ON THE COUCH
By Funke Olaode
What is your background?
I was born in Ibadan but grew up in Lagos. I hold a degree in English Studies from the University of Ife, a Post Graduate Diploma in Education from the University of Lagos and a Post Graduate Certificate in Education (International) from the University of Nottingham. I am married to an Anglican Priest and blessed with three grown up children. I am presently the Chief Executive Officer of Corona Schools’ Trust Council.
How did your path cross with an Anglican priest?
He wasn’t an Anglican Priest when we got married. We have been married for 28 years. After eight years of marriage, my husband went into the priesthood. It is not a full time job.
At what stage did you go into teaching?
Ironically, I veered from banking to teaching. I studied English but was invited by my brother-in-law to work in a bank. From there, I made my way into teaching. It actually started in church as a counsellor and having found it was my calling, I embraced teaching 18 years ago. In 2002, I joined the CSTC as a teacher of English Language and later a class teacher at Corona School, Victoria Island. I moved through various ranks and became the Principal of Corona Secondary School, Agbara in 2014. I was appointed the Chief Executive Officer of the Corona Schools Trust Council on April 1, 2017.
What was your childhood aspiration?
I had always wanted to be a lawyer but when I got into university of Ife I was offered English with the hope of changing into law. But I never changed into law. I was ruminating on to do with my life. I didn’t have a clear direction though I got a job in a bank.
What are the challenges in running a conglomerate like Corona?
The challenges are the same you find in any organization where you are dealing with people. You are nurturing children from the cradle to secondary school. You are dealing with adults as well. For instance, we have a staff strength of about 600. Managing people is a huge business but the beauty of it is their positive contribution to the lives of the children. In the education industry, there are no two days that are the same. You are not bored, you are not caught in the routine of doing the same thing the same way day-in-day-out.
When are your best moments as an educationist?
I have also witnessed the success story of Corona over the years through combined efforts of the council, the teachers, principal and the stakeholders. Recently, the school became a member of New England Association of Schools and Colleges, an international body founded in 1885 and based in the United States. . It is a body that accredits schools across the world. The emphasis for the association is not to introduce American Curriculum but every school that they accredit must be operating at certain standard that meet international levels. This has led to a lot of improvement in the way we run the schools. We are the only school in Nigeria and second in West Africa and one of the first schools in Africa. In the just released 2017 WAEC, the school has a total of 562 distinctions, that is, 86 per cent of the total grades and 100 per cent in Mathematics and English. This makes me proud.
As an elitist school, how does Corona help to bridge the gap between the poor and the rich in giving back?
Corona school is a not-for-profit institution but we are mindful of the community. All of our schools give back to the community. Community service is one of our core values. There was a time we invited primary six pupils to our school just to give them a renewed sense of belonging, to aspire to greater things beyond where they are. All our schools have an adopted school. It is done to a greater level at the secondary school because they are older and they are able to take initiatives. So we had our students build a block of classroom in the community school they have adopted, we had them roofing the whole school and buying musical instruments, donating books and even building public toilets for the community.
There was a time when there was cholera outbreak in Agbara, they went round the market to clean the public toilets. When I was in Lekki, we went as far as a school in Ibeju Lekki, it wasn’t just enough that we took things to them, we roofed their classrooms and donated so many things. We have had parents partner with us, we got them a generator. This gesture made a positive impact on our students and taught them not to throw things away, to enjoy the privilege that God has given rather than taking it for granted.
If you had to rate your satisfaction with your life so far, out of 10, how you would rate yourself?
I am very grateful to God. I have three children. The first two are graduates and my daughter is in the university now studying education. I am healthy and I have not done badly. I have enjoyed the ride and still hope for a better future because I believe I am still on a journey.
What lesson has life taught you?
Never take anything and people around you for granted. And in whatever you do, make every moment your best moment by putting your best into it.
How do you take time off your busy schedule?
By virtue of my profession I still have children that I am nurturing. I derive pleasure in my job. I enjoy reading and traveling. I am a very homouros person and I take time off to relax with my friends.