Dr Grace Olutayo is a lecturer in the department of English and the acting provost,College of Liberal Studies, BOWEN University, Iwo, Osun State. In this interview by TAYO GESINDE, she speaks about the need for parents, especially mothers, to have a good relationship with their children.
Why did you decide to go into academics?
I didn’t want to be a teacher because one of my sisters was a teacher and I knew what she was going through then. So, I made up my mind that I was not going to be a teacher. I wanted to be an accountant so I could earn a good salary. When I sat for my West African Examination Council (WAEC) examination I passed all subjects but I had P7 in mathematics so that meant I could not do accounting. I did not want to rewrite the examination so I started thinking of what I could do with the result I had. I decided to study law so I sat for the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) examination. Unfortunately, when the result came out, JAMB did not release my English result so I had 199.
I had a pastor that used to call me teacher and I would tell him I was not a teacher. I went for my ‘A’ levels and passed. I still wanted to read law but at the time, University of Ibadan was only taking first degree for law so I decided to study English with the intention of going back to study Law after my first degree in English. Interestingly, the following year, UI started taking UTME and ‘A’ levels for law. I came in at 200 level and was doing well so I decided to continue studying English. I didn’t know that God was ordering my path then.
Though I was studying English, I still didn’t want to teach so I decided I would be a broadcaster. When I finished my first degree I went back for my master’s but had to take extramural classes at Ikolaba Educational Institute and PSG Dugbe to support myself. One day, I had just finished teaching at Ikolaba and had this feeling of fulfillment. Before that time, I attended a vigil where my General Overseer, Brother Paul Jinadu who had just come from Britain said God asked him to pray for people in the health and teaching profession.
I didn’t want to get up, but I got a nudging from the Holy Spirit to get up. I did and was prayed for. It was after that, that I experienced fulfillment and knew there was no point looking for another job. I made up my mind there and then to become a teacher. After my master’s degree, I taught at Olashore International School, Iloko-Ijesa, Osun State and after I got married, I came to Ibadan and headed a nursery and primary school. I felt bored because I knew I was not cut out for administrative work but teaching so I applied for my PhD.
How has the journey been since you made up your mind to toe the path of academics?
It has been wonderful and rewarding. It might not be as financially fulfilling as we would want it to be, but I am fulfilled because I have been opportune to touch lives, especially the younger ones. I started my career in academics at St Andrews College of Education, now (Emmanuel Alayande College of Education).
I knew God had sent me there because I had so many mentees; young girls who got attracted to me and by the grace of God, I was able to impact their lives. God helped me to rescue some of them from what we will call a way of perdition. Many of them that I mentored are doing quite well today. At a point, some boys too came and I also mentored them. I am still in contact with many of them today.
One of them was recently ordained as a reverend in the Methodist Church and he insisted that I must be at his ordination. The day he called me, I could not even remember him. It is a great opportunity to be in academics to impact the lives of these younger ones. It is not only about English, it is about their lives. Many of them would come to me and say, “Ma, I want to be like you.” That helps them. They begin to do well in their studies because they want to like me. They aspire to become a success in life. When I wake up every day, I thank God that I am in the academics I can’t function well anywhere else.
What were the challenges you faced on the way to becoming who you are today?
As a woman, the challenge lies basically in the home front. I could not finish my PhD in time because of the challenges at home. You want to take care of the children, take care of the home front and some time, after working the whole day, you are too tired to write anything. That was the only challenge I had. I didn’t have challenge with the opposite sex in my work place. I think I am favoured.
What would you say are the challenges of these young people that you come in contact with on a daily basis?
One of the major challenges is the home. Many of them don’t have good relationships with their parents. Many of them are from broken homes and in homes where the family is still together, some mothers don’t have time for their children. There was a day that my daughter who finished from this school came to see me in class and we were admiring each other and when we finished that class, a girl from the class came to me and told me she didn’t have the kind of relationship I had with my daughter with her own mother. She said her mother always shouted at her.
With the help of God she was able to mend her relationship with her mother. There was another student that told me that each time she wanted to speak to her mother and she called her, her mother would say, “is it money you need? I will send it’’ There was another lady I came across who was being molested by her uncle because it was the uncle that was paying her school fee. She would have to leave the school if she wanted the uncle to stop molesting her.
Those are some of the challenges girls are facing. Also, some of them are distracted by the attention they are getting from young men but with our help, they can overcome that. For some other ones, it could be finances. Sometimes, girls who were in their final year could suddenly have financial challenges because their dad lost their jobs. We had to come to their rescue. Another challenge is technology.
Social media is a big challenge. I don’t know how we are going to handle that as parents and teachers. When I am teaching I walk round the class, once they see me, they switch it off, otherwise I will seize it and say they should come for it at the end of the semester. It is a major distraction. They have a lot of movies on their phones and laptops. I think they have more distraction than we did when we were growing up. They want to be on the social media, we can’t keep them away from it but we have to educate them on the benefits and dangers social media can do to them and their studies.
What can parents do to help their children guard against all these distractions?
We need to be there for our children. We need to be their friends. It is when we are their friends that they can open up to us and tell us anything. We should also not compare one child to the other. Children are different and should be handled differently. It is good to have money to take care of our children but we should not allow money to replace our children. Parents run after money a lot.
Some parents dump their children the moment school resumes and will even ask if we can keep them for the holidays because of their busy schedule. And that is why some of these children are becoming wayward. Many children are lacking motherly care, when the mother is not there, the child can hardly achieve anything. Mothers must be available to train their children in the way of their Lord. Don’t allow them too much exposure to the social media and the internet at an early stage.
How were you able to combine the home front with your career?
It is important for us as women to know that God has created us specially and He loves us. He has given us so many responsibilities and the grace to cope with them. Once we know that, we will be able to manage them. The career is very important and the home front is also very important.
What I used to do then was to make sure I give equal opportunities to the two. When it is time to take care of my home, I am there and when it is time for my career I am there because I don’t want to be relegated. If God has called me into teaching I want to get to the peak of that which He has called me into and I don’t want Him to hold me accountable for the home that He has given me to take care of.
Do you think that there are some professions women should not go into so they can have time for the home front?
Yes. I used to think so and still think that banking would deprive women time from taking care of their homes but now, it is not just banking, there are so many jobs that are very demanding and I think women need to be careful. If you feel your career is in the banking or other demanding professions, be wise so that you don’t fail at home.
Any job that is not flexible enough for you take care of your home is not worth it. However, I also think women should not run away from challenges. What you need to do is to try and strike a balance.
What is your view about gender equality?
I don’t buy into gender equality 100%. What I believe in is equal opportunities. We cannot equate ourselves with men, we might be fighting a lost battle because the society itself is a man’s world and we have been brought up to be women while men have been brought up to be men.
Apart from physical structure even our internal structure is not the same. The way we handle things are not the same. Men cannot multi-task, we can. We don’t need to want to be like men, we are unique in ourselves. We don’t have to struggle with men. We are more important than they are, God has bestowed so many things in us that He didn’t bestow on them.
What is the most defining moment of our career?
I think that was when I joined the university system. In the college of education, you don’t have as many opportunities as you have in the university. There is no opportunity to become a professor in the college so, joining the university system in 2013 was a defining moment for me.
What advice do you have for young girls?
Accept the fact that God has created you as women. Don’t fight to be equal with men, be focused on what you want to achieve in life. Whatever career you choose, ensure you get to the peak of your career. Empower yourself so you could be able to take care of yourself and your family. Finally, don’t marry for money. Work hard and spend less time on the social media.