5 Pioneers of Physical Education in Nigeria.

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1. James Harding Ekperigin (1913 – 1981)

Recognized as the Nigerian founder of physical education, James Ekperigin was born in Ugbori, Warri. He attended a government college, Ibadan where he displayed his athletics skills.

Born in 1913, Harding Ekperigin participated in the Gier Cup competition in 1937 where he recorded an outstanding performance in the long jump. His performance earned him a scholarship to study at the Loughborough Training College in England.

In 1963, after returning to Nigeria, he was appointed as the head of PHE of the state ministry of education. He was later replaced by Isaac Akioye.

During his time, H.J. Ekperigin really played a major role in establishing physical education and health education in Nigeria. He developed an interest in athletics Track and Field sports.

He was a significant figure among the officials who led Nigeria’s continent to the first outing of the Commonwealth Games at Cardiff, Wales in 1958.

H.J Ekperigin helped to form the Nigeria Association of Physical and Health Education & Recreation (NAPHER)

Little wonder he is regarded as “the Grandmaster of physical education and sports in Nigeria.”

2. Isaac Akindayo Akioye (1923-2007)

Mr Isaac is an America-trained, ex-international athlete and member of the famous Nigerian ‘1949 UK Tourists’ football team.

He was hired by the University of Ife to ‘start’ the Department of Physical and Health Education in the university.

Isaac Akioye was the Director of the National Sports Commission from 1975 to 1981. He revolutionalized sports in Nigeria.

He – alongside Lee Evans, one of the legends of the Olympics – discovered and nurtured some of the great sprinters and jumpers in Commonwealth and African history during his time.

3. Prof Oluwafemi Ajisafe

He is the first Professor of Sports Science and Physical Education in Nigeria. He is also the first Nigerian Director for the International Council of Sports Science and Physical Education, Berlin.

In July 1974, Prof. M.O. Ajisafe was the secretary to the group that was called by the federal government to formulate the physical education syllabus of the Universal Basic Education (UPE).

He also published a book on Teaching Physical and Health Education which contained the outcome of his federal government-sponsored research into indigenous activities suitable for the physical education programme of Nigerian primary schools.


4. Prof. (mrs) Philomena Ikulayo.

Professor Philomena Bolaji (Bola) Ikulayo is a pioneer sports psychologist in Nigeria. She was the first female Nigerian professor of sports psychology.

She founded the Sports Psychology Association of Nigeria (SPAN) in June 1985 to contribute to the development of sports in Nigeria. Prof. Philomena’s goal was to help athletes appreciate their own potential.

Prof. Philomena is reputed for being the first female author of a book on Physical Education in 1982 and 1st author of a book in Sports Psychology in Nigeria

One of the ways to do this, she said, is to know themselves and to learn some psychological skills and attributes that will make them excel and enhance their performance.

5. Prof. Emiola Lasun

He drove reforms and initiatives, a program into the National Institutes for Sports. He served for 2 terms as Director of the NIS, from 1999 to 2007.

After completing his tenure at the NIS he went to the University of Ilorin, and later to Bayero University Kano as a lecturer in the department of physical and health education.

Other Pioneers of Physical Education in Nigeria include:

  • The Missionaries

The first pioneers of physical education were the Christian missionaries. They established educational institutions, though unstructured at the time, that included physical education. The arrival of Missionaries also brought some sports games into Nigeria.

  • Federal Government

In 1956, the Federal Government introduced the first indigenous sports program for schools. The Ministry of Education has made many reviews of this program since then.

  • Universities and Private Schools

Nigerian universities also pioneered the development of Physical Education in the country. For instance, the University of Nigeria (UNN), in 1960, developed a new level of physical education. The university education was actively accompanied by new models and levels of physical education. Likewise, the emergence of private schools increased the number of options for physical education. These schools provided their training programs with different levels.

  • General Globalization

This phenomenon also made great contributions to the development of physical education in Nigeria. Today you can find a large number of sports tips and exercises for health online.

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One Comment

Ella October 21, 2023 Reply

List five pioneers of physical education in nigeria

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