Mr. Bakare Babatunde Salihu has distinguished himself as a school principal with a difference in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, through wearing his school uniform to work. Mr. Salihu has been teaching for 31 years.

He rose through the ranks, became vice principal, Muhyideen Arabic School and in 2011 was appointed pioneer Principal of Olunlade Secondary School where he introduced the novel idea of wearing school uniform along with his students. grapevine met him recently when he led his students to a programme at Ilorin Metropolitan Square also dressed in school uniform. Throughout the programme, he was an attraction, dressed in his school’s uniform. He explained to grapevine the reason behind his choice of dressing to school which, he said, was to encourage adult education and demystify the fear by some students of interacting with principals. He also said no student would feel ‘shy’ putting on his school uniform when they see the principal wearing same without any qualm.

The principal who specialises in Yoruba Literature said: “If a principal can put on uniform, what would be wrong with the students doing same? So I love the uniform, I love the children and I always want to be with them. So I wear uniform to the class, I will sit down and the teachers would teach us together with the students.

“I have been doing that since 2011. Formerly I was wearing knickers. Now we are in JSS 3, I use trousers. When we were in JSS one and two, I used knickers. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays are my school days. These days I will not stay in my office, I would sit in the class; from one class to another so that the teachers would teach us together with the students. It would give confidence to the teachers knowing that the principal is among the students and that would make them to prepare and teach very well,” he said.

Asked how the students feel seeing him dressed in school uniform, he said, “as soon as they see me, they shout. Some will say, ‘our head boy’, some will say ‘our class captain’. They see me as their mate. I don’t see myself as a principal when I am in the school uniform and they like it.”

According to him, his style has gone a long way in bringing him closer to the students and vice-versa.

“That brings the students and the principal to be closer. They see me as their friend and not as their ‘oga’ when I put on the uniform. They love seeing me in the uniform.”

Reflecting on the teaching profession, Bakare, who bagged Masters in Yoruba Literature, lamented the waning respect the community accorded teachers even as he lamented that parents are lackadaisical about their children’s education.

He said: “During our time, when we were teaching, teachers were held in high esteem, they commanded respect from students, they commanded respect from parents and they commanded respect from the community. If you beat a child, the father or mother would beat the child again unlike now when teachers are scared of touching the students. It is said that if you spare the rod, you spoil the child.”

The educationist blamed policy inconsistency for the fallen standard of education, lamenting that most teachers are not competent and lack the requisite skills to impart meaningful knowledge on the students.

His words: “Most teachers nowadays are not qualified. Imagine a teacher teaching Mathematics, using length and breadth to find area of triangle instead of half breadth and height; a teacher teaching comparison using a human being to demonstrate long, longer, longest. He is teaching a correct thing using the wrong example.

“For the parents, if they’re asked to buy books, they will not. Thank God, education in Kwara State is free but that does not mean you should not buy books for your child. The parents are nonchalant. In our office now, I have about 50 packs of books not claimed. Most parents would not try to find out about the students.”

To revitalise the education sector, he added “we should have a solid education policy. Now we are on 6-3-3-4, let us sustain that. The parents should change their attitude towards their children and wards. They should take time to find out how the students are doing in school, to know if they are progressing.

“Also, you don’t force your child to be who you are. Don’t say you are a doctor and you want to force your child to also be one. He may be useful in another field. Let him or her choose where he or she would be useful,” the principal concluded.

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