Professor Mojisola Adenike Oyarekua is the Provost of Ekiti State College of Education, Ikere-Ekiti, Ekiti State. In this interview by TAYO GESINDE, she speaks on how she was able to combine her career with the home front, the need for parents to lay good examples for their children, and why a female president will perform excellently well if given a chance in Nigeria.
What was growing up like for you?
I am the third born of my family. I have two elder sisters and younger ones. I am from a royal family in Ado-Ekiti. My father was very loving and really took care of us. My mother was the Margret Thatcher of our family, so we had a balanced equation. If we were not doing well in school my father would call us and admonish us to do better but my mother will use your position in your examination as your appellation during the holidays. There was a time that my position was 23rd and she called me 23 position throughout the holidays, especially when visitors were around. So, we were forced to sit up and thank God, everything paid off for all of us.
Why did you decide to go into academics?
Actually, I was very good in arts and I had the ambition of going into investigative journalism but my father said I should change to science and at that time, you don’t disobey your parents. That was how I obeyed him and changed to science and thank God I didn’t regret it. My father wanted me to repeat HSC but I said no. So, I sat for the examination into the University of Ibadan, University of Jos branch. The cut off was 60 for southerners, 45 for northerners. I scored 59 and because the registrar of UI at that time was my father’s friend, I went to my father to help me talk to his friend to consider me but his reply was,” why didn’t you get 70 or 65 per cent?” My father refused to help so, I decided to go and do Science Laboratory Technology in U.I instead of staying at home. It was a part time course my father was very angry but he was still giving me money and told me that when I am ready, I should come and do a proper course. Then, we were in London for my sister’s wedding and the result came out because UI was in collaboration with Institute of Science Technology in London and I did well. Some of my father’s friends that were around like the late General Adebayo, late Ooni of Ife, congratulated me and gave me money. My father asked them why they were congratulating for a course he didn’t understand and they said it was a good course. So, at that point, my father changed his mind, he apologised and said if I wanted to further, he will sponsor me, so, I went to the US for my Masters. When I finished, he gave me a car as a gift. The car was a Volkswagen then and I was very excited. I worked at Ibadan Polytechnic, and then crossed to the Federal Polytechnic Ado-Ekiti, and from there to the defunct University of Education, Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti State University, Federal University, Oye Ekiti, where I became a professor.
What price did you pay to get to where you are today?
It was very tough. I went through thick and thin. I had to really work hard to prove that I was capable of obtaining what I obtained. My life was really eventful but at the end of the day, I give glory to God. God located me with favour and mercy.
How has the journey been like since you became the provost of this institution?
It has been very interesting but with lots of challenges. For instance, we really don’t have enough funds and the enrolment into NCE is going down. That is why I want to use this opportunity to call on government at both the federal and state levels to have a special package for teachers. Teachers should get more incentives from government to attract more people to the teaching profession. I think they should encourage people to come to teachers training college if they want to become teachers. Many people now go into teaching without proper training. They turn to teaching because they couldn’t get a job. It shouldn’t be like that. The quality of education of any country dictates the development of that country.
How were you able to combine the home front with your career?
There was really no problem. Naturally I am an introvert, once I leave the office, I bury myself into the home to make sure food is available, everywhere is neat and I love cooking.
Looking back at your life, what experience would you say shaped your life into what it is today?
When I finished my Masters and was alone at home because my husband was working outside the country, I had to take care of the children and at the same time pursue my career. It was very challenging and I knew I had to double up my efforts if I wanted to remain a good mother, a good wife and a professional in my career. I had a lot of challenges coping but God helped me.
What is the secret of your success?
The secret was that I was very focused. I was not discouraged by all the challenges because I knew that I had to excel. Even when I was in the US, I wasn’t going to parties because I wanted to excel in my academics and to the glory of God, I came out with an A in my class.
What advice can you give to young working mothers on how they can successfully juggle their homes with their careers?
Mothers should be able to put things into compartments. When you are in the office put in your best and the moment you get home, put your best into taking care of your children and your husbands. We should make sure that one should not interfere with the other. And I think that women are blessed because we can multi-task and I believe that God endowed us with enough energy to be able to cope. Even our traditional mothers who didn’t go to school will go to farm and still come back home to cook, take care of their children and will still be available in the other room. I want to encourage young mothers to make sure they are able to balance everything and make the home and office conducive.
You have been at the helms of affair in Ekiti State College of Education. What are some of your achievements in office?
By the special grace of God we have been able to do many things. For instance, we are trying to increase the Internally Generated Revenue of the College so we have established a water factory both for sachet and bottle water and a printing press. We have procured digital x-ray machines, increased the number of boreholes in the school and in terms of staff developments so many of our members have travelled outside the country for one course or the other. The sandwich programme that was cancelled for many years was re-introduced and we now have new certificates and diploma programmes running in the college. Also, for the first time, we got full accreditation for our degree courses from the NUC last year and so on. We thank God for what we have achieved so far but we still have a long way to go based on my vision for the college. I want to make sure I leave the college in a better way than I met it and I want to showcase the college globally, God helping us.
How have you been able to maintain peace and order in this institution?
We really thank God but you see, I have an open administration and we dialogue a lot with the union members. And in dialoguing, they understand more of what goes on. I wish to appreciate all the unions for their cooperation. We are all working in synergy because we don’t want NCE to die.
Despite the efforts by several women groups and organisations, women are still seen as second class citizens. What can be done to change the narrative?
As women, we have to change our mindsets. We are not second class citizens. As a matter of fact, I believe I am stronger than any man. It is men that are really looking down on women. Even in politics, you don’t see women in some high positions. I think we have to showcase ourselves more and most importantly, women should come together and fight our cause together.
We have to make our voice heard in the nation and I believe that a woman president will perform excellently well in this nation.
As a mother, how do you think we can tackle moral decline in our society?
I think this has to do with parents. Parents should lay good examples for their children. These children even at a younger age are watching us, they know what we do. So, you can’t ask your child not to drink when you are a drunkard. You can’t ask your child not to embezzle when you embezzle. I remember the story of a girl who stole like N3O,000 from her father a long time ago, When asked how she could you do such a thing, she said I should not worry because her father won’t know she stole his money because he comes home with Ghana-must go filled with money everyday. And she knew the money were bribes from people. So, it has to do with parents. We need to spend time with our children and counsel them. We should let them learn from our past experiences. People should know about it and let them know they shouldn’t fall into the same trap. I think parents have a lot to do especially now that the moral decadence is getting too embarrassing.
What is your take on the fallen standard of education in Nigeria?
Government should invest more in education. We need facilities; infrastructures and we need to encourage teachers so that they can teach effectively. If you don’t have qualified teachers it will be garbage in, garbage out. So, government should pay more attention to funding of education, especially in higher institutions like this where we train the trainers.
Advice for young people?
The Bible says it is good for a man to carry his yoke when he is still young. Most of our youths these days want fast money and they are rushing to the fast lane to make quick money. I always tell them that they are just making themselves slaves to money because at the end of the day, they don’t really get the money the way they think they would get it. So, I want to tell them that they have to labour, work hard and endure so that when they grow older they can get the fruit of their labour. I want to implore our youths to work hard and locate God’s talent in their lives and invest into their destinies so that at they will not need to be struggling in their old age.