Reverend Olusegun Falana, Vicar St. John Anglican Church, Aperin, Ibadan and Vice Principal, Emmanuel Alayande Junior Seminary Diocesan Secondary School, Ibadan clocked 70 years on Thursday and marked his 35th year of teaching and moulding young Nigerians. He spoke with BIODUN OYELEYE on sundry issues. Excerpts…
What is your view of our democracy?
The way our politicians are practicing it today is not what we used to know and it is not what we want. It is not good that money has dominated the political process all through because in effect it has made democracy to lose its actual meaning. Today unfortunately people can predict the outcome of elections because of money; that is not democracy and it is bad politics. It has made voting to be a useless exercise because the votes of the people don’t really count. But that was not what we used to know; we have seen politics before in this country but not this type.
What is the way out?
People must be educated, about their rights and responsibilities. Government must do all it can to eradicate poverty. Nigerians are hungry, really hungry because government has failed to provide the necessary environment for prosperity. Many have lost jobs, shops owners have lost their shops, no business and poverty is just walking through the streets. The connection between poverty and our electoral process is that it is when people are well fed that they will be able to resist manipulation that they will not be easily bought by politicians. A man who is well fed can think right and act right. And the bible says that when the righteous rule over a nation everything goes well but when the wicked is on the throne the exact opposite is the case.
We need to vote credible people into office but how can someone like me secure the votes when I don’t have money? How would people know me to vote for me for example when I am not a money bag? How would they know my virtues? That is the challenge of our democracy. But thankfully there’s awareness now .
A disease known is half cured. Every Nigerian now sees corruption as something detrimental and negative. Now that we know, there’ll be a time when people who are competent will stand up to do something. These days, those who have skeleton in their cupboard are running helter skelter because government of the day is trying to fish out those who are involved in official corruption. But it has not been really total.
There are so many areas of corruption unattended to. You and I can see many police officers taking bribes on our roads. We can’t do anything about that. News stories abound of police extortion etc. And with corruption in judiciary, education, hospital etc where are we going in this country? But with the awareness, one day, solution will come.
What can you say about corruption in the nation’s education sector?
It’s a cankerworm that’s been bringing down educational development in Nigeria. I remember in our own days too. Parents would come to you. A parent came saying he wants his son to enter College of Science, Ibadan. I said you must have requirement like credit in Agricultural Science, Basic Science, Mathematics and English. And that we should wait for entrance exam result. They left my quarters. And on getting outside, the wife was asking the man, “how much did he ask for?”. The husband replied that he didn’t collect any money o” The wife said, “ha, the man won’t do the job you want him to do o. You better let’s look for another person”.
All along, you discover that people, citizens themselves helped in bastardizing education standard in the country. They try to force in their children who may not be competent for one discipline or the other. Parents want to have a say in whatever a child becomes, whereas it is the school that should determine the best discipline to advise a child to pursue. I had another nasty experience.
I was a chemistry teacher at Adelagun. During the morning devotion, we were trying to ask students to go for their Assembly to know what to do for the day. As we were chasing the students to go there, a certain student jumped over the fence. At the back of the fence, he addressed me, saying, “baba, I’ve accorded you enough respect. What’s level of education attained by Adedibu for you ordering me to come in. If you dare follow me, I’ll stone you o”. I was shocked. Because it seemed some other areas of endeavour in Nigeria have become highly remunerated than education. Education is no longer given right priority and so. Even to the student awareness that they will leave school and no job thereafter. They don’t see education as lucrative or having anything to do with their future.
These are some of the areas where corruption had really ruined the educational system. These days with all these mobile phones and gadgets, you can easily dictate answer to colleagues in exam halls not until quite recently when JAMB authority became aware and has been trying to tackle that. You can imagine how many people have been involved in that. There are fake certificates. Fake Grade 2, Toronto this and Toronto that all about. And it’s when you meet them, graduates that you know that corruption is in education.
Will you say that education standard in the country is improving or falling?
It’s not improving. You see that some graduates in Nigeria today are not seasoned but half-baked, especially when you talk in terms of specialisation. When you are an employer of labour and you employ a science teacher to teach in the class, you’ll be embarrassed to see what he’s teaching because simple titration, practical in Biology etc will show how poor they are. I served in Calabar and there’s this graduate from Ahmadu Bello University, without O level and his English wasn’t that really good. He was teaching History but the grammar was not good, committing grammatical blunders while teaching students. That was years back and you can imagine producing half-baked all along for years. It’s getting worse.
How well do you think government can come in to solve the problem?
Right from school, qualified teachers interviewed and recruited. There’s what’s called inspectorate division in education in those days and it was super. They will enter the class, monitor teaching. We need that again. It should start right from the school level to improve education. Education should not be politicised. There was a time in my career when we had to promote everybody automatically. Even when you see that the student had scored below 20 per cent and because there’s no classroom to keep repeaters you just push them on. It didn’t help the students at all.
Why did you choose teaching among other professions as a young man?
I wanted to study medicine. We were three moving together in Ibadan Grammar school in those days. Two of them today are medical doctors. But along the line, I wasn’t able to make it. We read physics chemistry, biology at the school. But our biology result was delayed. Other friends went to Igbobi College etc to repeat the exam but I couldn’t because of lack of fund.
It was daddy’s opinion that I should look for a job to train my younger siblings which I did. And along that line I wasn’t able to make ends meet. In fact, furthering my education after leaving secondary school was difficult. I was doing it instalmentally and I was training myself.
The younger brother I trained graduated before me. Yes. My family and I were almost written, thinking I won’t be able to go further but God did it. It’s a kind of self training thing. I was at the University of Lagos in 1977 for Chemistry Biology Education, since I couldn’t do medicine again, but I withdrew again due to lack of fund.
You’ve been teaching for 35 years nonstop. Looking back the years, do you call yourself an accomplished teacher?
I became so passionate about teaching. It later became clear to me that it was God’s design because at St. Andrews College I had merit in teaching practice. At College of Education I had merit in Teaching Practice. It was merit too, even at the University level. I was about the best science student at the College of Education and I was to shake the hands of the governor, but it was manipulated overnight. They never read my name on graduation pamphlet as it had been “tipexed”. I still kept the pamphlet with me as souvenir. Since then I knew something was going wrong with Nigeria.
Please let us into your background Sir.
I was born into a family of seven males, because my father wanted a female child. The time was remarkable in the sense that we owe God the glory. My mother died at 52, while my father died at 62 and am here clocking 70. I see it as a grace. God deserves my thanks and praises. My education was not smooth, although I started well. My father was struggling to make sure that I’m trained.
He had great expectation on me. In those days, you train the first child expecting him to train others. But it’s not true to my own case. I had it rosy when I started. I was a very keen Scout member. At Ibadan Grammar School, I was selected as the only Scout to represent Western State in Scotland for a Scout jamboree. It afforded me opportunity to visit Northern Ireland, Belfast, London, Great Britain. I was exposed. Through scouting I met so many dignitaries in town.
I was posted to Ondo Anglican Grammar school in1971 by Venerable Alayande to teach Physics and Chemistry. But the appointment then was temporary; just a year. After one year the appointment is terminated and you reapply at the School Board. I did this for many years.
I taught at Timi Agbale Grammar School, Ede. Later I did Grade 2 teacher even after A level, just to get permanent job. My focus then was that if I could give years with Grade 2, other studies would be sponsored by the state government. I did six years after Grade 2, only to discover that government was not consistent. They said no more sponsorship; go for your studies and leave our job.
In fact, I had spent two years in NCE before they said that. Were it not for my wife, I would have withdrawn. She helped; she would bring food at weekends which would be finished by friends. After the NCE, I served in Calabar. It took another almost 10 years before I could graduate. But all along I have passion for worshipping God. I saw Him as only solution to the problem of financial handicap. I became prayerful. I was president Christian Student Fellowship. It was God who saw me through it all.
What’s your memorable experience as a teacher?
just recently, a group of students 85/86 set of Methodist Secondary School Elekuro, Ibadan invited me last year to honour me alongside other five old teachers who had helped to shape their lives. I was surprised. At the event, the people had prepared well for the event. There was a bandstand and all that. Immediately I entered the hall, they started calling me my nickname in those days. I was asked to recollect their names which I did to tumultuous clapping. I was not a priest when I was teaching them. I never knew that such kind of day could come; maybe I could have done greater things to impress the children. I was only doing things I love doing. I would teach them extra lesson, never did I know they were noting it and that it would reflect in their lives. There are professors, well meaning Nigerians among them. They really impressed us. That’s almost 30 years away. The lesson here is that whatever you do today, do it with all your zeal.
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