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Adesegun Adebanjo: The undying passion of a retired school principal

 

by Church Times

He retired as a school principal in 1996. But Mr. Adesegun Adebanjo, a septuagenarian, still relishes the years he spent in the teaching profession. The passion he had for his students has simply refused to die.

 He could still recall the names of many of those he taught in the 80s and some in the late 60s when he began his teaching career.

 Beyond recalling their names, he has a mental picture of many of them.

 He demonstrated this skill when some of those he taught in the 80s paid him an unscheduled visit at his Ilese-Ijebu home around the time this reporter visited.

 He not only mentioned their names, but he also recaptured memories of their time in school.

Mr and Mrs Adesegun Adebanjo (both retired school principals)

The bonding

 Though a disciplinarian, he had an uncanny way of getting into the hearts of students and making them responsive to instructions.

 In many of the schools where he taught from Sokoto to Lagos and then to Ogun State, Adebanjo demonstrated genuine love for his students to the point that when one of his daughters was given out in marriage some years ago, it was one of them, Prof. Justus Sokenu the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Administration) of the National Open University that was chairman of the day.

 He told Church Times that he bonded with his students at the point of their admission to the school where he was principal. “As principal, I made sure I was involved in writing the admission register.

 “I had a one-on-one meeting with the students. I go around their classes and call them by their names. I also get to know some of their family members if possible. Once I get their initials, it’s easy for me to remember their names.” he said.

From science to art

 Ironically, Adebanjo never wanted to pursue teaching as a career. “I was planning to study architecture. So I was looking in that direction. I was a science student till the first year of my A/Level programme at Ijebu Ode Grammar School. But I had a challenge with mathematics.

 “Since I would need mathematics to study architecture I had to change completely from science to the arts in the second year of my A/Levels. That was how I came about studying English/history and philosophy eventually”

 Crossing to the arts was not so much a challenge because he was also good in the arts and was getting awards in competitions.

 During his A/Levels, Adebanjo won the John Kennedy Memorial Essay Competition organised by the US government. He was the second person that would win the award in Nigeria for his school after the famed Gbolabo Ogunsanwo, a foremost columnist and Editor of the defunct Daily Times. Ogunsanwo who later wrote for Nation Newspaper was known for his vitriolic pen till he passed on a few years ago.

 As an A/level student, Adebanjo was in the same class with Ogunsanwo, and many other prominent Nigerians. Some of them have passed on.

Mr Adebanjo,and his wife, Mrs Taiwo Adebanjo with their grandson, Oluwatamilore

Teaching career

 Adebanjo’s teaching career however began in 1967 shortly after his Advanced level programme. The first subject he taught was Biology at a private school in Lagos.

 “The day I resumed work in the school, the students were about protesting because they didn’t have a Biology teacher. So I was asked to teach Biology. Since I was good in Biology, I didn’t have a problem teaching it” he said.

 But not long after securing his first job, he got another offer from another school where he taught English. So, he worked in two schools simultaneously until he secured his first government job at the Abeokuta Girls Grammar School. He served as the teacher in charge of discipline apart from being the English teacher in the school.

 Incidentally, some students he taught in the early 70s still come around. He attributed the bonding to the relationship he had with them while he was their teacher.

Sojourn in journalism

While still in service, Adebanjo secured admission to the University of Lagos to study English History and Philosophy.  It turned out that Gbolabo Ogunsanwo was in the same class with him at UNILAG.

 Ogunsanwo was working in the defunct Daily Times. Adebanjo was teaching. Both of them soon became close friends.

They later collaborated and floated a magazine called, The New Nation. Ogunsanwo was the Publisher/Editor-in-Chief while Adebanjo was the Marketing Director. But not long after the magazine hit the newsstand they ran into a hitch.

 Adebanjo recalled, “We were set to produce a particular edition of the journal. We occupied an apartment somewhere in the Yaba area and we had the artwork and all of our equipment in the building. But then there was a heavy rain and flood that almost sank the building. We lost all our materials and office equipment to the flood. I tried to salvage some of the materials, but they were irredeemable.”

 That was the end of their dream. Adebanjo had to later concentrate on his teaching while Ogunsanwo continued with journalism. But the idea of continuing with publication was buried because they had lost so much funds. The landlord they paid rent to was not ready to refund their money.

 But he had good memories of his years of experience in the media. He said in those days journalists were treated like kings. ‘I remember we had the opportunity of meeting Joe Garba the then Foreign Affairs Commissioner as he was then called. He accorded us so much respect that he was the one that prepared coffee for us. That was the kind of privilege we enjoyed as media men in those days.’ he said.

Gbolabo Ogunsanwo

Back to Teaching

 Soon after graduation from UNILAG, he secured a lecturing job at the Higher School Certificate arm of the Federal Government College Sokoto. He taught in the school for about two years.

 But he soon came back to Lagos to do some public relations jobs along with Ogunsanwo. They floated a PR advertising company. They were the first PR company to work for the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria. Those were the years of  Bola Kuforiji Olubi

 But that did not still stop him from working in the school environment. He maintained a job with Lagos Secondary Commercial Academy as an administrator. He combined the work with a post-graduate programme at UNILAG. He also taught at CMS Grammar, a couple of other schools, and then at Imokun Grammar School, Epe where he made a great impact

The Jakande factor

 He recalled how a windstorm destroyed Imokun Grammar School, a development that caught the attention of the then Governor of Lagos State, Alhaji Lateef Jakande.

 “Then, it was free education in Lagos State. The rule was that you could not take a kobo from the students. We were running two shifts at Imokun Grammar School. There was a rainstorm that damaged the school. So there was nowhere to keep the students.

 “As principal of the school I had to appeal to the community to allow us to use the church, the mosque, and all the available space in the community to teach the students. We made a makeshift office with palm fronds for the principal.  We partitioned the community hall into classrooms and continued school like that.

 “One day, we just saw the then governor of Lagos State, Alhaji Lateef Jakande with his Toyota Crown in the school. He was so impressed that we could improvise. He immediately ordered the construction of 36 classrooms for us.” Adebanjo said.

 But a couple of years after, he had to seek a transfer from Lagos to Ogun State as a result of what he termed “local politics”

 He said he could not stand the undue interest and sabotage that greeted his stay in the school after it had been transformed.

Mr Adesegun Adebanjo fith from left with 84 set of Ijebu Ife Community Grammar School at a function

Ijebu Ife Community Grammar School

 He joined the Ogun State Teaching Service Commission and served first as Vice Principal of Moslem Teachers College. Oru and later, he was transferred to another community school at Ijebu Terelu. He was set to resume at the school when he was re-posted to Ijebu Ife Community Grammar School.

 ‘I was posted to Ijebu Ife Community Grammar School in 1983. That was where I had a most fulfilling time as principal. It was one of the best schools in Ogun State then. The students were getting awards and were doing quite well. But it was around that time boarding house was being phased out of schools in Ogun State.

 “But I liked the hostel arrangement because I went to schools that had boarding houses. That was why I had to establish a private hostel years later to accommodate students in many of the schools around the Ijebu area.”

 But serving at the Ijebu Ife Community School was quite memorable for him because there was so much cooperation from the community. “The community people wanted the best for the school. They supported us in the school and ensured students got the best.

 “We went as far as getting teachers from outside the school to prepare the students for WAEC. We also had several expatriate teachers from India to complement the workforce. It was indeed a fulfilling time for me”

Retirement

Adebanjo eventually retired from civil service after serving as principal in a couple of other schools in the Ijebu area and then as Secretary of the National Electoral Commission, Ogun State.

 He said,  “Teaching was my life, and it’s still my life. I love children around me and it was easy for me to demonstrate that while at Ijebu Ife Community Grammar School. The students were free to come to my house and we had a great time together.”

 But getting close to them did not mean he spared the rod. “There is always a difference between being a disciplinarian and being mean. Some teachers are unduly mean. You don’t impact knowledge by being mean and wicked. Being a teacher means you have to show empathy and love for your students. That is why many of my students still come around and they always still call to say hello.”

life of retired school principal

Mr Adebanjo during his birthday on June 11 2022

Quiet life

 Now, Adebanjo is living a quiet life at his Ijebu Ilese home with his wife Taiwo who has been of tremendous support to him.  Incidentally, his wife is also a retired school principal. The last school she served was Itamapako High School. Iloti Ijebu. She is also a minister at the Apostolic Faith Church, Idoko Rd, Isewo, Ijebu Imusin

 Adebanjo says, “My wife is a great treasure. She was also a teacher at Ijebu Ife Community Grammar School. And we have been living and enjoying retirement together.’

 He showed this reporter pictures (many of them blurred)  he took with some of his students back in the 80s. The pictures according to him are treasures. “it reminds me of those days. I can still see the faces of some of the students as we speak.”

 

Story By Gbenga Osinaike

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