Today, there are many female professors across Nigeria but who was the very first female professor in our country? Welcome to the world of Felicia Adetoun Ogunseye, the very first female professor in the nation. Read on.
BIRTH AND EARLY DAYS
Professor Felicia Adetoun Ogunseye nee Banjo was born on the 5th of December, 1926 in Benin City, Edo State, Nigeria. Her younger brother was the late Colonel Victor Adebukunola Banjo, a soldier in the Biafran Army who was later executed on allegations of plotting a coup against the late Odumegwu Ojuwku, leader of Biafra.
EDUCATION AND SCHOOLING
Like many other female titans in Nigeria, she had her secondary school education at the prestigious Queen’s College, Yaba, Lagos where she was admitted as a student in 1939. Upon finishing from QC, she proceeded to Yaba Higher College then the University College, Ibadan where she studied from 1946 till 1948. She bagged her Higher College Teaching Diploma at the institution (she was the first female undergraduate of the Yaba institution) and jetted out of Nigeria for Newham College, Cambridge and Simmons College in Boston, Massachusetts, United States from 1949 to 1952. At the University of Ibadan, she had bagged the prize for the best female graduating student and got a scholarship to proceed to Cambridge.
There, she studied for her first degree programme in geography (that happens to be one of my very best subjects!) It must be noted that at the same graduation ceremony at the University of Ibadan, her brother Ademola Banjo also got the prize for the best graduating male student and he got a scholarship to study at the Manchester University where he finished with a first class degree in mechanical engineering in July 1952. He would later become the first Nigerian to get a doctorate degree in metallurgical engineering in 1954.
CAREER AND BECOMING NIGERIA’S FIRST FEMALE PROFESSOR
Upon finishing her studies in America in 1952, she was back in Nigeria and became a teacher at the Anglican Girls’ Grammar School in Ilesha (now named St. Margaret’s School). She also taught at the St. Anne’s School in Ibadan before returning to Simmons College, Boston, Massachusetts in 1961 for her second degree programme. By 1958, she was back and joined the Library Staff of the University of Ibadan where she worked diligently in various capacities. In 1973, she became of Professor of Library and retired in 1987 from the university system. But ever indefatigable, she took up some other public assignments.
Professor Ogunseye is not just a pioneer, she also has one of the most impressive resumes of any female in Nigeria. In December 1960, the Banjo Commission, of which she was a member was set up to do a comprehensive review of the educational system of Western Nigeria and the report (also called the Banjo Report) was submitted in January 1961. Part of the report stated:
“it was very doubtful whether they (the pupils) had acquired permanent literacy in the English language. They pick up little or no manual or technical skills…
In addition to this, she has also initiated various educational programmes and associations to promote the empowerment of women and others in the society. One of such is the Council for Women Societies. As at 1965, she was the President of the Nigerian Association of University Women.
HER THOUGHTS ON THE NIGERIAN EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM
The fact today is that the Nigerian educational system is far from being perfect and Professor Ogunseye has bared her mind on this.
-Professor Ogunseye thinks that the government has no business appointing vice chancellors for universities and that universities should be given enough autonomy which will also include the power to choose their own administrators. She also stated that the government should do more to fund research and teaching facilities in the universities but that admitting students should be the ‘absolute rights’ of the universities.
-On the issue of admitting more students from the so-called educationally disadvantaged states to the detriment of other students from other states, she thinks the idea is total nonsense. She feels that students must be admitted on just one basis: merit. And not even any senseless federal character or any other criteria. She said: A standard must be set for our university system. Irrespective of one’s tribe or state, admission should be opened to all and sundry, based on merit and non-discrimination. It does not make anybody happy to think that somebody with lower scores gained admission into the university against somebody else because the former comes from a particular state, zone, tribe or educationally disadvantaged.
-Professor Ogunseye is also of the belief that education should be free from primary to secondary levels but the most important thing should be the quality.
THE FIRST NIGERIAN FEMALE PROFESSOR TODAY
-She is one of the matrons of the Senior Citizens Care Foundation (SCCF), a non-governmental organization. Chief (Mrs) HID Awolowo is also a matron of the organization.
-Professor Ogunseye was honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award by Nigeria Book Fair Trust during its 11th Nigeria International Book Fair from the 7th to the 12th of May, 2012 at the Afe Babalola Auditorium, University of Lagos, for her contributions to the growth and stability of publishing and book trade in the country.