Chairman of the Trade Union Congress (TUC) in Ekiti State, Comrade Sola Adigun, has given tips on confronting the challenges facing public education system in Nigeria.
Comrade Adigun, a teacher and cleric, was special guest at the maiden edition of ‘Journey Thus Far,’ an online enlightenment and interactive programme of the Christ’s School, Ado-Ekiti, Alumni Association, Class of ’87. The interactive programme, which had participants from all over the world, was done via Whatsapp group chats. It was hosted by Mr. Tope Adeboboye of The Sun, with Messrs Joe Adeleye, Morakinyo Bayode and Akinola Elegbe as moderators.
Adigun is also chairman of the Academic Staff Union of Secondary Schools (ASUSS), Ekiti State chapter, and national vice president, ASUSS, in Nigeria.
To surmount the challenges in the education sector, he tasked teachers to be more committed to their job like the teachers of those days. He also said government must show more commitment to the growth of the sector.
“The government should be more serious with education, like they do with politics. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) recommends 26 per cent annual budget for education. It was two years ago that we had the highest – just 9 per cent. Our classrooms and school environment are not conducive at all. Our curriculum must be reviewed to make schools more relevant to finding solutions. Parents are to do the needful in terms of discipline and provision for their wards. Societal re-orientation is necessary,” he said.
Adigun disclosed that he never wanted to become a teacher. He said that, apart from him, many of his classmates in secondary school also disliked the thought of becoming teachers.
One of the fears he had expressed then was that teaching would deny him his ambition to take up a job that would make him independent of government. He also wasn’t too enamoured of teaching because teachers were not well paid, and it affected the lifestyle of many teachers. He said watching many teachers ravaged by poverty was enough to make anyone snub the profession. He also lamented that no one in society held teachers in high esteem because they couldn’t afford the basic things of life.
He recalled how his father, who was a teacher, once explained to his children that he was once owed salaries for nine months. “But despite the fact that he was on one level, Level 10, for 13 years, and a vice principal for 16 years, my father remained dedicated to his work as if he was not owed a kobo.
“Most of our teachers were owed salaries running to months when we were at Christ’s School. Many of them were forced to go into farming using us students as their labourers.
“Christ’s School impacted courage and self-confidence in me. When these qualities are applied into teaching, the best will come out of.”
Adigun has been generously applauded for fearlessly fighting for the welfare of his colleagues as chairman of ASUSS and TUC in Ekiti State.
At the interactive programme, he recalled how he never wanted to have anything to do with teaching. All he wanted was to study Electrical/Electronics Engineeering, which forced him to reject other courses that he was admitted to study at various times. He said, at a point, he would rather sell ice cream, which he produced himself, than teach.
But today, Adigun is often seen on television and in newspapers mingling with governors and other men of means. And he confessed that he had become a proud teacher without any iota of regret, even if the remuneration has remained low.
“I accepted the teaching job to enable me to start God’s work in Ekiti. I do evangelical work now too. Well, I had wanted to be students’ leader from when I was a Form 3 student in the secondary school. Fela Anikulapo Kuti, Femi Falana, Gani Fawehinmi and Alao Aka Bashorun were my heroes and mentors,” he said.
But he said he is always unhappy when he sees politicians using teachers as political tools in an undignified manner and when teachers are not sincere with their work. It also saddens him how the society encourages examination malpractices. He lamented that many students take their studies with levity because of the attitudinal corruption in the nation’s education system.
On how he has been leading and earning the trust of senior professionals in Ekiti as TUC leader, Adigun said that it has not been an easy task, explaining that Ekiti people are never intimidated by their leaders. He noted, however, that the people still celebrate sincerity and integrity.
Said he: “Apart from these two, I wish to state that a leader that will earn the trust of Ekiti followers should let them know that he is their leader by grace and not that he’s better than them. The leader must be courageous and bold. Their welfare should be paramount.”
Right now, Comrade Sola Adigun is a very popular name in Ekiti State. Would he be interested in going into politics anytime soon?
The union leader noted that his interest in politics is still quite low, especially with all the vices currently defining Nigeria’s politics. But he stated that, if the atmosphere becomes better, he might give politics a thought.
“I’m aware that evil triumphs when a good man does nothing,” he stated.
How has he been creating a balance, since he’s a man of many parts – teacher, unionist, cleric and family man?
His words: “Apart from church positions that I occupy, I hold three positions in the union. What I do is, I delegate. I train people a lot and allow them to do things themselves.”