‘I’m focused on raising stars that will shine wherever they go’
After operating in a rented site for 23 years, on Sunday September 17, 2017, one of the foremost co-educational secondary schools in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, The Vale College under its CEO, Mrs. Funso Adegbola (nee Bola Ige) commissioned its permanent site, a modern four-storey edifice in GRA, Iyagangu. The ceremony which was led by the wife of Ondo State governor, Mrs. Betty Rotimi-Akeredolu, was witnessed by many dignitaries. In this encounter with The Guardian, Adegbola, a lawyer-turned educationist, said her mission is to provide qualitative education that would raise stars in the society
Tell us the history of the school. How it all started.
The school was founded on November 7, 1994, as a private co-educational secondary school to cater for the educational and pastoral needs of individuals from Grade 7 to Grade 12 (JSS1-SSS3). It is a Bible- based Christian school that values character building in young ones. The school also set out to make herself the first choice of parents and children who seek an excellent modern education, boarding or day, in a co-educational environment based on breadth of curriculum, sound discipline, independence of mind and service to the community. And as part of its process to fulfilling its mission statement, the school runs broad curricula, the Nigerian curriculum and British curriculum while public speaking and elocution, Christian fellowship, leadership training and charitable activities have been part of the school’s programmes since inception in 1993. It resumed with 13 students at its first premises in Old Bodija where it remained till 1998 when it moved to Adetokunbo Ademola in Iyanganku GRA. We have expanded over the years as a new hostel facility, spacious enough to house 300 students, was commissioned in 2007 as boys’ hostel and in 2013, and another three-storey building was commissioned in April 2013, which is currently the girls’ hostel. Today, we are celebrating the completion of a modern four-storey edifice that will accommodate all the classrooms, laboratories and offices in our new site in GRA Iyaganku.
What was your mission and vision for establishing the school?
I started my school as a 33-year-old with two little children: One is three years and the second is 11 months. I didn’t even start with a crèche or primary school but secondary. It is not that I had a child in secondary school or because of my children, but God sent dream helpers all along the path of my life. I first shared the vision with my immediate late brother, Mr. Babatunde Ige, who died in his sleep in 1993. He never saw the physical manifestation of the college.
Why chose to be an educationist rather than practice law like your parents?
I tell people I am a lawyer by profession but an educationist by vocation. I am very passionate about young people. I am very passionate about education. Again, people have been complaining about standard of education going down. I just said to myself, instead of joining the bandwagon, I must do something to make an impact.
Kindly recall some memorable moments in the history of the school and some of its landmark achievements.
I started my school with 13 students and 10 teachers and those first 13 students was a work of faith because I didn’t have a track record of a renowned educationist, but their parents believed in me. And by the grace of God everything turned out great. Some of my students are now making waves in their endeavours. I have students who have started giving scholarships. One of my ex-students is 27 years old and is already giving out N400, 000 scholarship every year to a current student and he is going to be doing it every year. One of my students, Yewande Akinola, got an award from Queen Elizabeth II of England in 2012 for being one of the best female engineers under 30 in the whole of UK. I have a number of students who got a First Class Degree in Pharmacy, Law, Accounting, etc. This year, all my students came out in flying colours. No students got Ds of Es. I have students who had As in the Tutorial College where we do ‘A’ Levels.
As an elitist school, how has it impacted the society?
A few years ago, I started annual scholarship scheme in memory of my late parents Bola/Atinuke Ige for children and pupils in public schools. Bola Ige scholarship is for students in public primary schools in Oyo and Osun States. Every year we give a scholarship for the best boy and girl through examinations: written and oral. The best two get scholarships worth N12 million for the six years of post primary education. Then I do another one under the Atinuke Ige Scholarships for students in public secondary schools: The best outstanding boy and girl in both Oyo and Osun States receive a scholarship worth N2 Million to come to The Vale Tutorial College for their ‘A’ Levels for a period of one year. We have been doing that now in the past five years. They have done excellently well. I have three of those who attended the ‘A’ Levels studying Medicine in University of Ibadan. The last one got three A Stars and is currently studying medicine. Maryam Adeyanju is currently studying medicine. Of significant note is that it is not an ordinary scholarship, but an award that has transformed lives. For instance, the N12 million awards have benefitted pupils whose parents are bricklayers, tailors, bread sellers etc.
What is your impression of the present educational system in the South West and the nation generally?
Well, the education system in the South West is like most education across the country and everywhere. It is a reflection of the society and that is why all of us must come together to raise the standard. We can’t leave it to government alone. Those of us in the private sectors will do our bit, parents also must do their bit and government also must do its bit and even the society. It is a collective responsibility. If all can do it together we would get the desired result that would elevate Nigeria’s educational system from its present state.
How can government improve on it?
I think government should put the right people in the right place in terms of policy formulation. Again, it will be much better if people who formulate education policies are not theorists. We should have more practical approach.
As a person who was very passionate about education, how do you think your dad would have preferred the educational system to be? Are you following his own model?
(Laughing). I am not following my father’s model because he was a politician. I am not a politician. My father was able to affect millions of people. I am able to affect hundreds of people and I am praying that those hundreds would go out there to affect thousands or even millions just like my father did. It would continue to multiply like that. But in terms of quality, I believe in his vision of quality education. My father was a kind of person who wanted all Nigerian children to have access to the same quality of education irrespective of their backgrounds. In that way, we are similar. If you look at the logo of my school you would see stars. God gave me a vision that my students would be like stars of the universe not like the sands of the earth. I am focused on raising stars so that wherever my students go they would shine.
As one of the closest companions of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, tell us some of the legacies your dad taught you as an advocate for education.
Yes. My father was a person who believed in equal access, equality for both boys and girls and quality healthcare. My mother was a Justice of Court of Appeal; she was a judge when my father was governor. I am the only girl but I was raised the same way my brothers were raised in terms of quality education. He believed in raising the next generation. Most of my father’s friends were much younger than him. He was close to us as children and by extension, our friends. Those are the legacies he left behind. Then the legacy of hard work I imbibed from both my mom and dad. My mother was like the nerve center and spinal cord of the family. I grew up under that environment and, as the first child, I realised I have a lot of responsibilities. God has been with me in the past 16 and 14 years when they both passed away.
Since yours is a private school, the general impression is that most private schools are elitist. Have you taken in any indigent pupils at all? Do you think free education for all is still achievable in this country?
Free education… well, it is possible because where there is a will there is a way. Mind you, if there is a free education somebody must be paying. Government has to make funds available and make sure that it gets to the right people. Yes, with the huge amount that we hear people are keeping in soak-aways, wardrobes and cemeteries, if such funds are channeled to the right place it will make an impact
What are your future dreams and aspirations for the school as you move to this new site?
I believe The Vale College would continue to get better and better. I am very proud of my students, I am very proud of my teachers and I know our best days are ahead of us.
Tell us about family life.
My greatest supporters are my husband, Mr. Gbenro Adegbola and my two amazing children, Kayode and Ayotunde. Both of them are lawyers. They attended The Vale College before schooling abroad. Kayode schooled at Queen’s Mary, University of London and Ayotunde attended University of Kent, both in the UK, attended Law School, called to the Nigerian bar and they are both working now. They have all witnessed my best and lowest moments. I wouldn’t have been able to achieve this if I don’t have a happy home.
Where do you see The Vale College in the next 10 years?
This is just the beginning. I know that God has greater plans for The Vale College: I pray that the school and its tutorial arm will continue to expand.
QUOTE: Educational standard in the South West is like most education across the country and everywhere. It is a reflection of the society and that is why all of us must come together to raise the standard. We can’t leave it to government alone