Professor Janet Ayobami Ademola is a lecturer, a researcher and the Head of Department of Physics, Faculty of Science, University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Oyo State. In this interview by TAYO GESINDE she speaks on her career, marriage and the need for parents to lay good examples for their children.
What was growing up like for you?
I was born in Ghana and grew up in the barracks because my father was a soldier. I grew up to know what it is to be disciplined, doing the right thing at the right time and submitting to authority. That was the environment I grew in and that experience shaped my life because I learnt so much from it. When we were young, there used to be regular inspections by the military officers They would come and inspect our house so it has to be in order at all times. It must be neat. If you default, the dad would be punished. I learnt how to be neat and disciplined from there. I also learnt how to respect authority. My dad was a Nigerian but his parents lived in Ghana. We came to Nigeria in 1979.
Who were your role models while growing up?
My mother. She is hardworking and a disciplinarian. She has been a good example to me. As a mother, she is always there for us. I don’t think I have any other person I was looking up to. I gave my life to Jesus early in life and He has been my guide. I read the Bible and get instructions from there and meeting matured Christians who directs one on how to do things also helped.
What informed the choice of your career?
Actually, I wanted to study Medicine but when I did the Joint Administration and Matriculation (JAMB) examination, I didn’t make the cut-off for Medicine so I changed to Physics. In my first year, I was thinking of going back to Medicine but that thinking was becoming a distraction. So at a time, I shed it off and stuck to physics. I also discovered that there are different areas of specialisation in Physics after the first degree and decided I can specialise in one of the areas. So, I specialised in Radiation and Health Physics. Basically, my research is on environmental radioactivity and the effects on man. There are different types of radiation; ionizing and non-ionising. The radiation from a mobile phone is non-iodising and does not have enough energy to eject electrons or to ionise. We are surrounded by radiations even the signals we receive from the radio; radio waves are non-ionising.
For how long have you been lecturing?
I started as a graduate assistant at Ladoke Akintola University (LAUTECH), Ogbomoso, Oyo State in 1994. So far, I enjoy my interaction with young people. I also enjoy being able to influence them one way or the other. I impart knowledge and also have personal interaction with them.
What price did you pay to get to where you are today?
I would say it is by God’s grace that I am where I am today. It involved hard work but sometimes, it is not just about that. It is also about God’s favour and grace. I started my career as a single lady but got married not quite long after that. One of the challenges I faced was that I had to combine home, doing house chores with rearing children and taking care of my husband. I was in Ogbomoso while my husband was in Ibadan and had to be travelling from Ibadan to Ogbomoso and Ogbomoso to Ibadan. That was quite challenging. However, I have an understanding husband who is ever ready to assist. He sees my progress as his so he was there for me. I remember that the moment our firstborn was one, he took him and the boy was with him in Ibadan. When we had the second one too, they were not far from each other in age, when she clocked one he also took her to Ibadan. He was the one taking care of them. I was just coming home for weekends. That helped me a lot.
What advice do you have for young women who are also trying to combine their career with the home front?
It was not easy especially because we decided not to have a house help. It actually depends on the home. In my own case, it was my husband that was ever ready to help and assist. If anybody says it is easy to combine the home front with career, it is a lie. I can feel for women who don’t have the privilege that I had. Women need to get their priorities right. Though I am a career woman, I don’t believe I should succeed in my career and fail at home, especially when it comes to children. Career women should trust in God and also prioritise what is most important to them, whether it is their home or career. Sometimes, it depends on the man. If you want to do something in your career and your husband is not in support of it. Personally, I believe a woman should keep low because it is not every man that understands. Some men see it as competition. Also, submit to your husband and commit your way to God. And let your spouse understand your situation. Carry him along, that is very important.
What is your most defining moment so far?
I think it was when I had the fellowship from Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Fellowship Foundation in Germany.
As a mother, how do you think one can bring up godly children nowadays?
The Bible says unless the Lord builds a house those who do it labour in vain. As parents, we need God’s guidance, a direction from God, praying for the children and also being an example. The Bible says to train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it. Training is not just teaching, it involves instructing them and also doing what you asked them to do. Praying for them is very important because it is not easy to bring up a child. However, if you teach them biblical principles and you also do what you teach them, God will crown your effort with success.
What are your favourite pastimes?
I go for church programmes, I enjoy staying at home with my children. I like cooking, seeing nature and studying the word of God as well as reading books that will edify me.
Who do you think should be blamed for the decline in the standard of education in Nigeria?
It is true that there is a decline, I won’t blame anybody but it starts from the root; elementary. We used to have Grade Two where we had people who were properly trained to teach children everything they need to know. When I was in primary 1, the elderly women who knew how to teach and instruct children were assigned to teach pupils in the lower classes. I think the curriculum of Grade Two was superb and should not have been scrapped. Those are some of the things that are missing because the foundation is faulty. Also, the government is not spending much on education. The money allocated to education every year in the budget is not enough.
Is strike not part of the problem? If it is not ASUU that is on strike, it will be SSANU or NASU?
Yes, the strike is part of it. But what led to striking? ASUU is talking about the decay of the educational system. We want our laboratories to function and lecture room to be comfortable for students. But when we go on strike, people think it is because of salary. That is not always the case. Also, there had been an agreement between ASUU and the federal government which they have failed to fulfil. That is what leads to striking and it has been affecting the educational system
What advice do you have for young people?
My advice for them, number one is; what is their value? Because what you value will define you. Your value system defines you and it will determine what you are going to pursue in life. They should examine themselves. Number two is; hard work and focus. There is a lot of a distraction especially, from the social media.They need to manage their time wisely so that they don’t spend a larger percentage of their time on what won’t add value to their lives.Finally, they should trust in God.