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‘I started school late, after Awolowo introduced free education’

Chief Bode Sogunle is a renowned educator and son of the soil, he is the brains behind so many educational programmes and initiatives in the Solu,Ifo area and also the founder of Lubotin private school, Ifo, the oldest private secondary school in the community.
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Speaking on the state of education in Ifo local government, the renowned educator says back in the day, children in the community started school late and they used that factor as a means of influence to intimidate, woo and disrespect their teachers. Chief Bode highlighted that there is no fear, no concern, no eagerness to learn making them lose interest in all academic activities and prone to social vices. In his words “There was a time we had complaints that students were wooing teachers and whatever you notice now is very small compared to what we met on the ground then.”

Speaking to the current educational situation Bode shares the immediate causes why education in this community is backward and why the government needs to salvage the situation. Excerpt

Let’s talk about your education, background and how that shaped your values?

I am Chief Bode Sogunle, I was born into the family of Mosadoba on November 9,1943. I was born in the local Solu, Ifo Community. At ages five, six, seven and eight I had no education. I lost my father at 7 and mother at 8. After all these events the next thing was to go into farming because that was predominantly the occupation of every native in this community. Education was far from this area then and no school in the area. Those days , education was not available and the one available was not free. Things began to change when the Ikene philosopher, the great Awo introduced free education.

Why start school late?

I started school very late precisely in 1965 after Awolowo introduced free education. I was 12 years old then. I had to wait because my hands couldn’t reach the right place. While I was waiting my guardian then took me to the lesson it was like a replacement for school. I started school over grown and when I started I saw ability in my disability because I was able to read and write due to the lessons that I attended.

Free education started?

We started under the tree you know free education will attract a crowd, when teachers write on the board we write on sand. Once you are able to write well on sand then you are asked to buy a slate. I had a better writing skill and my teacher always placed me on the stool to write on the chalk board. I write well and that helped me to skip classes because my principal noticed me. I was delayed like I have mentioned but I was ready.
Tell us about your lesson and the teacher?

Earlier, I was going for lessons under a retired railway officer, Mr Aferoko, he had a story telling method of teaching. The man had an uncommon teaching methodology. He taught us English and Yoruba alphabets simultaneously. It was easy for us to learn the two at the same time. I was then able to read Alawiye Books 1-4.

This man taught us many things in a simple storytelling manner, he took everything without a rush. You know these days we are always hurrying students up because we are competing recklessly and parents always put pressure on teachers. I was told that our lesson teacher was schooled by the British officials. When a child has a good teacher you will see it in that child.

How should a young child be introduced to education?

On learning, it is easy to teach any child or even anyone who is willing, eager and ready to learn. A learner should be a good listener. Someone teachable is willing, ready and eager. Paying attention follows the eagerness to learn.

How has schooling evolved over the years in this community?

In this community children start school very late and they are usually over grown in the class and this affected education generally. This factor made them prone to social vices because majority of the parents here are not educated and those educated here don’t even stay here at all. Students who come to school here have little or no home training, no discipline, no self control.

In the beginning, we had complaints that students were wooing teachers, beating teachers and some of them kept on making life miserable for teachers. What we have now is nothing compared to what we met on ground. Today, nothing has really changed we only had a similar case and with people like you coming to expose the community to publicity we may have government attention.

You listed the challenges, what were the solutions provided?

Okay, it was worse, I came back here in 1993 /94, I stayed permanently in 1998. Let it be on record that I started the hostel in 1993/94. We brought in professionals, we organised seminars to educate the parents and the schoolchildren. Another thing I must add is that the wealthy here are not educated and the educated are not wealthy.

Why did you site your school close to an already existing one?

There was a time I was asked to come and start a hostel in the community you know back then I do bring students for common entrance. Our students excel so well in the common entrance and the school wanted children to mix up especially those coming from Lagos, Abeokuta and very far distance. Then, I used sports, food and comfortable learning environment to canvass students.

Learning was fun in our space and every parent loved it. I must confess these children who are not very good in the city they bring them here and you won’t believe we transform them and some of them don’t want to leave. We do lessons and we had a strategy of combining our classes this makes the level of exposure and exercise high.

What made your school different from other schools in the community?

When we started our children excelled at the junior secondary level because we exposed them seriously to complete learning. We started with lessons and continued with the method of making learning fun by engaging them in various learning and sport activities. This made students come from very big schools in the state example is Mayflower. We had a tradition which is a culture of distinction.

What are the key issues that must be addressed to fix education in this community and especially to make it both accessible and affordable?

Firstly, moral and cultural values, low morals in the environment is a result of bad parenting,one of the challenges we have here is that parents are highly irresponsible and their moral bank is very low. Also,children whose parents fight all the time at home what do you expect them to be in the school, Mike Tyson of course.

Secondly, environment and religion, with these mode of worship which is predominantly traditional students make use of diabolical power on themselves to inflict pain, to win hearts, to control and do a lot of things. They make use of food, rings, and so many things.

In addition, success rate, in this same environment the educated are not wealthy and the wealthy are noteducated. The uneducated are always ready to get their hands very dirty through stealing and way laying people, traders and road users.

Lack of models and companies, you hardly find companies or industries here because the roads are very bad and also there is little or no one around to show good example for some of these school children except their teachers and the few educated show less concern.

Policy makers must come around to study the environment to understand the nature of its people and I just have to say lack of supervision is also part of the problem here teachers can be non challant and they are highly discouraged by the students. So, seminars, orientation, bringing in government officials, formulation of policies and strict implementation.

What are the efforts of teachers in some of these schools to enforce discipline and sanity?

Teachers cannot do much this is because of the teachers that are strict are prone to attacks and they can even be killed. The students take offence after every form of correction and the teachers are vulnerable to attack. When teachers beat students they are physically and spiritually attacked. You will be surprised that at every given opportunity they fight and they don’t speak English.

With your wealth of experience what do you think policy makers can do to salvage the situation of education in local communities?

Our policy makers especially those in Ogun State should go abroad to see how things are being done and some students should not be in school at a very tender age. This is because in my case starting school very late helped me. A child must identify what they are being taught. Today you wnill find children between age 1-2 in school because their parents don’t have time and some of these children cannot even identify some of the things that they are being taught.

Read also: INVESTIGATION: Inside Ifo Community where teachers live in fear, public school students roam streets during school hours

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