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Adebola-Oladejo: Teaching has afforded me the opportunity of grooming children

By Esther Ijewere
16 July 2022   |   4:13 am
Oluyemisi A. Adedokun-Oladejo is a classroom and virtual teacher of English Language and Literature-in-English. She is also a writer with five book titles, including a comprehensive grammar textbook, to her name.

Oluyemisi A. Adedokun-Oladejo is a classroom and virtual teacher of English Language and Literature-in-English. She is also a writer with five book titles, including a comprehensive grammar textbook, to her name. She was the winner of the 2020 African Writers’ Award for Creative Nonfiction, a co-winner of the 2021 Ogun State Academic Laurel and the first African to win the TOEFL English Practitioner’s Prize (2022). A Master’s Degree holder in English who also has ambassadorial affiliations with some education initiatives, Oluyemisi not only enjoys teaching, but is also committed to helping other teachers discover and leverage the opportunities available for educators to make impact beyond the classroom, attain global relevance and have financial freedom. She shares her inspiring story with ESTHER IJEWERE in this interview.

Childhood Influence
My dad and mum were teachers, but my dad resigned shortly after I was born. Teachers’ salary was so poor at the time and teachers occupied the lowest rung on the social ladder. My mum would often tell the tale of her landlady who boasted that as a petty trader, she made in a day what my mum earned in a month.

But I have loved teaching for as long as I can remember. I recall that each time I called myself a teacher, my dad would always register his disapproval of my defective career ambition with a trilateral snap of his fingers. ‘No child of mine will become a teacher,’ he would say. But I continued to deface the walls of our house that I used as the chalkboard each time I gathered other children, teaching them what I knew.

I was enthralled by the possibility of helping others become better by sharing what I knew with them; I was below age 10 at the time. My passion for teaching didn’t wane even as I continued to grow.

Why I Pitched My Tent In The Educational Sector
You know that saying credited to Achebe that when a man says ‘yes’, his Chi says ‘yes’. I am convinced that I am destined to teach, for how else can I explain getting into the university to study education without taking UTME, without making the admission list? How else can I explain getting a permanent teaching appointment with the government the next day after I completed my NYSC, without pressing any button?

After taking my SSCE in 2002, I enrolled for the Grade II Teachers’ Training Programme at the National Teachers Institute (DLS). I was completing the programme when my cousin came to our house one day and told me she was going to TASCE. I never knew there was a school with such a name. She told me of the B.Ed programme of then Tai Solarin College of Education (Now Tai Solarin University of Education), in affiliation with UI. I told her I would go too. We didn’t need to take UTME; we only filled out and submitted our application forms.

When the admission list was out, my cousin found her name, but I didn’t find mine. I went on and paid my acceptance fee regardless. Four years later, I graduated with a B.Ed in English. I was about to complete my NYSC in Kwara State when the Otunba Gbenga Daniel-led administration commenced teachers’ recruitment in 2009. My mum obtained and filled out the application form on my behalf; I made the list. I completed my service on November 19, 2009, and picked up my appointment letter at Ogun TESCOM on November 20, 2009.

Why I published Five Books
Writing is another pastime I have had since I was a child. As a young girl in secondary school, I wrote plays. I wrote some more when I was an undergraduate, except that those were mostly fiction and poems. When I got married in 2010, my husband encouraged me to publish one of my manuscripts. I didn’t feel ready at the time and I was quite naive about book publishing, but he gave me the necessary support and that birthed my debut novel, Omidan, with an eponymous title. 

In the process of publishing, we made some mistakes, but we picked the lessons and moved on. I have published fiction and poems thereafter. At one point, I even wrote a children’s storybook at the request of a publisher.

Initially, it didn’t occur to me that I could write nonfiction, not to talk of a textbook, as my muses lingered between fiction and poetry for a long time. But teaching English in public secondary schools to children from low-income backgrounds gave me first-hand experience of inaccessibility of quality grammar textbooks to teachers and learners. Then, I decided to give it a shot.

I wanted a one-stop source for my grammar lessons. So, I set out to write Premium English Grammar, a 531-paged grammar guide. Today, it is available on Amazon and Selar, but more importantly, other teachers and learners of English whose classrooms are similar to mine are using it. That delights me immensely.

The Journey Since I Started Teaching Virtually
I started teaching English on Facebook in 2019. Every day, from Monday to Friday, I would post content around English grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation. I found that people were learning and gaining value from my posts, so, I kept at it. Some people would drop comments of gratitude; others would reach out via DM to appreciate me. But, overall, teaching English on Facebook opened me up to a lot of opportunities.

My name easily dropped in people’s minds whenever they had gigs or projects that required my expertise. Then, I became a certified IELTS expert. These days, I teach mostly on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is where I get premium clients and high-ticket freelancing gigs resulting from the English lessons and IELTS lessons I consistently share.

Being Recipient Of The 2020 African Writers’ Award For Creative Nonfiction, A Co-Winner Of The 2021 Ogun State Academic Laurel And The First African To Win The TOEFL English Practitioner’s Prize (2022)

My win of the 2020 African Writers’ Prize came as a shock; I didn’t write that piece with a writing contest in mind. It was simply an outburst of emotion about my journey with sickle cell disorder. I learnt about the AWA prize quite late, so I simply tied up that piece and submitted. But winning that prize made me believe more in my ability and I confidently entered other competitions, the result of which has been my win of the Ogun State Academic Laurel and the TOEFL English Practitioners’ Prize.

For someone like I, who endured a lot of stigmatisation as a child, it feels so good to be celebrated. When I declared my win of the TOEFL Prize early this year, many news outlets featured my story and I was indeed overwhelmed by the outpour of love from everyone. I am indeed grateful.

Challenges Of My Work
It’s my 13th year in the classroom teaching children from low income backgrounds across public secondary schools and I can say that teachers in private secondary schools have it easier. Overcrowded classrooms, an unconducive learning environment, inaccessibility of resources and foundational deficiencies in learners are some of the issues we encounter every day. Amidst all of these, we have to ensure productivity and effectiveness. Somehow, I give my best by constantly thinking outside the box and improvising.

Other Projects And Activities
I am currently facilitating a Computer Assisted Language Learning programme in the low-income community secondary school where I teach. I am an IELTS expert and I am a Nigerian representative of University Hub, an organisation that helps international students secure admission into universities in the US, UK and Canada. I am a Sign Language interpreter and a scriptwriter.

What I Enjoy Most About My Job
I am excited about the opportunity to polish raw talents till they glister. Teaching has afforded me the opportunity of grooming children who have become change agents in the world. I have produced students who have participated in global contests and won medals.

Teaching has made it possible for me to be a part of their success stories. I enjoy helping my students discover their potential and nurture the potential to manifest.

Three Women Who Inspire Me And Why
My mum is a retired primary school head teacher, but she is my number 1 inspiration. She is a woman who had every reason to give up but never did. Raising a child with sickle cell is a daunting task; my mum raised two.

I am also inspired by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche. I was in 400 level in the university when I first read Purple Hibiscus. I have read other books and essays of hers and she inspires my writing style a lot. I love her daring nature and the boldness with which she approaches issues that people hardly talk about.

Then, I love Professor Ngozi Okonjo Iweala for breaking boundaries, showing us there is no height the female child cannot attain.

Nigerians And Appreciation For Teachers
No, teachers are not appreciated enough. That’s evident in the poor remuneration and the working conditions. An average teacher sees himself as an intern. Teaching is a job while they await a job. He is ashamed of telling his friends that he is a teacher.

What We Can Do Better As A Society To Support Teachers
Overhaul the education sector. Really, our education sector needs a complete overhauling. Review teachers’ salary to commensurate with the task; renovate our dilapidated school buildings, decongest our classrooms. Integrate ICT in our curriculum not only in principle, but also in practice.

One Thing I Wish To Change In The Educational Sector
Elevate the social status of the teacher. Give him/her generous monetary reward for his service. Make him proud of his job. He will do more if he is proud of what he is doing.

Being A Woman Of Rubies
I am a woman of rubies, because I am making an impact in the education sector. I have helped many students discover and harnessed their talents. Presently, the 80 students participating in my project, CALL, have exclusive licences to English Learning Centre (ELC) afforded by Education Testing Service in the U.S. because of me. They have access to resources in the American classroom.

These are students from very poor backgrounds who had never come close to a computer previously. I often run into former students of mine who are now school owners and teachers or teachers in training. They would tell me how much I inspired them and made the teaching profession so endearing.