Resumption day at the ‘Paradise’ of Sports and Education!


Segun Odegbami

Today, Sunday, September 19, 2021, a new chapter begins at the Segun Odegbami International College and Sports Academy, SOCA, Wasimi Orile, nestled between Lagos and Abeokuta, in Ogun State.

It will be the start of the 16th school session since the specialist secondary school began it’s unique journey of running a full academic secondary school side-by-side a full-fletched intensive sports development academy for genuine 10 to 17 year-old boys and girls.

The mission is to produce first-class student/athletes ready to take on and conquer the world in either one or both fields of sports and academics depending on what the Universe best offers each child as a gift.  The bottom line is that at the end of their 6 years or less of passing through the challenges of the school, a fully-residential get-away from the hurly burly of urban life to the cool serenity of a rural community, they will look back, a few years down the road of life, and relish the experience of having passed through this laboratory of learning.

The small institution has had an annual  population of less than 100 students in total, far short of its target of a maximum of 120 students, 20 in each of the 6 classes from JS1 to SS3, when all the facilities and structures are eventually and inevitably on ground.

For the increase to happen the school still has some years to go, and plenty of corporate support to harness.
For the value of what the academy provides the children, two ultimate prizes (first-class sports and education) at the cost of half-of-one, SOCA must rank amongst one of the cheapest schools of its kind to attend in the world. I have gladly but painfully carried the cross for 17 years, so I know! 

Every year since its take-off 15 years ago, SOCA has successfully transformed ordinary students, passionate about sports, into excellent student/athletes ready to go into higher institutions in the United States and in Nigeria, to pursue their new dreams of degrees from renowned colleges and universities, in addition to the opportunity to migrate, as a handful have successfully done, into the world of professional sports when their studies are completed. The evidence of our success lies in data, the over-60 SOCA students that have successfully traversed this route in the past 8 years.

Things have become more challenging these past 3 years with the unusual times the entire world is going through. We are wading through the storms with the support and sacrifices of parents, teachers and staff of the academy.

However, from this year, we are upping the ante. We are introducing a rigorous leadership and specially selected sports-related vocational programs into the school’s social programs.

This quarter, former President of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, and the current Vice-President,  Chief Yemi Osinbajo, will be separately visiting SOCA and will share time with the lucky students in unique encounters that will impact their lives forever.

In sports, a new athletics coach will carry on with Lee Evans’ foundational work in athletics- sprints and jumps.

For football, SOCA is bringing in one of the most intelligent and most skillful ex-Super Eagles players, Friday Ekpo, to head the academy’s football coaching department  with emphasis on skills and technical development of the student/players.

In all, as school reopens today, the students are in for tough but exciting and most beneficiàl times, some of the best in their lives immersed in the best of sport, academics and social engagements.

My advise to the students as they come back to SOCA? 

They should all bring a good Camera. SOCA has just engaged one of the most gifted photographers in Nigeria, one straight from the stable of ‘the Guru’ himself, Don Barber, to make every student of SOCA an artist in photography.
Hakeem Sallam joins SOCA as a photography consultant from next week.  Students shall be able to record and document their experiences in that incredible setting, a photographer’s delight, an incomparable rural environment of rich fauna, flora and foliage. They will also develop and sharpen their sports photography skills.
Incidentally, all SOCA students take photography as their trade subject in the school.

The icing on the cake for incoming students is the new focus on the girls.  They are in for a treat from this session.

By the end of this year, the Creator of the Universe willing, the female dormitory on the campus will be completed and the daily one-kilometer commuting of the girls, although good for their physical development, will come to an end and they will start to enjoy the full compliment of life on the campus of SOCA.

Life on the campus?
Well, the school may not have the largest and most modern buildings, infrastructure and facilities as a result of its small population and low fees, but what it has in learning tools are unmatched, invaluable and priceless.

I often invite my friends to come and see the ‘Garden of Eden’ in Wasimi.  The entire village is a laboratory. Every visitor takes away a unique experience.
All it takes is for them to look beneath the surface and glean the beauty buried in the rural atmosphere, its immeasurable treasures and its opportunities for young boys and girls that choose to get the best from the combination of sports and academics.

Anyway, this is my way of welcoming all parents and students (old and new), as well as those interested to find the few spaces still available for their gifted and passionate children in SOCA, to a happy 2021/2022 session.

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