My vision for ECHSOSA- Popoola, National President. - THE BUSINESS PACKAGE


Wednesday, January 31, 2024

My vision for ECHSOSA- Popoola, National President.

Olufemi  Peter Popoola, the current National President of Egba (Comprehensive) High School  Old Students' Associations (ECHSOSA) who preferred to be called " Made in Egba High School",  has made a lot of invaluable contributions  to his alma  mater from his humble beginning as an Assistant  Senior Prefect (Boy); as a teacher for several years, a feat he capped up with serving as the National  President.  In this encounter with newsmen, he went down memory lane on the pioneering efforts of the Elders in laying a solid foundation  for the Old Students,the short but eventful tenure of Engineer Lanre Bisiriyu,  which he inherited and his vision for his alma mater after being re-elected. He also spoke about the new status of the school , the school's changing fortune from notoriety to relevance, the  new hostel and model school status of the school, activities of the old students sets and that of those in  the diaspora among others. The National  Publicity Secretary,  Waheed Ogunjobi engaged him. Excerpts 


Q: Would you like to trace the pioneering efforts of Elders like Engineer Abubakar  Abari and the likes in the affairs of the Old Students of ECHSOSA, how does that help to lay the foundation for what is being experienced today?

A:  It would be uncharitable and ingratitude on our part if we fail to properly acknowledge the passionate sacrifice and the giant strides of our various pioneering ECHSOSA Elders. Even before the time of Engineer Abari, various past Elders had etched their names in the service of our school and the association. I recall Ex- National Presidents and Elders like Alhaji Akinyinka,late Alhaji Adebayo, Elder wale Salako, Chief Taiye Sobande (the current BOT chairman), Engnr Bazeet Lasaki,Mr Akin  Okudero, Late Oderinlo, Alhaji Kamoru Adedo, Mrs Tanimowo, Late Dr Gbenga Darley, Late Mrs Roselyn Benson, Late Engineer Isiaka Olanrewaju Bisiriyu and a host of others,to mention a few. All of these individuals had at various periods made unforgetable invaluable contributions to both the school and  ECHSOSA in the past,especially at a period in 1995 when the school hostel system witnessed its first  resuscitation. Yours sincerely was serving as a teacher in the school then and was privileged to be their errand boy. It is on record that the sets initiative  that has now gained attention and  wide acceptance is one of the products  of Engineer Abubakar Abari's ingenuity when the patronage at the National level was at the lowest ebb.  Today,our class sets /groups have taken over, becoming the bedrock of developmental activities in the school compound.

Q: Engineer Bisiriyu's  tenure was shortlived, but eventful, would you like to 1also speak to this ?

A: Let us be honest with ourselves. Tried as the previous leaders and  Elders did, it got to a time the old students" association at the national level  and  developmental activities became stalled and static.
Then Engineer Alhaji Isiaka Olanrewaju Bisiriyu emerged as National President in 2021 and life was restored once again. Lanre Bisiriyu was God sent, I would describe him as a catalyst for Change and rebirth of the fortune of our association and alma mater. He wasn't a new comer as an Old student. He had been giving  to the school in the past. I remember in 1995,he  assisted in the connection of public water supply to the school during his tenure at Ogun State  Water Corporation,among others. The one and half year he spent as National President witnessed unprecedented renewed interest at the national level and developmental activities in the school. He came up with repositioning and revitalisation agenda which he pursed with unequalled vigour and attention. The school benefited immensely from his goodwill,service and connection as a retired Head of service in  Ogun State  Civil Service. Luckily, as an experienced and  top civil servant, he had his blueprints well laid out. Unfortunately,we lost him. 
It' was his agenda and blueprints we  followed till the end of his tenure in January 2024.

Q:  i was going to ask before you touched on the area that  you inherited and completed the tenure commenced by Engineer Bisiriyu, what are some.of his vision  that you shared that made you continue his legacies ?

A: I  shared all his vision which was to awake the sleeping giant in our alma mater and association.To restore the old glory of our school, to put her among the comity of first generation of public secondary schools, at least in Abeokuta for a start. It  wasn't for selfish considerations and personal aggrandizement. He was methodical, focused,committed ,passionate,sincere. His self belief was so infectious. He gave everyone around him opportunity to showcase his talents. I personally learnt a lot from him. All these values and virtues endeared us to him. We had no choice than to continue from where he stopped with the same tempo to a successful end.

Q: Your new dispensarion, what are your plans of action for your Alma mater ?

A: Our plans of action.We are still work in progress. We are yet to reach the El dorado. The new exco shall continue to sustain the momentum but with new approach,expecially with the coming of new executives full of  youthfulness,fresh ideas and vigour. First, as we are  unrelenting in  infrastructural development, in collaboration with the school management,we shall redirect our focus on capacity building of our students to enable them identify their potentials right from here, we shall endeavour to give them more exposure to extra curricular activities to stem their involvement in unwholesome activities. Also, there would be more synergy with our members in the diaspora to attract more participation from them in the scheme of things. A lot issues have generated complaints in our Constitution, we shall identify them with a view to address them and accommodate fresh inputs to galvanise more participation and involvement. The new dispensation at the national level shall encourage coming together of more sets,groups and chapters. Going further here,we shall make deliberate efforts to address lingering crisis observed in some sets and chapters. Above all, we shall be transparent,accountable, participatory and accomodating.

Q: The different set groups that you just mentioned  have been up and doing in terms of contributing to the ongoing development, what are some of the projects undertaken by the Old Students sets for the school and how spectacular ?

A: Once again, I wish to appreciate the former National President, Engineer  Abari for coming up with the formation of sets/groups and the late President,for expanding their activities during his short tenure. The  contribution of sets and individuals are simply massive. Most  of the remarkable progress made in the last three  years was as a result of their involvement. Permit me to mention a few outstanding  ones . As a matter of fact, all of them were outstanding,important and spectacular in their own merit. Some of them are: 
-Renovation of several classrooms in the two schools.
- Face-lift,toilets renovation and  painting of main Building.
- Construction of modern students toilets from foundation.
- Complete Renovation of Old Student food shed to modern standard.
- Renovation of Science Laboratory and library in the senior school.
- Illumination of parts of the school compound.
- Career talks and free lectures to students in some key subjects by some individuals.
-Full Renovation of building designated as School Clinic and provision of essential drugs. 
- Roofing of kitchen, provision of kitchen items, Dinning furniture,water supply for hostel use.
- Full renovation of two buildings designated as Boys and Girls hostels,with beddings.
- Sponsorship of promising but indigent students for boarding accommodation. 
Ler me say categorically that without the Last two items mentioned here,the hostel resuscitation wouldn't have been possible. 
The list is inexhaustible.

Q: The diaspora groups, how are they contributing to development at the moment?

A: The contributions of the diaspora groups have been huge and tremendous. 
This predated the Bisiriyu administration.
Thus, barely a week after the inauguration of the current exco in the first week in January 2024, a group in USA,one of our dependable partners, reached out to me, requesting for the lists of projects in dire  need of attention at the moment. We are always in tandem with them and we onserved that what they need is simple  transparency and accountability. We were able to account for the last intervention they made in 2023.So, i believe the trust and confidence is already established. We shall continue to sustain that,while we reach out to others. There  are so many out there willing to make contributions,  but within the atmosphere of trust and transparency.

Q: How do you hope to rally more old students in the diaspora to be a partaker of the development at home ?

A: Aside from winning their confidence and trust which I have mentioned earlier, we intend to allow their inclusion and  participation in the scheme of things. We intend to expand the provisions in our Constitution to accommodate  leadership role for them,in America, Europe and other continents.

Q: We also  noticed that the Elders activities are more resounding when it comes to old students' association in Egba High School, why are the youths not taking much interest? , Is it that the Elders are not ready to leave the scene; what can be done to engender more youths involvement?

A: Thank God for our Elders. They had all paid their dues.Now they continue to function in advisory roles and tapping from their wealth of experience and wisdom.The youths have now woken up to take leadership roles at  the national level, which is a complete departure from the past and we have taken deliberate efforts to actualize this new trend.  A  cursory look at the composition of the new exco is a testimony to this. We shall continue to encourage the participantion and   utilisation of the knowledge of our teeming youths who are imbued with the capacity,ability,antecedents and other essentials of leadership. Am not getting younger myself.  God will see us through.

Q: Egba High School now has a new status as a flagship and  model school, how was this achieved, what does it entails and how can this be of benefits to parents and students ?

A: Simply put, a flagship is a model school among public secondary schools in the state. There are just about 43 of them in the state. It's a no mean feat to achieve this. The advantages are unquantifiable.  First, it would attract more govt attention in terms of the provision of facilities, quality assurance templates and controlled students population. All these would translate into more monitoring activities by the supervisory ministry, availability of teachers in several subjects, improvements in students academic performance. With controlled population, incidences  of social vices among students and others of such,  would reduce because monitoring would be less cumbersome for teachers. On the part of the parents, they would be relieved of tension and worries caused by negative reports hitherto being experienced from their wards and happy for their improved academic performance. 

Q:  We also noticed that at some time in the past, Egba High School was notorious for bad attitude especially of the students,  we also suddenly noticed a lull in such negative tendencies, what was the magic wand ?

A:  No magic wand  regarding the lull in incidences of notoriety and negativity for which  our students are  previously known for ,  except series of deliberate attempts and efforts of  the stakeholders to address these. The school management whotook proactive steps, the parents who gave their total commitments, some concerned old students and the leadership of the association who gave its backing in all its entirety at all time.  I wish to commend our two principals in this area for their tireless efforts. 

Q: What is  your advice to your fellow Old Students?

A: There are so many old students out there still sitting on the fence, for diverse reasons. Some erroneously believe one must be financially endowed to participate in old students activities or  give back.  This is wrong. One can give back in many ways aside money. Some are financially OK, but are simply indifferent or unwilling to be in the public glare. Some don't see reasons for giving back to their alma mater. We shall continue to educate ourselves for a change of attitude and correct the wrong impression. It's all about service to humanity and nothing is too small to give.

Q: What is your assessment of the Old Students  involvement in school activities  in recent times and what ideally, should be the role of the old students in national development  ?
A: Like I have mentioned several times in this interview, the role of old  students as a stakeholder in the education industry is unquantifiable. The old students  have assumed pivotal role in bringing to fore  developmental activities at  all levels of education in the country generally. They can no longer be pushed aside anymore because govt itself have identified with them taking into consideration that government  alone cannot provide all the massive needs in our schools. It is believed that it is only the old students' associations that would commit their resources to the development of their schools without asking for anything in return. Here in Ogun,State, without gain saying, I can  boldly say it that the current administration since its coming on board has identified with the old Students' associations across the state as  solid partners in developing our schools. The  recognition given to the old students' associations by Governor  Dapo Abiodun government  through the state Commissioner for Education Science and Technology, Prof Abayomi Arigbabu is unprecedented in the history of this stste since 1976. Thus, constantly, the commissioner is in touch and synergy with various registered old students' associations in the state through engagements and robust  interactive sessions- physically and online where matters  and issues regarding teething problems, challenges being experienced in our primary and secondary schools are identified and addressed. Old  students in the  teaching service who have attained principal status are also encouraged to be posted to their alma mater to galvanise developments as principal. 

Q: Who is Mr Oluwafemi Popoola?

A: You want me to talk about myself. I will,with all humility because no one can fully capture me. Oluwafemi Adegboyega, the first son of late Mr   Stephen Adegoke  popoola was born on December 6,1961 in Abeokuta. My father was a  local government administrator and my mother was a teacher, from Ayetoro. I started my primary education in Baptist Day Primary school, Oja ale,ijaye Abeokuta and ended up at African Church  primary school, Apata Ibadan. I traversed the length and breath of major towns in the then western region,following my Dad to his postings in the  local government service. This affected my education as I failed to pass every entrance examinations  into secondary schools I wrote in the old western state before I entered Egba high school Abeokuta in 1976. I am a product of grace of God. I struggled in both my forms 1 and 2 at Egba high school. Am not ashamed to say that i was very poor academically due to my tough beginning and loss of self confidence.My mum and Dad had separated when I was barely 4 years old. In my third year in Egba High School, my story changed, I found my rhythm and became one of the most outstanding students in the Arts Class in my set. By the time I was in form 4, I was the most outstanding student in the Arts Class. The records are there and my mates are reading this. However,  I was also terribly notorious. Regardless of that, I was tolerated and loved by our principal then, p
Pa Jolaoso and  some of my teachers due to my academic brilliance  in the arts subjects and my involvement in literary activities. In form 4,I was shortlisted for appointment as school prefect and put up a big show at the interview but I wasn't convinced I would make the cut. I was just a bad boy,unknown to my Dad at home.
The day the  announcement of school prefects was made, I came late but as we were juggling from the school gate to the assembly ground in front of main building that morning,  I was hearing shouts of "femo....femo..." I was confused: what have I done  again  went through my mind?
 It was one of the most memorable moments in my life as I was ushered into the platform with one other mates of mine. The principal was standing with arms extended to me and Mr.Amosu placing me beside Henry Adegun,the Senior Boy. I was made  the Assistant Senior Boy,ASP. Since then, I was reformed.  I promised not to disappoint. But by the time, we wrote the West African School Certificate  Examination (WAEC),  a lot of damage had been done to my performance through bad choices. Sadly, i couldn't really fulfil my full potentials due to my unchecked youthful exuberance. I had a stint in the local government service before heading to Ogun State College of Education, Ijebu Ode in 1982 to read English/History. I  got into teaching service in 1986,was transferred to Egba high school as a teacher in 1986 to open another  chapter in the school as a teacher.  I was privileged to be recognised as a useful old student and was given responsibilities and opportunities to serve my Alma mater diligently culminating into becoming senior housemaster at the first hostel resuscitation in 1995 till 2001, when I was transferred out. These are the reasons  I labelled myself as made in Egba  Hgh School,  where I had  my first degree, where I got married and had all my children. I finally retired as Principal Special Grade 1 in January 2021. It was my strong desire to retire as Principal in my alma mater,to give back to the school that made me. It wasn't to be. However, God granted the desire of my heart in another way I ddnt anticipate. I never envisaged to serve in the leadership role of ECHSOSA at anytime but in 2021, with the change of leadership at the national level and the coming of Our late President, Engnr Bisiriyu,  I was called by some concerned Elders to be his Vice President.  This came as a surprise to me but because I knew the antecedents and track records of the man for years,it wasn't difficult to offer myself for service. The rest as they say  is history and to God be the Glory. Olufemi popoola is a socialite,member of some notable social and  philanthropic organisations,a family man,sports enthusiast, social commentator,an accomplished community leader, a team player,straight forward with passion for hard work,promptness, diligence and  thoroughness. Thank you for having me.

Q: Thanks for obliging us.

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