- ZENITH Montessori Kiddies School Boss, FOLUKE OLOWOOKERE
- Speaks On Life @ 50 +Her 22-Yr Marriage
Talk of one socialite in Ondo city who is popular and Princess Olowookere Foluke Gold’s (nee Akinpelumi) name would be mentioned. She is the proprietress of Zenith Montessori Kiddies School, now Zenith Montessori Group of Schools, Ondo City. This stylish woman co-founded Vero’s Palace Foundation, with her siblings in memory of their late mother, Mrs Veronica Akinpelumi. On the 1st of Dec, 2017, family members and friends gathered to mark the 3rd annual scholarship programme, which was held at Event Royal Centre, Ondo town. City People’s Adeola Shittu was at the school where she opened up on her life at 50 and how her father influenced her teaching career.
Congratulations on the success of your 3rd annual scholarship programme in honour of your late mum. Who is Princess Foluke Olowookere?
Princess Olowookere Foluke Gold (nee Akinpelumi) is an indigene of Ondo town married to an Ekiti man (Erijiyan Ekiti to be precise). I had my First Degree in Fine and Applied Art at Adeyemi College of Education then it was in affiliation with the University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University in Osun State and I later proceeded to the prestigious University of Ibadan for my Master’s Degree in early childhood education.
You recently celebrated your 50th birthday, how fulfilled, are you?
I will say I’m very fulfilled in life, though I’m still pushing. But at 50, I’m a successful mother because my children are all doing fine in their various professions. That alone makes me more fulfilled. You see, being rich is not an achievement, but the number of people that you are able to make positive impact on their lives matters more. I will say I’m fulfilled, you see, putting smile on people’s faces gives me more joy, so at 50, I’m very fulfilled.
What has life taught you at 50?
Waoh! Life at 50 has been God’s grace because I passed through a lot in life. I have learnt about life the hard way, mostly from friends, family members and the society at large, but, in all, I thank God I’m still alive and God is with me.
How was your growing?
I will say it was smooth because throughout my life before I got married in 2005, I spent all my life with my parents both of blessed memory and it was a lovely experience despite the fact that they were educationalists. I’m the first born of a family of 5 and I will say my parents brought us up with love and unity and the fear of God.
By the special grace of God, today we are all doing fine in our various professions. One of my sisters is a banker with one of the new generation banks in Ibadan, another is a matron with the Federal Government in Abuja. Our only boy works with the Federal Government agency in Ilesha, while the baby of the house is also doing fine and that is why I said we are products of grace, who have been brought up in the ways of the Lord. Another thing I learnt while growing up is the act of giving, which happens to be my mother’s second name. My late mum loved giving gifts to old people, motherless homes and she also rendered assistance to people, and she didn’t need to know you before she helped you.
At first, I thought it was part of life, but when I was 6 years old, I began to gradually understand that it was her passion to put smile on people’s faces. As God would have it, after their retirement, my father was elected the Chairman of Ondo West Local Government area during the late Agagu’s administration, which gave my mum an opportunity to reach out to more people. So, I would say life has been good and fun. I don’t think I remember having any challenge while growing up because my parents were there for me.
Will you say being brought up by an educationist motivated you to also walk that path?
You see, one of my father’s wishes was to have one of his children in the education line because of his passion for teaching and according to him, he would always say being a teacher was rewarding for him. He had made it in life and had lot of property and he was a successful teacher. He would ask that what profession do I want again other than being a teacher? He said he wanted me to take up where they both dropped their teaching pens and that I should step in their shoes as the first born. But don’t forget that I had my first degree in Fine and Applied Art, after which I started working and specialised in textile designing.
Though, I got lot of job opportunities then, but I desired to make my parents happy and that was why I started teaching. After sometimes, I decided to know more about child education and the issue of Master’s Degree came up and I informed my parents about my decision to further my education and they gave me their support, though I was married by then.
So, that was how the passion for teaching started. Besides, I love kids. Llike in my church now, I’m one of the children pastors and that was how I decided to go for Child Psychology to let me know more about children, about their development, about their learning skills, how to bring them up. So, that led to my studying Child Psychology at the master’s level and it was after my one year programme that my eyes were opened to a lot of things.
So, my husband and I started planning towards having a school and I went to my parents again to reveal my dream. That no matter how small it would be, I wanted to start my own school. Don’t forget that during our days, you don’t start school until when your left fingers can touch your right ear lobe over your head, compared to now that children even start learning from the womb. So, that was how I started school and grow my passion for teaching. I would say, I have no regret being a teacher and a proprietress. So, in a way, I would say my parents influenced my passion for teaching.
What was your husband’s reaction to the idea of you running a school?
Like I said earlier, we both planned the whole thing. After sharing my vision with him, he keyed into it because he believed I have the charisma and what it takes to run a school. He believes I would make it and he gave me his blessing. He was a great supporter for the school. You see, I’m among the pioneer schools in Ondo City to start Montessori programme with British curriculum. That is why I named the school, Zenith Montessori Kiddies School, now Zenith Montessori Group of Schools. So, I used all Montessori materials in the school and my husband gave me his full support, morally, financially and spiritually to ensure my dream came to reality and I thank God for where we are today. This year marks our 12th in the educational business.
What was the experience like in the first few years when you set up the school?
Running a school involves lots of risks and it requires lots of finances. When we first started, we all knew how our people would behave when a new business unit crops up. They would move round you, mostly when you start very well like me and they would encourage you and be your friend. Disappointingly, once they owe school fees and you ask them, the next thing is to change their children’s school. I will give you an instance of a family that had 4 children in one school and owing 2 terms fees. The parents pleaded for time to defray the fees. Immediately you send their kids home to pay up the fees, the parents next action was to change school. But again, thanks to my parents, who supported the school with two 18-seater buses, to transport our pupils. So, I would say the biggest challenge for us are parents owing fees and after sometime changing their children school all because they don’t want to pay. I didn’t let that bothered me because there is no business in life without its risk.
On the 1st of December, you celebrated your third annual scholarship of Vero’s Palace Foundation, how do you feel and how did you come about the foundation?
First and foremost, I will use this medium to appreciate all our sponsors, who supported us in one way or the other and all our awardees who honoured our invitation. Thanks for keying into Veros Palace Foundation. As I earlier said that my mother, while alive, was a cheerful giver and we, her children, grew up to know it as part of her lifestyle. It didn’t, however, occur to her to float an NGO, which would have been recognised in the state.
To immortalise her after 10 years, I came up with the idea of an NGO in her honour. That was what led to Vero’s Palace Foundation 3 years ago. We all know that in a palace, there is nothing like sorrow, but joy and happiness, so also is Vero’s Palace Foundation. (Vero is an abbreviation of her name ‘Veronica’’) and I want to appreciate my siblings, who had since keyed into the project and I believe my mother would be happy wherever she is. I will say we have immortalised my late mum’s passion, turning it into an NGO that catersfor the wellbeing of pupils, who are from a poor background. In the last 3 years we have been moving round government schools to pick this set of pupils, don’t forget I’m a secondary school teacher and we know those intelligent students whose parents don’t have a means of livelihood.
Some don’t eat before coming to school not to talk of having sandals to wear to school, but they are brilliant in class. Before now, I paid their fees and cater for their welfare, but with the birth of the NGO, it gives us the opportunity to move round schools and identify them. With the support of their teachers, all we do is to conduct an examination and pick the best among them. In 2015, we were able to pick 20 indigent pupils for the scholarship.
In 2016 and 2017, we picked 30 pupils respectively. We paid their fees and we give them money for welfare and the only difference this year was that we added notebooks and textbooks for them. This year’s turnout was very interesting and we look forward for next year by the grace of God.
What year was Zenith Montessori Group of Schools founded?
We started in 2005 and this year marks our 12th and we are still recording success in Ondo State.
How have you been able to survive in the last 12 years?
You see, 12 years is not an easy journey and to the glory of God despite the storm, I would say we started with a primary school, but today we have a government-approved secondary school in Ondo City. We recently opened Zenith Montessori Kiddies School in Akure and they are doing fine. I’m proud to say most of the kids who passed through us are doing great today and that makes me happy. Through facebook and other social media platforms that help to reunite us, we know this and I’m very fulfilled in life.
What is the secret behind your 22 years of marriage?
The secret has been God, You see, God has been the Alpha and Omega of my marriage. Another important thing is that we trust and understand ourselves despite the distance. He knows what I’m doing and where I am at every given minute. He gives me that freedom and I would say God’s faithfulness, understanding and trust have been the key in the last 22 years of the blissful journey, so, I bless God.
How were you able to cope with the challenges?
At the initial stage of the journey, it was very tough for me because of my upbringing and care that I received from my parents. You see, while growing up, I didn’t know how my father did it. All I know was that we ate, he gave us money and so on. So, I thought that was all a marriage was about. Don’t forget that we were both civil servants. So, most times I ran to my mother that we needed this and that. We wanted to pay school fees and so on. She would always assist us. She was the one who encouraged me and gave me hope. She told me that marriage was like that, that very soon we would overcome our challenges and I thank her for that today. We were able to give our children the best education and we are doing fine. So, endurance makes me to overcome the challenges in my marriage.
What is a fashion to you?
You see, how I wish I can turn the hands of clock back because I love fashion and I love to look good. I was telling someone recently how I wish I’m just 25 years now. I would have rocked it and take fashion to another level, but even at 50th, I still rock fashion and this makes people to doubt my age. In a nutshell, I love fashion and I love to appear at any outing in a stylish way. Even when I’m at home I dress well. So, I love fashion and it’s been part of me since I was young.
How do you unwind?
I love sports, I love dancing, I love reading because I hate being idle. I’m a social media person, I relax through all these mean, but I will say my best hobby is sports.