhurst and first Nigerian Chief of the Nigerian Air Force; General Alex Madiebo, General Officer Commanding the defunct Biafran Army, General Patrick Anwunah, Tony Eze, Tim Onwuatuegwu, C.C. Emelifonwu, Ibanga Ekanem, August Okpe, Col. (Dr.)Bassey Inyang, etc.

Government College Umuahia also produces an unusual high number of literary elite who influenced African Literature more than any other educational institution.[3]


The Government Colleges had first class facilities; the best teachers, and a place like the Government College Umuahia had the feel of a typical English environment. In some ways, it was unsustainable, given that the students were socialized in enclosures that seemed generally to overlook the general condition of the rest of the country. But it was a great thing happening at Umuahia and such other places; what was needed was to bring the standards of the Government Colleges to other places, rather than to abandon those standards. In any case, the Government College Umuahia, like its sister schools soon came to suffer the Nigerian malaise. GCU's quality declined substantially over the past 40–45 years. The decline has its roots in the Nigeria – Biafra civil war which was fought between 1967–1970. The school was closed for the period of the war, and afterwards things went progressively worse. The period after the war was one of desperation, deprivation and dearth of resources. The military administration eventually took over schools; discipline and merit were disregarded. These developments had grave implications for staff, students and the standards the school kept pre-war. Entry standards were no longer adhered to for all sorts of reasons. Nothing was spared, from library to laboratories, classrooms, dormitories, sports pitches, the well manicured lawns and the paved roads. Starting from the mid-1980s, funding for such places as Umuahia dried up. The austerity measures, and the IMF rules, had as one of its great victims, such public schools; proper funding of public education, and for schools like GCU that once had special government funding became the first victims. The creation of states also reduced its orbit, as each state that inherited the school increasingly reduced it, from its international and national status, to provincial. Thus a great school was brought to its knees by policies of administrations, often the military administrations that deployed it to catchment, rather than to enduring quality.[4]


For years, Umuahian old boys – alumni of the school – had tried, out of great nostalgia to keep important aspects of the school going, and had often pressured the governments, to carry out certain functions with regards to the school. With its array of distinguished "old boys" the Government College Umuahia alumni could do this, but only to a limited scope. Determined to put an end to the decline and restore the school to its excellence, the Government College Umuahia Old Boy's Association (GCUOBA), a worldwide organization, approached the government to hand back the school to it to restructure, fund and manage in a sustainable way.[5] On December 22, 2014 (after several attempts by the old boys) a Deed of Trust was signed with the Abia State government, thereby vesting the Trust with all legal interests, rights and power pertaining to ownership, management, operation, control and funding of Government College Umuahia. The Trust is duly registered, in line with the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The Reverend Robert Fisher, founding Principal of the Government College, had, at the end of the civil war in Nigeria, sold his earthly possessions, including his home in England, moved into a nursing home with his wife, and willed the money to the Government College Umuahia. This is the symbolic seed to the Trust, and through the Robert Fisher Trust Foundation, the old boys aims to demonstrate a commitment to the restoration of the school. It is the dream of Umuahians that other children will have the benefit of an Umuahian education; one of the great foundations of their lives of numerous achievers.[6]

Notable alumni[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Africa: Volume 85 - Issue 2 | Cambridge Core". Cambridge Core.
  2. ^ "THISDAYonline". Archived from the original on 2008-09-21. Retrieved 2010-01-30.
  3. ^ African Literature and the Role of the Nigerian Government College Umuahia
  4. ^ "UMUAHIA RESTORATION". September 12, 2015.
  5. ^ "N3bn required to restore Govt. College Umuahia to past glory News - News Express Nigeria". Archived from the original on 2016-08-08. Retrieved 2016-06-13.
  6. ^ "About Us". February 20, 2017.
  7. ^ "Gabriel Imomotimi Okara (1921-2019)". Vanguard News. 2019-03-31. Retrieved 2022-03-18.

Further reading[edit]

  • The Education of a British-Protected Child: Essays (2009) - Chinua Achebe
  • The Umuahian: A golden jubilee Edition ed Chinua Achebe (Umuahia: Government College, Umuahia Old Boys' Association 1979)
  • Achebe and Friends at Umuahia: The Making of a Literary Elite (2015) - Terri Ochiagha
  • Christopher Okigbo, 1930-67: Thirsting for Sunlight (2010) - Obi Nwakanma
  • The African Writers' Handbook - James Gibbs, Jack Mapanje
  • Early Nigerian Literature - Bernth Lindfors

External links[edit]