Mentoring: The transformational approach to training anyone! │© Fola Daniel Adelesi

Speech delivered by Fola Daniel Adelesi on 23rd July at the 2012/2013 graduation dinner of Kawefunmi Schools, Sagamu, Ogun State, Nigeria.
Having gone through the school system at this level of education, I can tell that a lot of work needs to be done. The interesting part is that it is not just about doing a lot of work, it is about doing things differently. As the custodians of education of some sort, we need to be able to stand out from those who are running the school system simply because they are hungry and they need to be able to do something for a living. We need to move from just running a school to transforming lives. I am deeply saddened by what it costs today for the average Nigerian child to get a proper education within the system. Just as there are those on the lower cadres who are running the school to make profit, there are those who also run the school on the higher cadres to make profit at the expense of the parents who suffer day and night to be able to keep these children in school.
The principal test for checking the value of education that a child has gotten is not the number of distinctions or ‘As’ as we know them today but the unconventional thought pattern of the child who has gone through a proper school. Therefore my challenge today is solely about ‘how many proper schools we can find in the country and why it is very hard to find them?’
If I will attempt to answer my own question, then I will tell you that in a lot of our school systems, the engaged teachers are only speaking above the heads of some of the students. That even explains why they will tell you some pupils are dull and some pupils are intelligent. Most teachers have forgotten that their assignment is not to just speak and pick out those who can remember what they said as the intelligent ones while concluding that those who do not remember all they have said are the dull ones. They also make the terrible error of allowing the ones they claim are the intelligent ones to get all the attention while the seemingly dull ones are neglected. If that is the proper way to raise or teach children then people like me should never get a chance to stand before you and talk to you as a keynote speaker in the graduation ceremony of a school or any other event where scholars are gathered. Today, the story is a different one and that is partly because I met a different teacher who operated like some of those I have seen in black American movies that never give up on the consistently derailing students.
Again I have the privilege to put my own story before you and then explain why it is important to not just teach but to take the different approach which is to mentor and end up transforming the lives of students. Not too far away from us here (I was in Mayflower school between 1996 and 2003) I schooled for a couple of years and in the first few years I was referred to as a dull student. I was one of those who never got a chance from my teachers. They concluded that we were the dull students and only hoped that a miracle would happen for us to join those they referred to as the bright students. I got beaten by my father for taking poor results home and that happened a couple of times! The impact of the beating can be debated and I also think it varies with different students. As for me, the results didn’t get better. And finally in senior secondary school one (SS1) I was asked to repeat the class. I had no choice but to repeat and I think I have to thank my father for allowing me to repeat the class. A number of parents would have taken their children to other schools first to save themselves some money and then to save their children some embarrassment.
In my own case, the embarrassment was my cross! It was none of my father’s business! Interestingly something happened as soon as I began to repeat the class. A teacher was introduced in my class as the new English teacher. He was full of smiles and I think I just fell in love with him immediately. I sought a way to become his friend and my strategy was to start writing articles and taking them to him for corrections. He would correct my articles and I would take to the corrections. Soon enough, he had nothing to correct in my articles.
Let me tell you the impact of that relationship between the year 2000 and today (23rd July 2013). I became one of the most eloquent students in the school and at some point, Iyayi Emokpai the young man who had the best result in English language that year walked up to me and said ‘when it comes to speaking, you are the best.’ Let me also mention that I eventually became the Senior Prefect of the school. It was unheard off that in Mayflower School, someone who had repeated a class and who was not a science student still rose to become the Senior Prefect. In case you don’t know, as the Senior Prefect in those days, I had one hundred and thirty six (136) prefects working with me and together we led over four thousand (4000) students with minimal interference from the school authority. I also led the school’s debating team to win a couple of laurels around and outside the Remo division of the state. Lest I forget, my drastic improvement with writing helped me to also become a better student in my Literature class and I eventually got the prize for the best Literature student that year. If I may let you in on this, I actually repeated because I didn’t pass both Mathematics and English!
Since then, I have represented Olabisi Onabanjo University at the Nigerian International Model United Nations’ Conference held in PortHarcourt and Abuja respectively. I can humbly say that my performance and that of my colleagues, Abosede Dipeolu and Babatunde Adegbemiro were outstanding. I went on to become the Secretary General (the highest post in a conference where we had over thirty three universities, including the private ones, represented) for the year 2008. Between the year 2005 and 2008, I published three books and in 2009 I was one of the first fourteen (14) debaters to be selected after a thorough debating process from among over a thousand around the country into the Talk Academy of the Debaters TV reality Show. It was organized by Mrs. Mo Abudu of Moments with Mo and sponsored by Guarantee Trust Bank. As I speak to you today, I have written more than seven hundred and fifty (750) articles on the internet that can be found on and still writing more.
Why have I told you all of that about myself? I have been told that in the Northern part of Nigeria, if you intend to sell something to an Hausa man he will ask you, ‘have you used this thing before?’ the implication is that if you have not used something before you cannot stand and recommend it simply because you think it can work for others and you have no credibility that can be relied on to follow your recommendations. Without any intention for self promotion, I have told you the little you now know about me just to establish the fact that what I am about to sell to you has worked for me and it will work for you as well especially if you intend to transform the lives of anyone around you either as a teacher, a parent or a school manager.
I did not know at that time that what that amazing teacher (Mr. Okafor Okeke) in Mayflower School did to me was called mentoring. You can take me up on this one. Any school, where mentoring is the order of the day, will produce better students than those where the teachers are only expected to pour out what they know. I have not seen any proven teaching tactics any where that will work as much as mentoring the pupil that you intend to teach. I think it was Mrs. Modupe Morafa, the then Principal of Mayflower School who said in one of her unusually lengthy speeches that, ‘if you must teach John how to speak Latin, you must know John and you must know Latin.’ Looking back today I think I have a better understanding of that statement. She was referring to mentoring.
What is mentoring?
The 7th edition of the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary defines a mentor as ‘an experienced person who advises and helps a less experienced person with something over a period of time.’ The synonyms you will also find for the word mentor include ‘counselor, guide, tutor, teacher and a guru. Most teachers and schools as a whole only teach. But they do not know that it is proper mentoring that will open up the students to you and then you can pass on the messages that you have to pass on. You need to know your students, not just by their names but by their character, abilities and inherent potentials. Always bear in mind that it is always a different stroke for different folks. I know it can be challenging to do this but it is the way to go if anyone who passes through you as a teacher or your school will be transformed.
As a student of communication, I learnt that when you send a message and you do not get a feedback, it means you have not communicated. That holds true because communication is a two way thing. It could also be that your message was distorted because of noise (any form of interference that affects the passage of your message). As a good communicator, because I expect every teacher to be, you can’t just sit and say that you have sent out your messages. You must be interested in the feedback and the feedback must be your desired feedback because that is the proof of the fact that you have communicated.
Why is mentoring the way to go?
It is not the conventional teaching.
People don’t forget a mentoring process but they can forget any teaching tactics.
What people learn through mentoring sticks longer than any other form of learning.
A mentoring teacher does not just get you to pass exams but prepares you for life.
Any institution that is built on the foundation of mentoring eventually outlives individuals and it transforms generations!
As I conclude, let me say to the graduating class that graduating from high school is definitely not the end of the world. I know you feel on top of the world but I dare say that your life has just started. You are proceeding to a phase where so many life changing decisions will be made. You may be fortunate to have some great people around you to guide you appropriately but most of the times, you will be alone and decisions have to be taken. You may think that you have all the time in the world but you will soon be shocked to see that you have very little time to make the most of your life.
This next phase of your life is a great opportunity for you to structure the future that you want and it is also that time when you have a chance to mess up your future. This is so because you will get the kind of freedom that you have never had all your life. And the biggest challenge for many of you is that you may not know what to do with your freedom.
Let me now warn you about that freedom that you are anxiously waiting to gain. Freedom without control is bondage. Freedom in the hands of a man who knows no boundary is doom. Freedom is sweet and it is meant to be enjoyed but it has been the greatest disaster for some other people. I therefore challenge you to enjoy your freedom but control it and make sure you use it to build your life.
Remember, freedom is needed. Freedom is sweet. Freedom is dangerous!
Thank you.
Fola Daniel Adelesi
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@foladaniel – Twitter
+234 803 416 3006
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1 Comment

  1. This is a long but necessary speech to make.I am so blessed and challenged with this.Thank you

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