SSND Presence at Hillside International School

Mbribrit, Nigeria — Responding to the mission of Christ wherever we are called is central to the call of the School Sisters of Notre Dame. The school came into existence as a result of an urgent need of quality education at the time.

The brief history of the school has it that the Nigerian Civil War (1967—1970) created a serious negative impact on the educational and other sectors of the Nigerian economy. In order to revive the educational sector, the Federal Government introduced the nationalization policy. Through that policy the government took over schools owned and managed by voluntary agencies and missions like the Catholic Church. As a result, there was a general decline in the standard of education in the country followed by an upsurge in the establishment of new schools by groups and individuals.

Mrs. Rosemary Uwemedimo 1933-2012
Mrs. Rosemary Uwemedimo

The post-war influx of children from different parts of the world into the former South Eastern State and the strong desire to transfer quality western education to the state, prompted the late Mrs. Rosemary Uwemedimo, a Briton and wife of the first patriarch of Akwa Esop Imaisong Ibibio, Ntisong Vincent Uwemedimo, to establish Hillside Preparatory School in 1971, in Calabar, Cross River State.

The name, Hillside, emanated from the location of the school on top of the Iman Street Hill in Efut Abua in Southern Calabar. The influx of children of the elite class from different parts of the world into Hillside Preparatory School led to a change of name of the first of such institutions with international acclaim, to Hillside International School.

The migration from Calabar to Uyo, that followed the creation of Akwa Ibom State in 1987, inspired the establishment of Uyo branch of Hillside International School in 1988. The doggedness of the proprietress, late Mrs. Rosemary Uwemedimo pulled an unprecedented influx and patronage from the quality education-hungry new state.

SSND with students

For more than three decades, the schools were administered by the late Mrs. Rosemary Uwemedimo who brought her experience as an internationally acclaimed tutor and writer to bear in them.

In 2011, Mrs. Uwemedimo handed over the school to the then Bishop of Uyo, Most Reverend Dr. Joseph Ekuwem, now Archbishop of the Metropolitan See of Calabar. Although the founder of the school, Mrs. Rosemary Uwemedimo passed on in 2012, the school continued to run then as a conventional school until the congregation of the School Sisters of Notre Dame (SSND) were invited to join the team of administrators for the Uyo school.

SSND with students outside

Among the specific realizable objectives of the school as spelt out by the Board of Directors are:

(i) to affect the lives of the poor and vulnerable groups in the immediate society;
(ii) to assist the local Church. It was in the light of the above background that the Board of Directors after identifying SSND as excellent educators, invited the congregation to collaborate with them in order to help realize the above objectives among others.

In responding to this call, Sister Magdalene Akpan was sent to the school to serve as the headteacher in September, 2017. She was the only SSND in the school until Sister Ndukeobong Clement joined her as a teacher in February, 2021. This has further strengthened SSND presence in the school.

Through our presence, we have been able to extend our charism of transformative education to the school community while sharing our faith, hope and love. Our foundress, Blessed Theresa of Jesus Gerhardinger offers much inspiration in our situation when she says 'only by love will we win the love of the children and draw their hearts to God; through the children we exert a good influence on the mothers and through the mothers on the father' (Trust and Dare, September 24). Indeed, we can identify with these words in our daily service in the school.

Embracing the uncertainty of each day for the sake of the gospel, we strive just as Saint Paul, 'to become all things to all people—parents, children and members of staff—so that we might by any means save some' (1 Corinthians 9:22). It is a call that demands a lot of personal discipline and sacrifice in order to be a centre of unity for all. Educating the young and offering them a solid foundation for their future life has been our motivation. SSND presence in this ministry has created a very significant impact within the entire system. Each year, as the pupils graduate to secondary schools, we witness the transformation that has taken place in them. It is quite amazing! And this is the joy of being a teacher: to see a caterpillar change into a butterfly.

Though the school is lacking in some amenities like a well-equipped library, science and computer laboratories, we are committed to providing learners with skills and the competence required in a rapidly changing world through character formation, sound, quality, affordable and holistic education. This is done with the view of producing learners who would compete favorably with their counterparts anywhere in the world. The impressive performances of our pupils in secondary schools and other advanced educational institutions and endeavors speak of our commitment to maintaining the standard that the school has been known for over the years. Despite the challenges, it has been a wonderful collaboration and so much fun working with the children.

Sister Magdalene Akpan in classroon
Sister Magdalene Akpan at front of class

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