To some, life is just a phase, a compendium of events. To others, life is seen as an opportunity to achieve milestones that would make significant marks on the sand of time. In the latter category is Mrs. Morenike Oluwatoyin Folayan, an associate professor of Child Dental Health, Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital and member of the College’s research and partnership unit. In a chat with Elizabeth Ogunbamowo and Mayowa Ososami, the scholar speaks on her career
What motivated you to toe the teaching line?
I ventured into the teaching line by accident. I never planned to be a lecturer. I trained as a dentist and I had a very experienced professor- Odunsoya. I would say that almost 90% of my set came back into what we call the residency programme where we specialize. In our own world then, that was like a PHD and you know when you get a PHD, the more you research, the more you get interested. In our world then, there was a lot of gap in the academia and once you do your fellowship, there is always a space for you as a lecturer. I got in there. I think what I enjoy most is the research work. Teaching gave me the opportunity to share that and mentor young people. As an advocate also, I could share my research findings to change the world and students are the most available persons you can share that with. I enjoy that. I do not really enjoy clinical work.
In a University, you must do three things. You teach research and do community works. For most medical doctors, their community work is what they do in the teaching hospital. For me, my community work revolves a lot around advocacy worker.
What were your challenges like?
Yes, there are challenges but for me I have lived a life of overcoming challenges such that it has become a part of life. I could very well say that working in the University has its own peculiar challenges. I guess I could complain, just sadly I don’t. For me one of the things that was a challenge and extensively challenging was not having supporting seniors. I did not have supportive seniors so I had to learn the ropes myself and I had to climb the ropes myself. I think that is the only thing I can think of. Then it was a tug of war. I had to fight my battles. I fought battles people had never fought. I probably survived because I had God and maybe one of these miracles.
What are your teaching philosophies?
One thing for me, I think I got that from my own teacher, that when students fail, I failed. I remember the time that I was HOD, I was excited that I had a one hundred percent pass rate. The second year, it wasn’t the exact rate. But I was able to do a one hundred percent pass, so for me, when students fail, it should be me that failed.
In recent time, the second philosophy I share with my students is that, I am working with you to be everything you want to be in life, you make the choice. When I am in class teaching them, I make them to understand that I’m working with them. So that when they pick up their CV, there is something extra in that CV that gives them the likelihood to be taken up anywhere else despite the fact that they studied in Nigeria.
How is your marital life?
I am not married now. I am divorced. I was married then to Mr. Ukpong and he was supportive of my career. As a researcher on HIV/AIDS, I remember the times that HIV patients would come to the house and sleep over but my husband would not kick against it. They would use the bed in the guest room because we were staying in a two-bedroom flat and my husband never bothered me.
As a career woman, how do you jostle between the home front and your career?
I think one of the things that probably made me call for a divorce was that I could not sacrifice my career for my home and I am happy I did not. Because now that I’m divorced, I’m still going on, I don’t feel any loss and I don’t feel that I’ve wasted my life. In addition, I must acknowledge extensively that my husband stood at home front for me, spent a lot of time with the kids. He did and I would always acknowledge that.
However, following up my teenage years, I think I had trained my children to become very independent. That is one of the things that make me sad, sometimes. My kids do not really need me around. At times, I just wonder if my kids really need me.
Actually, the three of them are now in the UK, one of them is married and two are in school. I send them text messages through Whatsapp, Messenger, and two weeks after, they reply. I really brought up independent children, it has its disadvantages but it allowed me a lot more in my career.
What do you hope to achieve in your teaching profession?
I am looking forward to highly successful students. I usually tell my students that I want them to become the people that would fill those spaces up there. I want them to be those I would be watching on my TV tomorrow. I want them at the top.
As a researcher in areas of HIV/AIDS, will you say it is reducing or on the rise?
Excellent question! There has been a lot of progress in the field of HIV response. However, we do know that it is an infectious disease. It is not an infection you just go and catch because it is invisible. It is transmitted in such a way that you do not see the event happening and even though we have globally controlled the epidemic, in Sub-Saharan Africa, it is still a problem. In Nigeria, it is still a real problem. It is a problem that if not reinforced; you just want to start all over again. Although, it is in control in some parts of the world, in Nigeria it is not and without funding, it would still be a problem.
How can a woman in a typical African Society live a self-purposeful life without having to pay for it?
You said typical. She will pay for it. In a typical African setting, you are assertive and pursuing your goal. You are going to pay for it because there is no way out, you just have to choose to pay the price or you conform. That is the chart you have in a typical African setting. You would pay the price of stigma, rumors and backlashes. The only thing that saves you is if you come out well, the gist, rumor, backlashes would become less if you succeeded but if you are assertive and then you fail. You are doom.
Cases of domestic violence flood our societies daily. Do you think it is on the increase as against what was once obtainable?
No, it is not on the increase. It has always been there. I think there are lot of noises and voices around now. I think what you are just seeing is a lot more of harvesting. People are now speaking out and going to the court.
Can financial independence of a woman be a factor for home-break?
It is not about the economic empowerment of women. It is just that women are becoming more educated and this translates to financial independence. Financial independence of a woman does not determine a broken home except both parties do not manage it well and home will break whether you are financially independent or not.
So you do have people that their home are broken but are yet in marriage. What you will find out is that with more independence, your life becomes prior and you don’t necessarily have to go through the torture of maintaining a home. Therefore, independence does not necessarily mean home-break; you have to work it out. In every relationship, partners have to work it out together.
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