Funso Adegbola is the Executive Director and CEO of Vale College Ibadan Nigeria. Interestingly she is the daughter of 2 lawyers, a lawyer herself and the mother of two lawyers. She was recently given an award by the French Government for services to academia and in her own words, despite having reached these heights in her life, she is a work in progress with the best days yet to come. Having met Funso recently I was really impressed and inspired by her apparent devotion towards education and mentoring young people to fulfil their potential. This is what she had to say when we spoke
TDK: Tell me about your early life.
My early life was idyllic- I grew up in a close-knit and loving family home. Both my parents ( Bola and Atinuke ige) were lawyers and I was their 1st child and only daughter. My parents were intentionally committed and I grew up with a lot of love, positivity and a healthy self- esteem. I passed the secondary school entrance exams with flying colours at the age of 8+. I started *Form 1 at age 9yrs and 2 weeks.
TDK Tell me about your early career.
I graduated from Essex University in 1983,with a degree specialising in Modern Languages-French, Spanish and Linguistics. I then went on to study law at the University of Bristol and was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1987. As was customary I served my National Youth Service in Oyo State and worked in my father’s chambers Bola Ige and Co until 1994 when I founded The Vale College- a private Christian-based, co-educational, boarding and day secondary school in Ibadan, Nigeria.
TDK: How and why did you go into education?
I wanted to make a difference in secondary school education. I had a great and successful educational sojourn that started Nigeria and continued in the UK over a period of 12 years and I wanted to give back all which God and my parents had given to me – the very best holistic education possible. Whilst working as a barrister at my Father’s law practice, I was an active member of my old school Alumni, and I found that there were numerous complaints about the standard of education the girls were receiving therefore, I volunteered by giving French and English tutorials to students in my lunch break,
TDK: Did you keep a diary as a child?
My dad was a wordsmith he and my teachers quickly identified my gift for self-expression. My first diary was a 5th birthday gift from my Dad.and I would record my activities daily. At 13, I got a diary with a padlock so I started writing more confidential events and thoughts. I also used to write stories and poems by then so I got Journals as well as diaries from then. When I finished School Certificate in Nigeria, I went to Westonbirt School in Gloucestershire, there I kept my diary and journal daily and more faithfully. On Sunday afternoons we had letter-writing time and I would fill at least 2 aerogramme letters every week- my journal and diary being my ‘aide memoire’ and also to set academic and achievement goals for myself.
TDK: Do you still keep journals?
In fact i keep several which I fill simultaneously. In some I write my goals- spiritual, relational, professional and material/physical goals. Others I write my life’s lessons and my a-ha moments! Lol! I must also not forget my gratitude journal I also keep prayer journals where I record my prayer points and I look back on them for testimonies of God’s faithfulness and goodness in my life and family. Of course this is all assisted by my love of stationery, and not being able to resist a lovely leather bound book or two.
TDK:What are the benefits of keeping a journal?
It helps me to express myself, vent my emotions and plan for the future. I also use it as a tool for self-assessment and evaluation. Also many of my life’s goals are first committed in writing and it becomes a covenant between me and God. Seeing the actual physical manifestation of these goals is exhilarating, especially when I go back and see the date when I first recorded the thought, goal and plan in my journal.
TDK: Tell me about the recent award you received from the French Government.
I was given the award of Chevalier de L’Ordre des Palmes Academiques for my outstanding contribution to French language and culture. I am the first Nigerian to get this particular French national honour. I studied French, lived and worked in 2 Parisian Secondary schools from 1981-1982 there I discovered my passion for young people. I am the current President of the Alliance Francaise in Ibadan. The Consul-General of the French Embassy decorated me with the medal on 20th January 2016.
TDK: What is the greatest Lesson you have Learnt?
Is knowing I’m a blessed and highly favoured child of God. He loves and cares for me with an everlasting love and carries me in his never-ending arms delivering me from ALL my afflictions. My joy and strength is in Him.
TDK: What are you learning now?
I am a work in progress, my best days are ahead of me. Life is a journey and not a destination. When I was younger I tended to focus only on the outcome but with experience and as my son always encourages me to enjoy the moments that make up the journey too. Carpe el diem- seize the day!
TDK: How has Failure shaped your Life?
The first time I failed anything was in Form 3, when my grades fell below average. I was to progress to the next class on trial but my parents insisted I should repeat. I cried for days but my parents encouraged me that I am not a failure and this was just an opportunity to improve myself. With Hindsight I know that i learnt further insights into what I was good at and I am grateful that this was learnt early. From then onwards, I saw failures as stepping-stones and not obstacles as an opportunity to learn how to do better the next time.
TDK: Who do you know whom I should know?
The Lord Jesus Christ, have a growing relationship with him.
TDK: What have you read that I should read?
I read a lot of personal improvement, management and business books and magazines. I also like reading autobiographies. I loved reading Valorie Burton’s ‘Successful women think differently’ and have shared it with many girlfriends and colleagues
TDK: What have you done that I should do?
Nothing that I can think of as I believe we all have different journeys, purpose and life paths. However, I attended a Women in Leadership Course at the Harvard Business School which I will highly recommend.
TDK: Tell me about he most life changing event in your life
The most life-changing events in my life are deaths of my loved ones. My immediate younger brother died in his sleep, 6weeks before his 31st birthday. My father was assassinated in his Ibadan home and my mother died of a broken heart, 16 months after my dad’s murder!,
These deaths affected me deeply. I went through the gamut of emotions, anger, bitterness and even hatred. It made me depressed and melancholic. Getting over the depression took some time but I have been helped by my faith and trust in God as well as the deep love and outstanding support of family and friends. It has helped me to value relationships even more and also to comfort and counsel others who are bereaved. I am over the worst now and I thank God for His healing balm of Gilead.
TDK: Which of your achievements are you most proud of?
My proudest achievements must be raising 2 successful children and hundreds of non-biological children at The Vale College and The Vale Tutorial College- as
well as several students, including physically challenged who I give scholarships up to university level.
*In the UK, year 7 is the equivalent of form 1.