MODUPE LADIPO PRINCIPAL, QUEEN'S COLLEGE, LAGOS
Mrs. Modupe Ladipo is the principal Queens College, Yaba, Lagos. In this interview she reveals how the journey has been so far and where she hopes to take the school in the nearest future.
Did you ever dream of being a principal?
No. It never occurred to me in my wildest dream that I would ever be the principal of Queen's College. I never desired it and that was not even the field I wanted to go into. When I was young, I thought of myself as being a lawyer. That was basically what I wanted to be. So, it never occurred to me that I was going to be a principal.
So, what happened; how did you become a principal?
I was admitted into the university to study English. Initially, I intended to just go and then transfer in my second year to read law. But in my second year when I was supposed to go read law, one of my parents (I am not going to specify which of them) told me, 'you're already in year two, you have just year three and then you would graduate, then you can go and read law.' I believed and ended up finishing in English.
As soon as finished English and preparing to go for law, I was told, 'why would you want to read law?' I was not encouraged. So, I went for youth service and thereafter, I went ahead to work. But, really I think maybe my mum was a bit lonely at that time, she felt most of her children were away, most of them were studying abroad and then she said, 'oh! I you're the only one at home and you're the first girl, why would you want to go and leave me?' And so out of all that emotional stuff I decided to stay with her.
How did your journey into education begin?
When I went in to read English, somebody told me it would be better I added education to it; so I was in the department of education. I read combined English and education. My mum wanted me to work for Kwara State, because I was from there at that time; but today I am from Kogi State. At that time, my uncle was the Commissioner for Education in Kwara State and so she took me down there and told them to fill a form for me. I filled a form intending to start work there, but it took two months to get in touch with me to come and start on level nine which is a good level…. (Cuts in)
Was that when you became a principal?
No! You don't just become a principal; you would have to teach. It took me about 30 years before I became a principal. As I was saying, for over two months, I was waiting at home, but there was no letter of appointment. I became impatient. So one day I woke up and asked my father if there was no federal ministry in Lagos and he told me there was. I asked him for a car and I drove down to Federal Ministry of Education, which was at Lagos at that time and I started work the year after at the Federal school of Arts and Science, Victoria Island. I was given a note by Mr. Osodi in those days and I started work. So, by the time the letter from Kwara State University came, placing me on level 9, I had already made friends and so I was not going to leave.
How was it like before you became a principal?
I was at Federal School of Arts and Science for years teaching English and Literature. I started there in 1978. In 1989, I went for Masters in Admin and Planning at the University of Lagos. After my Masters I was posted to Federal Ministry of Education. When I got there, I was posted to general education support services. So, I had taught for about ten years before I went into the ministry. I was asked to handle several areas under the general education support services, like the library and few other areas.
After that, I was posted to international education division; I was the desk officer handling international programmes like-talk ten, ADB and several of those international agencies. I enjoyed it. After that, they planned to move the ministry to Abuja and my children were still in school, so, I did not see why I should leave my family and go to Abuja. So was posted to King's College where I became the head of department of English and Foreign Languages. There, even as head of department, I still taught. I taught the senior school both English and Literature studies. While I was there my students made 'A's' and I was proud of it.
That means you enjoyed teaching?
Yes! I have always enjoyed teaching. I was also the editor-in-chief of the Mermaid, the school magazine, the Patron Press Club. I was able to teach the students to read news every week in the school. I was year head SS1 in 2000, year head SS2 and 3 before I became head of department. Then, I continued until I became the vice principal of King's College in 2005-2006. From there I was transferred to Queen's College as vice principal in 2006. In 2008 I was posted to Federal Government College, Ijanikin, Lagos as vice principal. I was there till 2010 when I was moved back to Queen's College as vice principal and then in June 9 and 20, 2011, I became the acting principal. On June 28, I became the substantive principal of Queen's College.
What was your experience as female student, did you go to a girl's school?
Yes, I did. I am an old girl of Queen's College. In the school at that time we were about only 300 students. We had just two arms to one class-unlike now you have about 10 arms, and in each class we were about 18-25 students in each class. In those days, what we now have as our library was our assembly ground; and it contained all of us. We had wooden floors and so we would sit down on the floor. The part where we now refer to as the boarding area was the complete school. The principal's house is still where it was but it was across the road. Queen's College was just a small portion of what is today the boarding area and the library-that was the whole of Queen's College; and the principal was still living in the school at that time.
What was your experience among your peers as a student?
When I was here…like I usually tell the parents of the SS3 girls, especially to counsel their children, during my time, there was absolutely nothing like fagging. I missed home, but all I missed was the food and freedom to watch television, in my compound…I grew up at Apapa. I went to Corona School and so in my compound you had all manner of foods. We had our tennis court…I had a good time growing up and so missed all that when I came into boarding house, but I made friends quickly. A couple of senior students wanted me to be their school daughter. I did not have people telling me to get water. In fact, I cannot remember ever getting water for any senior student.
What was the attraction, was there any special thing about you?
No! It's not about attraction. It was the same thing with everybody, and nobody was fagged. We had the older ones wanting to be our school mother. What they did was that when they passed by you, they would want to touch your round cheek to know how you were faring and then if you had any problem with any senior, your school mother would go there and sort it out. We had a few wicked seniors, and if you heard their name you would have to disappear. But so long as you behaved yourself and you were at the right place, you would not run into their hands. I met my music teacher about two weeks ago and I was surprised that she called my first name. And then she said, 'you and your sister were very quiet.' So, I felt good to know that at least she did not say I was naughty.
If you are to compare that time and the present situation, what would you say is the cause of sagging amongst the students?
They are too many. It is not easy to manage a multitude; that is just the honest truth. The government is trying but education cannot be borne by government alone. Parents need to know that it is not just possible for government to bear all expenses. What I am trying to do here, even though it is a federal college (this I what you call a public school), is to try to run it like a private school so that the facility, behaviour and the output is like what you have in the private college.
How do you handle lesbianism among the students?
We hear of cases of that, but we let them know that if they are found…because that is not a good habit, it is anti-social, we would tell them to leave the dormitory. And so, the fear has kept them here. We don't have enough space for all and so because we treat the girls well and they are well feed, taken care of as much as possible, they all want to stay here. They know that we don't have much space for everybody and so if they want to be here, they have to behave and not indulge in such anti-social behaviour.
What is your leadership style?
I am neither dictatorial nor lassie-faire. I have an open door policy were I allow the students and staff to come up to me if there is anything they need or if there is any area they want improvement. If the students are bullied, they come and tell me. I also let my staff know that if they come here to tittle-tattle, I will sit that staff down and call the person concerned and tell the staff to repeat what she earlier said. If she can't repeat it in front of the person then they can never come to me again because they know I would turn them down.
It is always said that women are too emotional to lead. Do you think it is true?
Why would you say so?
Women are about the best leaders. Where the man would be carried away with people coming in to give them absurd bills, the woman would be vocal because we were built that way. We run our home on tight schedule and if she is given little money, it is still managed properly and then even if we have a lot of money, we run our home as well and yet we are still able to save. Women are very good managers of both funds and humans.
How is the relationship between you and your male staff?
I have no problem with them because I give them adequate respect. Men are supposed to be respected and I appreciate them. I let them know that what they are doing for me, I appreciate them. I am basically a considerate principal-I consider others before myself. Presently in our staff room, the equipment in there is befitting any private school; I have a long staff room that today people call it stock exchange Queen's College. I put air conditioners, water dispensers, comfortable chairs in there. I did all this because I want them to feel joy in their heart anytime they go in there. It was done by the fourth month of my arrival here and I have also re-roofed the dining hall that was leaking, in that space of time. I also changed all the louvres in the classrooms.
What height do you expect to take this school?
I hope to make it a world-class school. My dream is to take it to the next level. Right now, I am discussing with Muritala Foundation to come and computerise my school. They have given six computers for my exams room, two for my bursary and some of the old girls have been able to help me equip the library.
With the present state of education in our country, do you think the standard is rising or falling?
The standard of education is not falling, but the children are not working hard. We need to encourage reading culture. The children themselves have become lazy and so we need to get parents to work along with the school authorities to ensure that when student are given homework and long-term projects, it is done. When students come to school some of them like to wander-the teacher is in class and a student gets up to urinate, then another wants to go and drink water. As a teacher you would not deny the child the right. Others use silly tactics to stay away from class. And so some of them need to be talked to because they don't know why they are in school. They think they are here because their parents sent them there.
When was your first contact with a man?
I had brothers
(cuts in) Apart from them…
I had friends, and besides, Queen's Colleges girls are never allowed to be shy. They are outspoken-some can be quiet because I was quiet when I was in school. I was a little bit shy but I smile a lot to cover it up. My brother brothers had friends and so I was not scared to talk to any of them. When I went into the university, that was actually the first time I was unattended to; we had both boys and girls, but because I was always taught to be at the right place when necessary, I was never seen at any wrong place. So I was able to take my decision whether to go out with anybody or not. It was not difficult for me to relate with boys. Also my parents took us abroad on holidays and so to me I have never had an issue whether boy or girl.
How did you meet your husband?
I went with a friend's younger sister to see my aunty. Maybe because I took her to see my aunty, she also took me to say hello to one of her cousins. When I was in the living room, he (my husband) who had just come back from the states was staring at me from the corner. I knew someone was staring at me. When I looked round, I found him staring. As I was about to leave, he walked up to invite me to a party. I accepted to go. So, that was the beginning of us together.
So, how do you manage your different roles as a professional, mother and wife?
I make sure that I am a 24-hour mum. My phones are always on and I have a particular phone dedicated to my children because they don't school here. They schooled from primary till secondary but went abroad for their university. I spend a lot of time with them on the phone, I prayed with them before every exam.
None of your kids are working in your profession?
Do you still have time to cook?
Yes I still do, not often as I want to but I cook well. I relegate it to Saturdays, once I a while.
What is the major challenge you face as a principal?
Funds, that is my major challenge, but people have been responding. I have been asking for assistance and I am getting it. We did not have classrooms but CBN has come on board to promise me 18class rooms.
What is the best advice you ever got, who gave it to you and how has it helped to shape your?
The best advice I ever got is from my father, his advice for me has always been to be very hardworking, truthful, he told me that as far as any boss of mine is concerned I should not be involved with anything with fund. And so I never concern myself with anything that come to funds in this job and so when I was here as vice principal I made sure that I did not involve myself with funds no matter what I was doing-there was a reason to quarrel about.
My father told me that I should always be truthful in all I do because the truth at the end would always surface. Even if someone told a lie about you it is only truth that would save you in the end. I have found that to be true and so whatever I do in life I anchor it on God.