Humanist and co-founder of Mayflower School in Ikenne,Ogun State, Mrs Sheila Solarin, died yesterday. She was 88.
The wife of the late educationist and activist, Dr.Tai Solarin, passed on at the Babcock University Teaching Hospital (BUTH), Ilisan, Ogun State of osteoporosis (weak bone).
She co-founded the famous school with her husband in 1956.
Last July, the late Mrs Solarin underwent a surgery at the hospital, following a domestic accident that left her with a broken hip.
“She fell down in her room in July and suffered a broken hip. She was then taken to the teaching hospital where she was diagnosed with osteoporosis . She died at exactly 4:30pm and her remains have been taken to the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH).”
The late Dr. Solarin’s twin brother’s daughter, Mrs Alake Sobo, confirmed the late Mrs Solarin’s death. She said her two children were at her bedside before she breathed as last.
Mrs. Sobo said: “Despite the fact that Mrs. Solarin was not a Nigerian by birth, she remained committed to the country and always wished that a day would come when every child of school age will have free access to quality education.
“We will greatly miss her. I wish she stayed longer but God knows best.”
Chairman of Tai and Sheila Hospital, Dr. Wale Omole, said but for the late Solarins, he would not have achieved his dream of becoming a medical doctor.
“Honestly I feel pained. We celebrated her 88th birthday some months ago and she was healthy. Mrs. Solarin was a woman with a great heart, who left the comfort of her country.
“Even at 88, Mrs Solarin was still teaching at her school. She taught English Language and marked students’ essays and letter writings, until she was admitted at the hospital.
“There is no better way to serve humanity. Nigeria and Africa took the best out of this mother and teacher of teachers. She will be greatly missed,” he said.
Born in England on May 31, 1924, to the Tuer family, the late Mrs. Solarin got married to her husband in 1951 in England and came to Nigeria in 1954.
They established the Mayflower School in 1956.
In 2011, Mrs. Solarin was invited to the popular “who wants to be a millionaire” television show and she won N2 million. The money, she said, was meant to establish a modern laboratory for the pupils.
During her 88th birthday which was marked for her by the old and current students of the school, Madam Sheila shocked some of the guests in her modest sitting room last May 31 when she told The Nation that making it to 88 in Nigeria was a thing of “surprise” to her.
Asked to explain, she said given her “busy life” in the country for over three decades, and all devoted to educating people, she never thought of living long.
“It is a surprise to me that I’m still alive. Honestly, I didn’t expect to live long. I have had a busy life here. There is plenty of work to do in the areas of education,” she told The Nation.
The late Mrs Solarin was described by her students –both old and young – as an “enigma”.
One of her bitter regrets which will now accompany her to the grave. is inability and unwillingness of Nigerian governments to ensure that a good number of the citizens of school age have access to qualitative and affordable education.
She said mass education of the people could not be attained because of the growing culture of corruption, laziness and indiscipline in the country.
“Over 10 million Nigerians of school age are not in school. Many children never had a chance to be educated. Governments and
individuals have a lot of work to do in that direction. If you don’t educate them, you are looking for trouble,” she said.
The late Mrs Solarin’s daughter, Corin, said she would be unable to capture her late mother’s times and life in words.
“I cannot summarise her life and times in words. She was a good, kind-hearted and humane personality.
“She played the role of mother to thousands of people across the world. Her love and service to humanity were exemplary and legendary.”
Senator Gbenga Kaka (OgunEast) said: “ Madam Solarin in her life times sacrificed all she had for the sake of her husband. She kept the flag flying at Mayflower School, Ikenne. She remained an epitome of good womanhood.
“She was caring, not only to her children, but all that passed through her husband. She will be missed just like we are missing her husband. She was a hard working, diligent and straight-forward person.”
Ogun State Governor Ibikunle Amosun mourned the passing of Mrs Solarin. In a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media, Mrs Funmi Wakama, Amosun described Mrs Solarin’s death as most painful and a great loss to Ogun State and Nigeria.