A professor of Animal Science and Director, Research, Innovation and International Cooperation, Babcock University, Ilishan, Remo, Ogun State, Grace Oluwatoyin Tayo is the first female dean of the institution’s School of Science and Technology and former head, Department of Agriculture. Tayo has also won awards as the best academic staff of the year in the institution and a postdoctoral fellowship of The World Academy of Sciences (TWAS) 2005. She speaks with TOLUWANI OLAMITOKE on her youthful days, career and marriage.
Can you lead us into your background?
I am the first of four children, three girls and a boy. My parents are Mr and Mrs David Oladele Afolabi. They were nurses, hence my growing up years were spent living close to the hospitals where my parents worked. Growing up was fun as I enjoyed the attention of my dad. Even though by order of birth, we were three girls in a row, my father loved us with passion. We were never made to feel he had any preference for male children. As Seventh Day Adventist Christians, church attendance, morning and evening family prayers were a must for every one of us. With my dad’s encouragement, I enjoyed reciting long Bible verses in church during Sabbath school. Our home was always full of cousins, aunties and uncles, either living with us or visiting. I cannot remember anytime when it was just father, mother and children in the house. Education was also very important to my dad, so we attended a fee-paying private nursery and primary school, Franciscan Nursery and Primary School, Ilesha and Christ Nursery and Primary School, Ado-Ekiti. I was in the boarding house for my secondary school education and stayed on campus in the university. Throughout those years, either of my parents visited every month. This gave me a high sense of security such that when I was considering marriage, I kept wondering if I would enjoy the same love and attention in my husband’s family. Academics was very easy for me during my primary and secondary school days. I never had to struggle to excel, it just happened. Towards the end of my secondary education, one of my friends confessed to me that they thought I was using some magical powers to pass my examinations.
What moments did you enjoy most as a child?
Each of the moments I travelled with my dad was great fun. We would travel in his car and he would lavish me with all the goodies I wanted and tell me stories about his experiences in life. During one of the Christmas holidays, we visited Kingsway, Ibadan to see ‘Father Christmas’. We were so excited riding a train within the building.
Talking about your relationship with the opposite sex, would you consider your parents as strict?
My parents were very strict on the one hand but also very loving on the other. Because of the degree of trust they had in us, we were allowed to mingle freely with neighbours and other church members’ children even if they were of the opposite sex. I believe that the love and the high expectations they had for us prevented us from abusing or misusing the opportunities we had to interact.
When did you start thinking about marriage?
I started considering marriage in the penultimate year to my graduation from the university. I was 21 years old then.
What were the things you put into consideration in choosing your partner?
The first on my priority list was a God fearing man, who would share my faith and values. Coming from a secure and loving family, I knew I could not afford to marry a man who would not be controlled by the Spirit of God. Other considerations were a man who had focus and would share my passion for further studies, not too far from me in age, maximum of four to five years older than me and not fat. In short, someone I could relate well with emotionally, intellectually, physically and spiritually.
Let’s know your husband?
My husband is Ademola S. Tayo, an ordained minister of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, a professor of Development Education and the vice-chancellor, Babcock University, Ilishan-Remo. He is my friend and confidant.
How old is your marriage?
My marriage is 22 years old.
Some couples refrain from sharing the same bedroom for a number of factors, what is your take on this?
In my view, couples should share the same bedroom, what “God has joined together, let no bedroom put asunder”. I believe it could enhance oneness. While it may be possible to sleep on the same bed and still keep malice, it may also be easier to break the ice earlier when you sleep in the same room than when you have separate rooms.
Should couples own joint properties and why?
Couples should own joint properties where there is trust because again, what God has joined together let no property put asunder. Besides, if the couple believe that they are in a permanent relationship and their investment is towards a comfortable retirement and their children’s welfare, why not?
Why did you choose the teaching profession?
I chose the teaching profession because I love reading, having always been studious and willing to share what I read. Moreover, I wanted a profession that is not routine and rigid in terms of schedule that is where I could manage my time very well and still keep engaging my intellect while impacting others. It is exciting when you see students that you have taught excelling in their chosen careers.
To become a professor is no mean feat, what were the sacrifices you made to attain this height?
Getting to my present level has been simply by the grace of God. As a female academic, you must sacrifice and put in extra effort compared to your male counterparts to achieve your goals. To avoid sacrificing my family life at the altar of career advancement; I have had to slow down to balance family life and career development. For example, I had my PhD about four years before my husband bagged his, yet we were promoted to the rank of professor on the same day. My family has, however been, very supportive. One particular year, while on postdoctoral fellowship in China, I left my children with my sisters in Nigeria while my husband was on sabbatical in another country. The cooperation and willingness of my husband to allow me soar beside him has contributed a lot to my success today.
Yes, I do believe that undergraduates— male or female—should be allowed some level of freedom to make decisions. If parents continue to make all decisions for them, they limit their potential to think, act and face consequences of their actions. Children must be taught how to learn from their mistakes especially when it is not a life and death decision. An undergraduate who relies on the parents for every decision will forever be dependent and easily influenced.
What do you do to look good?
I try to discipline myself by eating well, especially fruits and vegetables. I often take natural fruit juices e.g. carrot juice, watermelon juice and lemon juice in the mornings and even though I naturally have “sugary tooth”, I now avoid junk food and also drink plenty of water. In addition, I engage in exercises; take walks with my husband, at least five days in a week. I dress appropriately, that is, in clothing that suits my stature.
What fashion item do you place much value on and why?
I am selective about what I wear particularly clothes and shoes, but I have been told that I seem to place value on my shoes. Why?—I feel comfortable and confident when I am well dressed and also because you are addressed by the way you dress.