Mrs Taye Bola is the Principal of Fiwasaye Girls’ Grammar School. In this Interview with LOLA OMOWAYE and BUKOLA OLAMONA, She spoke about challenges in School’s administration, how to relate with the girl- child, and the place of government in enhancing quality education in public schools.
Can we know a little about you?
My name is Mrs Taye Olubukola Bola, I am the Principal Fiwasaye Girl’s Grammar School, Akure.
What has been your achievement, since you came on board as the principal?
I was appointed in year 2014, and when I resumed, my plan was to develop the infrastructures, academics, the morals and the whole aspect of the school. This is because before I became Principal, I was Vice Principal and it has been my plan to upgrade the school. I have been projecting how to go about it, though we came on board when there was no more funding of schools. Those years we have not really had anything from the Government. The whole outlook of the school was not impressive, so I started by plastering the whole fence, putting up a new befitting gate, we also put the roundabout at the entrance up for beautification. The chapel was also not alright, that was why I had to do a lot of renovation and got it painted because that is the first building you will see while entering the school.
Also my family donated four blocks of toilets in the school’s chapel. Also, the computer centre was donated to the school during the school’s fiftieth anniversary by the old students. Money was spent and the whole place came back beautiful. I did the networking, also there was an internet facility given to the school that was wrongly positioned so I had to move it to the centre, though it cost much but I had to do it. The place is now a complete ICT center, we still have problem of electricity but the teachers can use the place now, they are able to consult and do research now through the internet. The school hall too was renovated.
We had to call on friends, families and then the old students to assist us. And you can see within two years, we are already using the place. Also since I became Principal, I have been able to provide toilet facilities to the school. I observed that pit toilets were being used and it is not hygienic to girls. So we had to put up water cistern for the girls, now we have eleven toilets in the hostel and eighteen for the day students.
You have spoken about old students association’s impact, is there any other support from anywhere like the School Based Management Committee?
The School Based Management Committees are in place to support the school, not in cash these days but whenever we have problem, they are there to give us advice and help us in reaching the government. The major stakeholders are the Old Students. When I came on board and they saw the support of my husband, they were happy and easily, they were partnering with us. The school library was also a donation to the school for its 25th anniversary in 1985. They assisted us in renovating some classrooms, we also have three good water supplies in the school, one by WATSAN during the military era and the other two by old students.
What about the national and international award that the school has won?
Yes, we have won many laurels, I can tell you that in sports, one of our girls that was nurtured from the school, represented the local government, she came first, the state, she came first again in badminton. Then there was a tournament organised by six south- western states. She came first, she now went to represent Nigeria in Algeria she also came first. She is the best in Africa now. And she is already at the Olympics to represent Nigeria and Africa. Also we have the football team, we also came first in Akure south in 2015, since then our team has been up and doing. Considering volley ball that is being re- introduced again to schools, a group from USA has been coming to train the girls and we have been doing well too. In match past, we have been coming first for years, last year; we brought two laurels home the same day from the local and the state governments. We have recorded a number of successes in drama; there is no programme that will be held in the state that it will not be Fiwasaye that will perform there. When the new governor came and saw our performance, he was impressed. Then one of our girls, who is in University of Ibadan now studying Mass Communication, used to be the state MC even during the last administration.
Then academically, well the agitation for me to come and head the school by the old students was that Mathematics has been our problem and they know that I had B.Sc in Mathematics and they know me even when I was a Vice Principal in another school. We scored very low in 2012, so the governor then was not happy and he called on one of our old students and said we should go and man our school, that how can we scored three percent in Maths, so they asked me to organise a workshop. We did that to enlighten the girls and we talked to the teachers too. I had to bring in an expert in Mathematics, he taught them the rudiments, at the end of the workshop, the following examination, I think they scored almost thirty percent and they were happy. Due to this deficiency, they made the agitation that I should be here. So when I came, my focus was also on that Mathematics and when you see the School’s chart, you will see how we have risen. We had over eighty percent of our girls, who entered different universities in 2017.
How is their performance in external examination especially in JAMB?
I think we had 320 some time, I remembered we had over 300.
Ma, is there a way by which you help your students when it comes to choice of course and universities to attend?
We have a very good Counseling unit, though most of them have nine distinctions but at times they do not know what to do. What we do yearly is, we have a workshop. The old students also organise career counseling for them but our counseling unit also ensures that they have two workshops for them. One while they are in SS2, to guide them on the subjects they will register for. Also when they are now choosing subjects to register for JAMB. They also put them through according to their area of interest and performance. Some of them may also be good in English, Mathematics ,and they still go for art subject and they end up becoming good lawyers Most of them will want to be medical doctors but by the time the counselors talk to them, they will know what to study. Like the girl studying Mass communication in Universityof Ibadan presently, she is so brilliant that she would have opted for medicine but we were tailoring and showcasing her but by the time she was meeting with Journalists, she realised she has flair for Journalism . And she is doing well now and I know she will become a very good journalist. So we try as much as possible to mould them.
Also, there is a programme that they do yearly, It is called KIDSCON. We have been winning. Also there was Students Advancement Entrepreneurial Activities (SAEA), it is a South African organised project, they came to our school and was training the girls. Last year, they went to represent Ondo State, they were accompanied by the then Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education because they were representing the state, our project was well recognised.
What type of project did the girls produce?
They made Confipad, they looked for materials and developed it with good fiber that can absorb. They were able to sew it themselves and were able to make it hygienic, that it even passed through the Ministry of Health. This was developed to discourage the use of the synthetic ones that make the girls to be prone to infection or diseases. The organisers said we should go and work more on it so that it will be presentable outside the country.
What about academic performance and competitions?
We have also represented Ondo state in Abuja where one of our girls came first in ANCOPPS Science Quiz competition. Also in Mathematics, she came first, the school debate ,we came first. We have many of them but there was this one that was outstanding because it was organised by the Armed Forces. They went through stages until they came first. Also during the ICT for girl child organised by the wife of the governor last year ,our girls came first, the wife of the Ondo State governor, Mrs Betty Akeredolu had a training for them and after the training, there was an exam and Our girls came first. There was this programming in computer, they call it Africa coding, they came and asked our girls to participate. Part of their preparation was that they made a robot that sang the National Anthem. They showcased this and they came first .The organisers said that the girls have brought Ondo State forward.
Recently you were given an award, what informed the award?
I was given the award by the president, it was an award given to school administrators. I came third in Nigeria. It was an award for the Best Administrator for the year 2018.
In what way will this award inspire you /what impact will this award have on your personal life and career?
The award is just a way to tell me that whatever you are doing, you are being seen. When I got the call that I was chosen as the best principal in the state. That they have also been monitoring my progress, and they wanted me to come with materials to show at Abuja.
Is there a way the school is educating the girls about the sensitivity of their gender and how to deal with related issues?
Every Fridays, we have a programme, it is mostly an enlightenment programme, where we bring people to talk to the girls. For example, we bring some people from the Female Lawyers Association (FIDA) among others to talk to them. To let them know that as a girl- child they should be proud of themselves and let them know ”they can bemore”, even more than a man, if you are consistent and focused. And how to protect themselves and even security tips were given to them regularly. We also send the girls on seminars and workshops, we sponsor them, the very brilliant ones because many of these seminars are expensive and when they returned, we organised a workshop in the school, where those that went to the workshop gave feedback. We have different clubs in the school, one of them is Environmental Vanguard, which ensures the environment is kept clean and they know how to straighten anyone found of making the environment dirty. We use this to tailor them towards self defence. We bring people to give them leadership training, how to become motivational speakers. That is why you see when they go for competition or debate, they always come first. The aspect that we are trying to really monitor is abuse. We have suggestion boxes across the school where the girls can drop their questions . We collate the question and address the issues once in a month. The counsellors handle these questions but sometimes we bring someone to answer these questions. I make sure that anyone we are bringing professionals and young ladies. If it’s about medical, we will bring a young lady, who is a medical doctor. This also will encourage them. Those that wrote the questions anonymously, we will fetch them out. If we see that it is a sensitive issue, we will sensitise them and tell them to come to us in confidence and that their secret is safe, and many of them usually shown up.
I want to talk about scholarships, we have been assisting indigent students to pay their fees. We always put up a request forms for them especially with the old students. Sometimes we have to give drugs, foods and even sent home to their families. Three girls were given scholarship from the team in US. We also have a purse to assist the needy.
We, the school’s administrators know what it means to run school at this time. Will I watch my students suffer of hunger? Sometimes some of them have not eaten. When they are sick, their parents will still send them to school. We have had issues of some girls fainting. We had to rush them to the hospital, take care of them, feed them, despite the fact that nobody gives us money. If the Federal Government can assist the state, it will be a great relief.
If you had seen us during the time that salary was not regular you will pity us. Then, teachers were collapsing, one of them had a very high blood pressure because she was hypertensive and could not afford to buy her drugs or food. We school administrators suffered a lot then but my teachers will teach because I have a way of getting through to them.
What is your leadership style and how were you able to cope with these challenges?
Teachers and students welfarism is part of me long before I became a principal because I do not like things going bad. The girls know they can meet and tell me anything. Taking care of them is part of me. I see them as my children and they see me as their mother but I do not tolerate laziness.
Some people are of the opinion that private schools are better than public schools, your comments?
Private schools are good because they are personal businesses. And when you have your personal business you want to protect it but public schools are well staffed with experienced teachers. There should not be a competition between the two. We need the private schools to compliment the public schools. Both have their usefulness. Parents can put their children in any school they like. Though private schools are well managed and monitored, public schools also have personnel that monitor the teachers.