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) a teacher for several years, a feat he capped up with serving as the national president.

In this encounter with the ECHSOSA National Publicity Secretary, Waheed Ogunjobi, the national president 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.


Q: Would you like to trace the pioneering efforts of elders like Engr. 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 Engr. Abari, various past elders have 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), Engr. Bazeet Lasaki, Mr Akin Okudero, late Oderinlo, Alhaji Kamoru Adedo, Mrs Tanimowo, Late Dr Gbenga Darley, late Mrs Roselyn Benson, late engr. Isiaka Olanrewaju Bisiriyu and a host of others,to mention a few.

All of these individuals 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 records 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 speak on 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 Engr. (Alhaji) Isiaka Olanrewaju Bisiriyu emerged as National President in 2021 and life was restored once again.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 Engr. 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 and 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: 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 eldorado. The new exco will 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, Engr. Abari for coming up with the formation of sets/groups and the late presiden 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: How are the diaspora groups 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 of 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? . What can be done to engender more youths involvement?

A: Thank God for our elders. They have 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 who took 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 Commissioner for Education Science and Technology, Prof Abayomi Arigbabu is unprecedented in the history of this state since 1976. Thus, constantly, the commissioner is in touch and synergise 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 Hgh School. I 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 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, 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. 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 potential 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, I 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 did not 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, Engr. 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.