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OMEP is an international organisation.Of what relevance is it to the Nigerian society?
OMEP has been in existence in Nigeria for over 30 years in Kaduna, Lagos and Oyo states and presently we have it in over nineteen states. This organisation focuses on the total development of the child from ages 0-8. And we work in collaboration with parents, teachers, proprietors and proprietresses of schools, ministry of education, SUBEB and UBEC. OMEP aims at giving the children best possible conditions for growing up, starting from the family, through to preschool, institutions,the society and the world at large. This body is also working hand in hand with UNICEF, Nigerian Education Research and Development Council (NERDC) and UNESCO to formulate curriculum for children development by curriculum experts. Again, it is involved in training teachers which is the major programme so as to bring to bear theories of child development which are practised in schools. We also encourage research through members in the universities.
Who is eligible to be a member of OMEP?
Anyone that loves children or loves to work with children. 80 per cent of the members are teachers. We have lecturers of universities, lawyers and many others in the different professions.
Looking at your activities, would you say OMEP Nigeria is meeting with the international standard?
In 2009 we hosted the world. We had people from 24 countries in attendance. Again, the regional African president has always been a Nigerian. OMEP Nigeria actually coordinates OMEP in Africa. We now have OMEP established in West African countries like Cotonou, Cameroon, Togo. Internationally, I believe we are doing fine.
Are there challenges faced by your organisation?
That is taking the government along. Everything is politicised. The only challenge we have is a voice in the government circle.
As a proprietress, would you say parents are there these days for their children?
Some are, but many are not. In my school a lot of enlightenment is being made through the Parents Teachers Association (PTA) executives in the school to get parents to work in partnership with the school. We have the communication book with which we get in touch with parents. We do not have a 100 per cent response, it’s gradual. We let parents see the advantage in giving their children the necessary attention, the need for bonding in the children’s early years. I believe the economic factor and the need for survival has been the major contributory factor.
What effect does parents' negligence have on children?
A child can become aggressive or withdrawn. He or she can become aggressive due to lack of attention and lash out at everyone and as time goes on, can get involved in social vices. Another might be withdrawn, be quiet and would like to be left alone most of the time. These can have gradual effect on his or her self esteem, social life and performance in school.
Would it then be right to say that these days many parents do not know their children?
Yes, but that is more common in urban settings like Lagos, but the percentage is not high here. In my school majority of the parents still ensure they pick their children after school hours while about 25 per cent are negligent. A parent on the way home dialogues with the child, finds out how it was in school and through this, he or she knows what is happening to the child. He or she can then counsel, advise or encourage the child as the need maybe. By so doing, the child feels free and ready to discuss anything and everything with the parents. We make parents know they are responsible for their children.
The rate of child abuse is on the increase in Nigeria. What role is OMEP playing to stem this?
The organisation had this as its theme few years back and went all out to enlighten parents and guardians on why it is necessary to shield their wards from it. We actually hammered on the effect of abuse on children and as you know, a child can be abused in many ways, sex included. We ran a radio programme which addressed these issues and we are not resting on our oars. OMEP Nigeria is determined to help in bringing up well-nutured children, both physically and mentally.
How early should a child be exposed to sex education?
I believe from age four. This can be passed across to a child in the simplest language he or she would understand. In my school there was a time we had to discuss it on the assembly, because we realise children are exposed to things by watching home videos. As a school we don’t shy away from it. And in few isolated cases, we have had to counsel pa-rents and children.
How is OMEP funded?
We levy ourselves as members to execute projects. We also seek spon-sors from children friendly companies like Fan Milk which supplies its pro-ducts; publishing companies which give note books and jotters and De United Foods Industries Limited which supports us with Indomie noodles. Philanthropists also donate. We have membership dues, which we pay regularly.
Can you mention some activities organised by OMEP for children?
We have children exchange programmes. It is a forum for exchange of ideas from teachers and children of other schools. They also go through lots of training. Parents are appreciative of this. The children mingle and this as it is observed, have positive impact on them.
What is your take on schools organising lessons or coaching classes for pupils after school hours?
Children are being overstretched. If a child is properly monitored, the time spent in learning in school is enough. I don’t believe in home lessons or weekend lessons. In my school, we have club activities–cooking,swimming,drama and the like. We have thirty minutes break and one hour for revision or club activities.
You are a wife, mother, pastor’s wife, proprietress and OMEP president. You must have a lot to cope with.
It’s God’s grace. Life is in phases. There was a time I was a full-time housewife, then I furthered my education, there I became OMEP Secretary, state executive and national executive. Now the children are in the university, I now have time for myself since they are young adults. And again, church work is not twenty four hours.
Did you have anything which prepared you for your role as a pastor’s wife?
There was nothing in my foundation which did. I became a Christian in the university. I have a Muslim background but on becoming a born again Christian, I became a member of my campus fellowship executive for five years. From there, I had a feeling I would end up being one, although I did not meet my husband as a pastor.
You are from the south west and your spouse from the south south. How easy was it convincing your parents you made the right choice?
It wasn’t easy, but being a committed Christian, my father in particular believed I must have prayed and be convinced before making up my mind. Initially he kept asking why I must cross five rivers to choose a husband.
What practices in your husband’s area did you find different from yours?
My husband lived in Lagos, so he had imbibed the lifestyle there. He speaks Yoruba Language well. So we dialogue in English and Yoruba most of the time. I served in Cross River State and ate all the food prepared there. I learnt how to prepare some.
Even when they discuss in their language which they seldom do, he will tell me in English. His siblings speak mostly in Yoruba Language.
Many ministers of God seem not being able to create a balance between their home and ministry. And this tell on the home...
Your ministry should start from your home. Your first ministry should be caring for your husband and children. I understood all these early in life. For years, I didn’t work outside the home and so was available for my family. I was there to monitor my children, listen to them, know what they went through during the day and talk with them. I also ensured I made the home and myself welcoming for my husband. We talked, discussed and counsel each other.
Why marry your spouse?
We were friends, along the line I knew I could tell him anything, joke and laugh together with him. This endeared him to me. And these are some things you must have in a healthy relationship. I was in a relationship for four years to an Ijebu man which didn’t work out before my spouse came along. The first relationship didn’t work out because we were always quarrelling, I later told him I was no more interested in the relationship.
Would you say it has been smooth all through since you got married?
No. We had our challenges, but God saw us through. First I didn’t get pregnant in time, but my husband stood by me.
I sought medical attention, but I had to go back to the Bible and hold on to God’s words which worked for me.
Again on moving to Ibadan, I came in with a seven-month-old pregnancy, my mother in-law was around and we had a helper, but I was financially handicapped. I started selling things. Though a graduate, I didn’t look for a paid job. I had a shop where I sold soft drinks and baby items. Gradually, things took shape. And then as a pastor’s wife, I had to cope with entertaining a lot of people. My life was opened to everyone. Church was home and home was church. I coped with a lot of intrution from a lot of members. It was like breaking into my privacy.
Where do you and your spouse differ?
My husband is an introvert. I plan and organise things. My spouse is more patient with the children. He actually supported me in raising them. He would always read to them and pray with them in bed. He was always checking their assignments and ensured they did their home work. He is more fashionable. Very good in combining colours. I don’t buy things in vogue.
What attire are your most comfortable?
English wears — nice skirt or trouser suits. I don’t wear much of iro and buba because it makes me look older than my age.
Women have a lot of things in their bags. What do you normally have in your bag?
My diary, cosmetic bag, some money, a book to read and my handset. I actually check my bag and pack it according to what I need. A book or magazine and my cosmetic bag are a must.
What kind of car would you want as a gift?
Since the roads are not that motorable, I would request for a functioning car that can travel on all roads.
How do you relax?
I go for vacation every year even if it’s within the country. And anytime I feel I’m tired, I stop working. I watch films and read mostly newspapers. I ensure I read all the stories there.
How do you make your weekend different from the week days?
I stay in bed on Saturdays, except we have a programme in church or an outing. Once in a while I go out with my spouse or my friend who is the Oyo State OMEP secretary to eat.