Historically, 10th of January 1983, marked the new dawn of a Catholic primary school in FEATSC Town, Lagos Nigeria. The new school was named Nazareth School and it started with a population of 500 pupils. Sr. Anne Lally RSC captured the story very well in her book titled History of the Religious Sisters of Charity in Nigeria, Golden Jubilee 1961 – 2011.
From 26th October to 29th October 2023, Nazareth School celebrated its 40th anniversary and the occasion brought back memories of the humble beginning.
The story of Nazareth School began when the Religious Sisters of Charity were invited by the then Archbishop of Lagos Cardinal Anthony Olubunmi Okojie to manage a new private school which he was planning to build in FESTAC Town as a result of high demand for a Catholic School in Catholic Community. Although there were many public schools in the area, however, the Archbishop Anthony Okogie needed a private and affordable school where the Catholic children can get qualitative education.
After handing over the Pacelli School to another women Religious Congregation – Handmaids of the Holy Child Jesus (HHCJ), Religious Sisters of Charity accepted Archbishop Anthony’s invitation to take the responsibility of opening Nazareth School. The Sisters have managed Nazareth School from the foundation to date. The Sisters have worked hard and contributed immensely to the development and successes achieved by the school during these past forty years.
Recalling the humble beginning, Sr. Anne Lally wrote, in December 1982, Sisters Mary Noel Meehan, Winifred Macken, and Maria Coates were the first set of sisters to arrive FESTAC Town. The Sisters’ first abode for the first six years was in a rented apartment on 301 Road, FESTAC Town. The Sisters received a great welcome by the community and Sister Teresa Paul Curran became the Local Leader of the new Community.
Sister Maria Coates was the first Headmistress while Sister Winifred Macken was her Assistant with Sister Teresa Paul as the bursar and Religion teacher. Nazareth School bloomed and the number of children increased rapidly. The sisters on their part did not relent in realising and sustaining the aim of founding the school by delivering qualitative education to every child that comes to the school.
In celebrating these forty years of great achievements, a robust program was planned to make it truly a memorable one. The celebration started with a Road Show on the 26th of October to create awareness of the celebration in the coming days. After the Road Walk, all returned to the school’s field to listen to the talks for the day. The celebration continued on 27th of October with Cultural Day. The children and the staff were grouped into the five geopolitical zones and each zone presented the culture of the place in parade, dance and food and drink.
Another day of celebration was on Saturday 28th of October and it was the largest event in the history of the school with over four thousand guests. It was on this day that some staff, parents, and the sisters were appreciated for their contribution to the growth of the school. There was Honorary Award, Long Service Award, Award Per Excellence, Pillars Award and Outstanding Contribution Award.
The Long Service Award were given to Sr. Elizabeth Kachepa, the supervisor, and Sr. Veronica Ubanese the school’s bursar because these two sisters served in the school for 15 years. Sr Anne Lally got the Per Excellence Award for her outstanding contribution to the building and expansion of the school. The Cardinal Archbishop was also honoured with the Award Per Excellence for helping the Catholic Community in FESTAC to actualize their dream of giving their children Catholic Education.
Other Awardees were Rev. Fr. Simon Okelezo, Mr. and Mrs. Obiora Obi, Engr Frank N. Ofoegbu FNSE, and Ichie Chinedu Umeokafor. They were honoured with the Pillars Award for providing scholarship to the indigent children in the school. The transporters were not left out in the award. Three of them St. Monica, Silvealerie and Evangel Kids got the award for Outstanding Contribution as they have been bringing some of the children to school and taking them home in the couple of years. Eighteen staff comprising of academic and non-academic staff were also awarded for their long time in service. One of them Mrs. Alims Chizoba has been serving the school for the past 38 years. She is the longest serving staff. It was very exciting for her when she was called upon to receive her award. Apart from the presentation of awards, there was also fund raising for a Trust Fund to help continue the education of the indigent children and for the execution of other projects that will continue to foster qualitative education in the school.
The peak of the celebration was on Sunday the 28th of October, and it started with the Mass of Thanksgiving and Harvest. His Lordship, Most Rev. Alfred Adewale Martins, the Archbishop of the Metropolitan See of Lagos was the chief celebrant. Other concelebrating priest were Rev. Fr. Peter Adeyanju Abatan and Rev. Fr. Melchizedek Okpala the past pupils of Nazareth School. The Parish Priest of Holy Family Catholic Church who doubles as the Dean of FESTAC Deanery with his associates also concelebrated at the Mass.
During the homily, the Archbishop charged the children to always express gratitude first in the morning as they got up from sleep. He appreciated the managers of the school for helping the school to grow and develop so well. He charged everyone not to relent in giving their best to the school and with the Mass the celebration was brought to a close.
Nazareth School has continued to stand out in many ways. The school has won different awards such as winners of 15th Annual National Mathematics Competition in 2018, winners of Global Child Health and Safety Initiative Award for Conducive Child Learning Environment, West Africa Quality Education Award 2022/2023 among others. Since its inception, about ten thousand pupils have graduated from Nazareth School, 48 pupils are currently on scholarship and the current population of the pupil is 1,974 pupils.
As the pupils of Nazareth School continue to grow in wisdom, age and grace, we remember all the pupils, staff and Sisters who worked tirelessly in realising the mission of the school. We are grateful to the pioneers of the school namely, Sisters Maria Coates, Mary Noel Meehan, Winifred Macken, Teresa Paul, Curran Marie, Anne Lally, Petronilla Agukwu, Francisca Ugochi Ahumibe, Mary Judge, Marsha Moon, and many others.
We thank God who bestowed many blessings and favours on the children, staff, parents, and other stakeholders of Nazareth School. We also thank God for giving the Religious Sisters of Charity this great opportunity to nurture and form young minds and also to teach them the act of being charitable to the less privileged in our society. We are glad that we got two former staff as members of the Congregation in the persons of Sr. Elizabeth Onyekigwe RSC and Sr. Regina Opara RSC.
We express our gratitude to all the sisters who worked in the school, beginning from Aspirants, Postulants, Novices and Professed Sisters. May God continue to inspire actions that will build the Nazareth School to greater heights.