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Funke Akindele: Education made me

Students gather to learn about science in a makeshift laboratory at Edu 360. All photos by Pelu Awofeso

Actor and comedian Funke Akindele-Bello (aka Jenifa) has advised young people to take their studies seriously, adding that they have no excuse not to read.

“As long as you are living, you have to keep acquiring knowledge, you have to keep learning,” she told a room full of secondary school students at the three-day “Edu 360” (24-26 October) organised by Union Bank. “Don’t be stubborn. You have to be open to learning, because of the advancement you will experience in whatever you choose to do after school, so you can keep up with the trend in your industry.”

Speaking on the fair’s theme (Education Beyond Walls), Akindele-Bello gave examples from her own time as a teenager who didn’t care much for her homework. but had to be scolded by her mother. She also talked about her personal learning choices as an adult, which have helped to improve her skills as a writer, actor and — recently — director.

She said that to direct her first movie (“Your Excellency”, in cinemas in December) for EbonyLife Films, she had to learn a lot online, a decision she made because of her tight work schedule.

Two students play a lifesize game of ‘Snake-and-Ladder’ on the grounds of Edu 360

“Yes, it’s a digital world. Yes, I have directed one or two movies. Yes, I’m creative — it’s a God-given talent — and I have it in me, but I need to speak the language, I need to know the terminologies. I need to know how to call for certain shots. I need to know how the camera should move at every point in time,” she said, switching effortlessly from well spoken English to the character Jenifa’s illiterate speech patterns, which excited her listeners.

She revealed that Jenifa’s Diary is in its 17th season. Besides being the show’s head writer, she is also the creator of all the series she is involved with.

“If I did not go to school, If I did not get education how will I be able to cope? And if I did not get education, how will I be able to read and understand my contract. As an actor and as a brand, that brings me a lot of opportunities,” she said.

“Studying law has really helped me, I must say. If you watch all my movies and the ones that have criminal cases, and if it involves rape for instance, you won’t see me sweep it under the carpet. I will go deep into it until the character goes to jail. When you watch, you will know this person knows what he or she is doing.”

Students learn to use a new learning aid in one of the booths at Edu 360

Education, too, she says, has helped her run the Scene One Film/ TV Production Studios, as well as it has helped to develop the studio’s App abroad. “My husband just got back from India, where he went to work on the Scene One TV App. I’m so happy he went that way,” she says.

Speaking more on the programme’s theme, she encouraged the students to commit themselves to learning everywhere they find themselves.

“It is not only what you learn in class. What you see around you too matters, and that is why we your parents and role models have a lot of work to do, to make sure you learn the right things. Parents we have a lot to do in teaching our children the right things, in putting them on the right track when it comes to education. You can’t leave them to only what the teachers do with them in school.”

Akindele-Bello, who has multiple awards to her name, said that while growing up her mother always forced her to do her homework. She also told her: “If you don’t go to school, you will be clapping for people, nobody will clap for you.”

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