ABIMBOLA OLASHORE, chairman, board of governors, Olashore International School, in this interview, tells FUNKE OSAE-BROWN about his life and what the school is doing differently.
The imposing walls of Olashore International School stared us on the face as our bus drove into the expansive courtyard of the school. In the warm Friday sun, a group of students was seen in the far distance taking lessons from a teacher. It was the school band rehearsing.
As we moved from one end of the school to the other while on a tour of the school facility, every student we met on the way stopped to say, hello. It was a courteous attitude the owner of the school exhibited when we met him later that evening.
Dressed in a light brown Buba and Soro, Abimbola Olashore is an epitome of humility. One would never have thought he sits at the helm of affairs in such a big school.
His voice sounded a little husky as he stood up to address our group that warm January evening at Iloko-Ijesa, Osun State. But in that husky voice is the strength of a man who is sure of himself and the vision handed over to him by his late father, Oba Oladele Olashore.
Olashore has been managing Olashore International School before and after the demise of his father who was the Kabiyesi of Iloko-Ijesa. He is very passionate about the school and he has become a father figure for the students who pass through the school every year.
“There is a structure already on ground,” he tells me. “My grandfather was an Oba, so it has been in our line for quite some generations. There is an aspect to public service that probably runs in the family. It is just that we believe in the vision. We believe in developing our community. My grandfather, they thought he was radical, when he did the first schools. He educated a lot of people. My dad came and added the Olashore International School.”
Olashore’s mother started with a school she named after herself in Lagos called Dupe Start Right, a nursery and primary school. It was that little seed that finally birth the big oak, Olashore International School, a school that has been offering secondary school education in the country for 20 years.
And Olashore says it has been an extremely satisfying experience running the school. “It is more of a joy,” he says, “my background is more of finance but now, being more involved in the school gives me more joy than whatever I am doing in the financial sector in Lagos. In the school, you could see the effect of what you are doing. I ask myself sometimes: ‘what can I do in Finance or banking in Lagos that can make an impact?’”
The joy Olashore derives is in seeing the young students of the school growing up to become successful adults, little wonder leadership has been at the core of the school’s curriculum.
“When you see someone you taught become very successful, you will have that inner joy that you have contributed to that. You have impacted on humanity through what you can do with the school, and that is why the school is a very unique kind of institution. People are handing over their 10, 11 year-old children to you. By the time you are returning the child, he is a better person.”
What never ceases to amaze Olashore is the fact that in September of every year when new students are enrolled in the school, they look far too young but by the time they graduate out of the school, they are really grown.
“When they first come in,” he says, “they look so small and you are wondering how they will cope in boarding house. When they are leaving at age 16, while graduating, the girls are in high heels, makeup, you will remember when they were so small. Then imagine when I travel abroad and see them; when I get invitation for their marriage and I remember when their mothers brought them and they were crying. You can imagine the joy of doing so every year. Every year, you get a new set. Especially, when they are not settled yet, now they have settled down, made their friends. Apart from the joy, we also see the impact of what we are doing.”
For a man who has gone through that secondary school age, Olashore says he thoroughly enjoyed his childhood. But now that he his entering the second half of his life, he is now thinking of legacy.
Olashore had a typical upbringing of somebody that grew up in the 1970s. He was born in Kano. But he had to relocate to the South as a result of the Civil War. My father who spoke Hausa fluently was an only child of his mother. Olashore moved to the South in 1967.
“If I go to Kano, there are so many houses I can enter easily,” he says with ease, “when we came into the South, there was nothing special, just the typical neighborhood, we moved to Victoria Island in 1971. The growing up to me was relatively idyllic. The difference between then and now in the secondary and primary school, in the class, you have the son of the rich and the son of the poor man, son of drivers, cook and all others were in the same class. Here, they are so elitist there is no mixture between the children here, even my own children are suffering from it. My father was an accountant; he had a career in banking.”
In 2014, Olashore says there were so many things the school did differently. According to him, Olashore International has increased emphasis on its leadership Programme and Social Responsibility activities.
“We place a great deal of emphasis on raising leaders, because leadership will also be the biggest issue facing mankind. The need for great leaders never goes out of fashion,” he explains.
To him, the school has also increased its effort in reaching out to all stakeholders by connecting with them through various means, such as the Parents’ Cocktail in major cities in Nigeria and also in the UK. “This is an avenue to bring together the Principal, the Chairman, Board Governors, current Olashore International School (OIS) parents and prospective parents to interact and share ideas on how to move the school forward. It also encourages parents’ involvement in the development of their children in Olashore International School. We had an educational road-show and parents’ interaction in London recently, to help Nigerians in the diaspora as well as the international community to appreciate the quality of education from Nigeria and the perfect blend of Nigerian local culture with an international flavour that Olashore School provides.”