Professor Serifat Olubunmi Labo-Popoola, the Dean, Faculty of Arts, Adeleke University, Ede, Osun State, is a member of The Criterion; an association of Muslim Women in Business and the Professions, a former District Amirah for Osun State, the National Amirah between 2007 and 2013, a marriage counselor and presenter. In this interview by TAYO GESINDE, she speaks on her career, parenting and other related issues.
WHAT informed your choice of career?
It is funny but I never had an ambition. All I knew was that if anybody asked me to do anything, in order to impress the person I would put in my best and would be successful. When I completed my secondary school, my husband, who was my boyfriend at the time, said we should go for agriculture but I said no. My result was not released that year so I had to retake my school certificate examination. I ended up at the College of Education, Ijebu-Ode, Ogun State. Along the line, I developed a passion for education. It is something I love and I don’t think I can do any other thing aside teaching. I taught at some secondary schools both in Ogun and Osun states. I rose to become the principal before I retired voluntarily to take up a lecturing job at Fountain University in 2007. I was there for six years then moved to Adeleke University.
What price did you pay to get to where you are today?
Sincerely, I won’t see it in the negative form. I want to say that my family; my children were of priority to me, so I had to stay back to ensure that they get well educated before I decided to pursue a career in the university. I don’t believe in struggling to get to the top. It is what God grants you that you will have. So, all along, my family and children came first and that was why for almost six years, I decided not to take up any university appointment until my children finished secondary school and got admitted into the university.
You are a presenter on radio and television. What motivated you into that?
I present two programmes, “Motherhood” and “Harmony.” Motherhood is basically about how to raise children, how women should fare in the society and how to build a good home. I believe once the home is good, the society is better. Harmony is mainly about resolving marital and family issues. Once in a while, I participate in current affairs programmes on television.
You seem to be passionate about women and children. What is the driving force for that?
Islam as a religion says the core of the society is the family. What informs the Muslim Ummah, the community is the children and women. If the children are not well -catered for, the future is bleak. If the women are not ready to make ‘sacrifices,’ the children won’t turn out well. Yes, the husband is the head of the home but when he gives orders, somebody must be at home to ensure that the orders are carried out. Women must be ready to give their best to the running of their homes to ensure things work out well. That is why I am passionate about women and children.
How can a woman successfully combine her career with the home front?
That is a tough one but the way I look at it is that a woman must see herself as number two. Once she sees herself as number two, she will have little or no problem. There are situations where you have to take the lead role in the family but you must still see your husband as the head. Also, a career woman must struggle to strike a balance between her home and career. Once it is time for your family, don’t allow your work to come in. Another thing the woman needs to do is to ensure that she has the number of children she can really handle. When we were growing up, we had the privilege of relations living with us and helping out. Though it had its prices but it worked. I prefer having a relative with me than a housemaid. I was able to cope with the support of my husband and God.
How can parents raise godly children in this 21st century?
It is only God that can raise children. No parent can say I can do it. I always say that there are three things one should not struggle to go into, one is parenting, second one is being a teacher while the third is being a statesman, because they are thankless jobs. Your children can only appreciate you when they have made it and look back and can say that but for what you did, I would not have ended up like this. But when you are training them they will see you as Margaret Thatcher. Once a child is able to walk and can identify his left from his right, if he pinches you, he should know what to expect and you should not spare the child.
When you want to correct a child, correct in love and explain to him why you had to punish him for what he did. But today, many parents pamper their children. They don’t want their children to suffer the way they did, forgetting that it was the suffering that they passed through that made them to be successful in life. They don’t have to suffer as much as you did but let them also experience some things. Teach them to read the word of God and explain what they read to them in practical terms. For instance, let them know that when they go against God’s word and steal from someone, they are denying the person the opportunity of enjoying that thing, when they see the consequences of these things in the real sense of it, maybe we will have a better society. Also, be a friend to your children, listen to them and be there for them. They must be able to tell you anything. Empathise with them when they experience disappointments or challenges.
Do you think we can ever achieve gender equality in this part of the world?
God himself did not create us equally but He gave us equal opportunities. For those who have struggled to analyse the Quran, they said woman as a word appeared the same number of times as man in the holy book. Which means God gave us equal opportunities but again, it is said that God placed the man over the woman. We can have equal opportunities but physically we are not the same. God has even endowed us with different qualities. What I won’t support is gender discrimination. We should give equal opportunities to both genders, especially in the workplace. I don’t believe that a man who is bereaved should not cry, let him cry. Also, everybody must learn to do house chores. In my home, my boys cook better than my girls. Don’t say because he is a boy, he should not sweep or cook. At the end of the day, when such boys marry, they become a liability to their wives. We should do things together and make life easier for both of us.
A lot of marriages have collapsed or are on the brink of collapse. How can one guard against divorce?
The reason that happens is because we tend to prepare our children for wedding and not for marriage. We don’t tell them the nitty-gritty of getting married. So when they get married, the two of them have a wrong perception and this often causes conflicts. Also, people just rush into marriage because their friends are getting married. One question I ask couples when I am doing pre-marital counselling is that; are you ready to lose your freedom? Once, you are married, you are accountable to someone so anyone that is not ready to lose his freedom should not get married. You must be able to persevere and accommodate the excesses of your spouse. Parents need to educate their children on marriage if not, we will keep having domestic violence in the home.
Advice for young people?
Get busy. Get good education. Don’t wait for government’s job, learn a skill so that you can have something to fall back on.
Be patient, learn to keep your cool when you are provoked and be godly, not religious. Have the fear of God and be conscious of the fact that whatever you do is being recorded and will be played to you at the end of your time on earth. Once we all have that at the back of our minds, we will have a better society.