Sheila Solarin named Member of the British Empire (MBE) by Queen Elizabeth II in 2007 for her contribution to education in Africa
SHEILA MARY SOLARIN (Nee TUER) (Sunrise:May 31, 1924; Sunset: October 21, 2012; aged 88).
Why Mayflower Legacy?
Recognising and promoting Tai & Sheila's unique practice of core principles which made them overcome adversity and discrimination in the worst of circumstances to produce Africa's first female chemical engineer.
From Ikenne-Remo in Ogun State, Nigeria, Tai Solarin was born to Mr. Daniel Solarin and Mrs Rebecca okufule. His father was a farmer turned palmwine tapper and a renowned drummer. His mother was an indigene of a neighboring community known as Iperu-Remo.
Tai was educated in Ogun state at the Wesley school, Ogere and at St. James’ School, Iperu-remo. He then moved to Otapete Methodist Primary School at Illesha, Osun state. It was there he got his standard six certificate. In 1936, Tai went on to Wesley College in Ibadan, Oyo State for his Higher Elementary (Grade Two) Teacher’s Certificate.For good five years, he taught at the Methodist primary schools in Shagamu and Ago-Iwoye before moving to Lagos State and he worked for a short time as a typist in the customs office.
In May 1942, he left for England as a volunteer, in the royal Air force during the Second World War (WW2). After an unsuccessful venture of being a pilot, he became a navigator. In 1942, at the end of World War 2, Tai was discharged and he applied at the University of Manchester the next year for a bachelor’s degree in history and geography. He went further to get a post-graduate diploma in education at the University of London. He also taught Yoruba language for a year at the university’s school of Oriental and African Studies.
At 35 years of age, Tai wedded Miss Sheila Mary Tuer on the 14th of September 1951. Tai and his wife who is a master’s degree holder in English language and a trained chiropodist, lived together happily for 43 years in the very service to humanity. They bore two lovely kids, a daughter, Corin, born on the 27th of June, 1952 and a son, Tunde, born on the 15th of December, 1956.
After he arrived Nigeria from the Uk, Tai stepped in the shoes of Mr. (later professor) Oluwole Awokoya, the founding principal of Molusi College in Ijebu-Igbo, as the second principal of the college. He served there from January 1952 to December 1955. On the 27th of January 1956, Tai and his wife co-founder Mayflower School in Ikenne-Remo, Ogun State, and the very first secular school in Nigeria. And stood as its principal for about 20 years, before retiring in 1976 to create a boarding house known as the students’ second home. A structure capable of housing over 2000 students of Mayflower school. In addition to the mayflower school was the primary branch of the mayflower institution, a junior mayflower school and a fortress of secular education for comprehensive excellence and self-reliance.
In 1971, Tai was presented an honorary doctorate degree in literature by the Alma College in Alma, Michigan state in the United States of America. Prior to this, there have been a bilateral annual student’s exchange programme between the Alma College and mayflower school for about 30 years. It started in 1963, with some former students of the mayflower school having been beneficiaries of the university degree scholarship given by the Alma College. Tai also offered scholarships to over 300 students in Nigeria and outside Nigeria, and at different levels of their education. Be it at kindergarten level or a doctorate level, Tai and his altruistic wife, apart from other unknown humanitarian gestures to the aged, the sick, the poor and the other similar individuals and institutions.
Tai was commissioned into various public offices by different governments. From Nigeria’s first republic to the Babangida administration by sheer virtue of his sterling patriotism, as a member of the Somade Commission on Education; as the Public Complaints Commissioner for the then Ogun, Oyo and Ondo States; as a comrade of the Justice Akinola Aguda Panel for the Creation of Nigeria’s New Federal Capital Territory; as the Chairman of the Presidential Monitoring Committee of the then Directorate for Food, Roads and Rural Infrastructure (DFRRI) in Borno, Gongola, Benue, and Plateau States; and as the founding Chairman of the People’s Bank of Nigeria (PBN), amongst others.
In 1979 after he paid a visit to the over populated china – which had close to 100% of Chinese children in school compared to the 25% of their equivalent in Nigeria, Tai decided to adopt what he called a permanent “battle dress”. Objecting to this irresponsibility on the part of the government, he took it upon himself to live the rest of his life in shorts and short-sleeved shirts with a “knowledge is light” cap until the Nigerian government wakes up to the accountability of sending 100% of young Nigerian children to school. Because of his human rights activism, he was arrested on multiple occasions and held in various prisons all over Nigeria. He was first jailed on October 12, 1974 by Gowon’s regime and was last jailed on March 12, 1984 by the administration of Idiagbon and Buhari. This cost him roughly 17 months behind federal bars. Thanks to a Senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN) in the person of Mr. Kehinde Sofola, among other well respected lawyers, who defended him for many years without charging him a kobo.
The scholarly social crusader was reverenced as “the conscience of the nation” by some of the great men of Nigeria, like the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo (SAN), the late Prof. Ayodele Awojobi, the late Chief M.K.O. Abiola, Prof. Wole Soyinka, Prof. Femi Osofian, the late Prof. Sam Aluko, the late Prof. Babs Fafunwa, and Prof. Olubi Sodipo, who wrote that “Solarin could conveniently be likened to many profound and influential social critics and activists in world history and his social philosophy can be cogently compared to several world leaders’. His concepts of the school can also be compared to several articulate world educators’. His style of writing, which has spanned thirty years, can also be compared to writers such as Jean Jacques Rousseau and Thomas Paine.” Tai Solarin’s mentors were composed of people from all over the world. He had leadership mentor in Jawaharlal Nehru of India, literary mentor in H. G. Wells of London, Philosophical mentor in Robert Ingersoll of America, political mentor in Obafemi Awolowo of Nigeria
Tai can be referred to a world class citizen because he had travelled to literally all continents of the world, South America, North America, Asia, Europe and Africa. Amongst the countries, Tai and his wife Sheila visited, were the former Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, the U.S.A., Japan, China, Canada, India, Australia, Brazil, Sweden, Switzerland, Chile Ghana and Tanzania, just to name a few. Tai Solarin University of Education was the very first university of education in Nigeria and it was christened after him. This was separate from the Tai Solarin College of education located at Omu-Ijebu; which made him the first Nigerian to have two higher institutions of learning christened after him.