Brief History of General Wingate Secondary School

Why Wingate?

The General Wingate Secondary School was established in memory of the British Colonel, Orde Charles Wingate(later became Major General) who helped Ethiopia in its gallant struggle against Italian Fascism during WWII. He closely advised Emperor Haile Selassie I and formed the Gideon Force consisting of the Ethiopian freedom fighters, the British troops, his special British force later called Chindits to defeat the Italians and restore Ethiopian independence.

The General Wingate Secondary School was not only center of excellence for secondary school education but also a symbol of political and military victory over Fascism in the horn of Africa. It also symbolized the treasured bond between the peoples of Ethiopia and the United Kingdom.

Early Years of the School

The General Wingate School was established on May 5, 1946 with a school budget of about 135 000 birr. The first enrollment was in September of the same year and consisted of thirty students, who were grouped into two mud house classrooms . The Staff consisted of only three people, H T Lawrence, Million Neqniq, and V L Menage, and the staff salary was paid jointly by the Ministry of Education and the British Council.

ut on May 5, 1949, HIM Haile Selassie I laid the foundation for the new class room building complex, teacher residences and four student dormitories called Houses: Red, Green, Blue and Yellow Houses, totally modernizing the compound of many acres.

In 1960 the British Council (BC) was closed because of financial cuts and there was temporary financial problem. The British Council, however, was reopened and Peter Lloyd, representative of the British Council worked with the new Headmaster John Royds to design a new model of supplementing the annual budget of the school by fundraising from British citizens which continuously guaranteed the financial health of the school for many years to come.

Student Selection and school environment

Entry standards to the school were tough: entrance exam was conducted annually in many centers of the empire and boys, not older than fifteen years of age and with the best grade points in their respective overall eighth grade classes were allowed to take part. Between 75 and 100 best performing students were then selected from the then 14 provinces of Ethiopia. That number was a very insignificant fraction of all the boys who took the entrance exam. Depending on family income, one third of the accepted boys were given full scholarship while the remaining two third were charged a nominal 30 birr per month or 270 birr per year. The population of students in the school, from grade 9 to grade12, was never more than 400 students. The combination of elites selected from around the country together with excellent teachers and staff made Wingate Secondary School a model school. While all other schools across the country were considering that passing 5% of their respective 12th grade students in the Ethiopian School Leaving Certificate Exam (ESLCE) was a great accomplishment, Wingate secondary school was passing close to100% of its12th graders in that exam , and some aspiring Wingate students also took the General Certificate Exam (GCE or O'level) taking the competition one level higher to the international stage. The majority of teachers were British, and there was one French and a few Ethiopians too. They all lived on campus and took turns to take full responsibility in monitoring discipline in the school and attendance of some regular activities. Two important regular activities were prayer time in the morning and "quiet time' in the evening and both had to be attended by all boys except the most senior boys, 12th grade students. The prayers were between 6:50 and 7;30 am, and every evening, about an hour and a half, known as 'quiet time' or prep time, was set aside during which all boys were expected to study or read. In addition, two teachers took charge of each House (there were four houses: Blue, Yellow, Red and Green) as House Master and Deputy House Master and assisted by five House student prefects, appointed or selected from the junior year (11th grade), they monitored the order and neatness in each house and also spearheaded the inter-House competitions, which were especially fierce in the field of sport. General Wingate secondary school, indeed, provided an exceptionally good quality of education together with diversity of students and staff. The students achieved high academic standards as a result of intense physical activities, stimulating teaching practices, challenging expectations and first-class resources. For years, Wingate remained envy for all other secondary schools in the country. The school was also gaining prominence in the eye of the government. It was visited by HM Queen Elisabeth in 1965 -further symbolizing the "indissoluble bond" between Uk and Ethiopia.

It was also visited by President Charles De Gaulle in 1954, as show case of success of the Empire. The school produced outstanding civil servants, technocrats and professionals in different fields both at home and abroad. No other school in Ethiopia can claim to have sent forth such a number of distinguished figures to make their mark on the country and the world. The long list of distinguished students of Wingate include Meles Zenawi , a dominant political figure in the post military Ethiopia, Tesfaye Dinka, the interim prime minister after the dictator Mengistu Hailemariam fled the country , Tegegnework Getu , the second ever African to have the post of United Nations Under-Secretary-General for General Assembly and Conference.

Final Years

Despite its exceptional success, the fate of Wingate Secondary School, as we know it, was sealed two years after Emperor Haile Selassie I was deposed by the Military junta. In 1977 the British Headmaster and the other teachers were withdrawn and the roll of the British council became history. Elitism was considered antagonistic to mass production, and the school, under the same shell name became an ordinary coeducational high school. Since 1980, it has been a Technical & Vocational senior secondary school with the student population of more than 5000. The four Houses have been portioned and turned into classrooms. Today, the only recognizable feature that is left of the old school is the antique-looking gate with the name " General Wingate Secondary School" still engraved on it.