From Priscilla Ediare, Ado-Ekiti
A nonagenarian, Pa Reuben Famuyide Fasoranti is the former leader of the Pan-Yoruba social-political organisation, Afenifere. The 96-year-old native of Akure South, Ondo State, is a retired teacher, administrator, and politician. He spoke to Saturday Sun about his life, his love for education, and why he did not remarry after he lost his wife to death. He also spoke on some national issues.
How was your childhood?
I was born on the 11th of May, 1926. I am still going strong. I went to school in a village. I later went to St. Andrews Primary School, Owo, Ondo Boys’ High School, Yaba Higher College, Lagos and later University College, Ibadan (now the University of Ibadan). I studied Geography. Later, I went to the University of Hull, the United Kingdom for a postgraduate diploma in Education. I majored in English Language and Latin. I went to Maguire University, Sydney, Australia for my master’s in Education Administration and School Management. I had been a teacher all my life. I enjoy it. I later founded some schools. Omolere Nursery and Primary School, Akure High School, and later St. Frances’ Academy, Igoba, Akure. St. Frances’ Academy was founded in memory of my late wife. I have retired. But I still nurture things in education. I promote educational topics. In my retirement, I enjoy reading and listening to church music. I am a churchman and chairman of the education committee of my church.
What is your typical day like?
After breakfast at about 10:00 am, I go to school to supervise teachers at my newest institute, St Frances’ Academy. It is a secondary school, and it is doing very well. I don’t teach. I make sure that everything goes well. The students are doing very well; they make excellent results. Education has been my life. In the afternoons, I have my nap. And in the evenings, I read novels and newspapers, listen to music and commentaries, and welcome visitors.
How did you meet your late wife?
My late wife is Frances Oladiwura Fasoranti (nee Awosika). We met when we were in school. I was in Ondo Boys’ High School and she was in United Missionary College (UMC), Ibadan. We were friends for nine years before we got married in 1955. And she died in 1991.
Did you remarry after her death?
No, I didn’t. I didn’t want to disturb the happiness of my children. If I bring another woman into the house she will run away from me. So, I decided not to. I enjoy the company of my children. I have no regrets.
How has life been since her death?
Well, I find happiness in the company of my children. One of my daughters lives here with me. Her husband died and she lives in the other house.
You clocked 96 in May, but you are still active. You even go to school to supervise your teachers and do a couple of other things. What is your secret?
I trust in God. I don’t drink. I don’t go after women. I find happiness in reading novels, listening to music and listening to the news. And I keep the good company of my male friends who visit me.
You said you love listening to music. What kind of music?
I love listening to classical music and church music.
When you celebrated your 96th birthday, what were the things that ran through your mind?
I was looking forward to the day I shall sleep and meet my Lord. I know that at 96, the chances are that I have a few years to live. I believe that I shall sleep peacefully. So, I have no fear at all.
How did you feel during your wife’s first pregnancy and when you had your first child?
I felt very happy. I was looking forward to a very happy day. And when the first child came, a female, I was very happy. Later, I had a set of twins. They are boys. They are both qualified now; one is a medical doctor and the other a pharmacist. Later, I had two more.
You still look handsome at your age. Did you get advances from the opposite sex when you were much younger?
(Laughs) No, I didn’t.
Some married men do have ‘side chicks’. Did you have a ‘side chick’ after you got married?
I don’t think it is fair to have a side chick. I never had a side chick. This is because it is better to be loyal to your wife and have a very clear mind and be free. It is better not to be suspicious because however clever you may be, a woman will always discover. So the best thing is to be yourself. My wife was always sure of me.
Some husbands assist their wives in the kitchen and doing other chores at home. How useful were you to your late wife in these areas, especially while your children were growing up?
Everything was all right. I was a full complement. I made sure that she didn’t lack anything. At anytime, I was there for her.
How do you relax?
I listen to music. On Sundays, I go to church and on ordinary days of the week, there is a section of gospel music I listen to.
What is your favourite food?
Pap and akara (bean cake) and then pounded yam. I take pounded yam twice a week and I take pap and akara every other day.
As a retired teacher, how will you compare education in your days and now?
In our time, things were very good. Things are falling apart now. Schools are no more what they used to be. The students are not as studious as before. So, a lot needs to be done to improve on the standard of education. Occasionally, I offer opinions on that and they seek my opinions. I am not very happy. Classes are very large now; you have 60, 70 students in a class. In our time, the prescription was 35 students in a class and that was strictly kept. When a teacher has to mark 80 exercise books, he will not be encouraged to do it. So the standard has fallen. But private schools are doing better. They keep to the prescribed number of students that should be in a class.
What do you think can be done to improve the standard in public schools?
Government should prescribe 35, 40 students per class. But it cannot. I know of a public school around here where the classes have about 80 students. And the teachers have no space between them and the blackboards. Then the exercise books are too many because the students are many. Exercise books in English and Mathematics could be 80. And a teacher would not be encouraged to mark the books. So the standard is falling.
Are you saying teachers in private schools don’t have as many exercise books to mark?
They do. But not as many as teachers in public schools. This is because the proprietors of private schools keep strictly to the prescribed number of students that should be in a class. In my school, for instance, students are not more than 30, 35 in each class. In fact, in some cases we have less, so the standard is high. When you have sizable classes, you teach, you mark. But when the classes are large, there is tendency for a teacher not to do much marking.
How can the government revive the falling standard?
There are some cases where students will exchange exercise books and mark themselves. It shouldn’t be. As much as possible, government should reduce the number of students in a class. It should build more schools so that the number can be reduced in each class. Also, the government should provide more facilities for students. It should make sure that students go to schools near their homes. For instance, children go a long way to get to their schools. There is a school near here where students come from Oyemekun area which is about two miles. As much as possible, students should go to schools close to their homes, unless they can provide public transport for them. In addition, there should be training and retraining of teachers. As much as possible, the government should make sure that school fees are reduced. And then the standard should improve.
If you could go back to your school days, what vacuum would you like to fill?
I would have loved to be a medical doctor. But I didn’t have the privilege. My education didn’t meet the requirements. I would have loved to do Chemistry, Physics and so on but I didn’t do science subjects at all because there were no facilities then. The teachers for those subjects were not there. But we had teachers for commercial and art departments. In those days, teachers were qualified to be science teachers. So, when I found myself in this profession, I developed an interest in it.
Ondo people are famous for eating dog meat. Do you eat dog meat?
(Laughs). No, I have never tasted dog meat. I am from Akure. People from Ondo town eat dog meat. Akure people don’t eat dog meat. Akure people only kill dogs to make sacrifices to Ogun (god of iron). And they kill dogs to make sacrifices during cultural festivals too. I have never eaten dog meat.
What do you say to the emergence of Bola Ahmed Tinubu as the presidential flag bearer of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the 2023 general elections?
It is good. When he was the governor of Lagos State, he did very well. I think he can carry that into the presidency.
The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has been on strike for some months now. What’s your opinion on this?
It is very unfortunate. The students are wasting away. The lecturers are not being paid. Everything is at a standstill. ASUU should shift grounds; the Federal Government should shift grounds too. Both should meet halfway.
What do you say to the rising security challenges in the country?
It is very bad. Government should do a lot to make sure that things change. Look at what happened in Owo, inside a church where one should feel safe. The house of God should be a sacred place. Look at what happened to me. My daughter was going to Lagos and she was assassinated on the way. So, security should be beefed up and government should be more vigilant. It makes someone very unhappy. It makes someone feel very insecure. Not even at night, in broad daylight. It is very bad. The operatives of Amotekun Corps are doing very well. They should be strengthened. I have been planning to go to Ibadan to visit a friend of mine. But I can’t go for fear of what may happen on the way. I visited the relatives of a friend who died in Ekiti. We had to secure the services of some police officers. It makes someone very unhappy. Government should try and do something about it. But I think eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. So everybody should be very vigilant.