African oracle: Olorunfemi next in line for throne

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African oracle: Olorunfemi next in line for throne

The Southerner

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By Lauren Scott

David Olorunfemi could very well be a King.

It began the moment the Grady science and peer leadership teacher was born. He explains the “things” or qualifications that indicate your ability to serve a Nigerian leadership position, and Olorunfemi’s ancestors just happened to have those “things.” The Adorkite tribe of Nigeria has four families who alternate between serving on the throne, and Olorunfemis are one of the four.

In an odd paradox, inheriting the position doesn’t mean there’s not an election. There’s still work involved. Despite his royal roots, Olorunfemi said mantra of the hard road paved to success was a widespread theme throughout the teacher’s childhood in Africa.

CAN’T WAIT TO BE KING: Science teacher David Olorunfemi leans on lockers in the C200 hallway, wearing his custom Adorkite garment. Photo by Lauren Scott.

“We have towns and cities in Nigeria. My ancestors , who migrated from West Africa, were some of the first settlers— the first settlers always have access to being the OBA (King) of the town,” he said.

After his father declined the position, the position was given to another reigning family. Olorunfemi, already deemed one of the heads, or successors of the throne in his family, became the next in line to serve that position for his family.

He describes the office as being “democratic.” Each (of the four) family is well supported. His obligations as king require attending monthly meetings, being attentive to the needs of families and handling business matters.

He says he has been attending meetings since he was a child, and is ready to serve his term should he get that call one day soon.

He stresses the fact that his humble beginnings and extensive education have only prepared him to serve his village as best as he possibly can.

“I know the culture there,” he said. “I love the people. If I govern people in the future, I can govern them effectively.”

Olorunfemi spent five years in high school and two years in Nigeria junior college. He then attended the University of Nigeria, and upon graduating, worked for nearly six years with pharmaceutical companies Welcome LaPetit and Pfizer, where he manufactured drugs.

In the states, he attended Atlanta University in 1979, and in 1981, he earned his doctorate degree in Pharmacology and Pharmakinetics from Emory University. He then worked at the Atlanta Medical Center for five years.

His broad knowledge and awareness of the sciences and familiarity with the education system led him to teach. First, at Harper Archer High School for several years, and now, here at Grady.

He said his accent and cultural differences invite students to make stark generalizations about his background and education.

“You know, sometimes I walk down the hallway and hear kids making fun of my accent, and that doesn’t bother me,” he said. “I’ve learned to ignore it. I don’t take it personally, because I know that I am affecting the lives of my students.”

Senior Lance Bennett, who both took Mr. Olorunfemi’s peer leadership class as a junior, agrees.

“I feel like [some students] take him as a joke,” Bennett said. “[They] don’t give him the true respect he deserves as a teacher, considering all the years of experience and the knowledge he has.”

Senior Shayla Prescott also said she felt as if students poking fun showed that the country was digressing as a whole.

“We are all different, and have something different to offer. How can [Mr. Olorunfemi] move forward if people focus on the way he talks?”

At the end of the day, Olorunfemi could not be happier with  the opportunity he is given through teaching— to impact the lives of students.

“I love teaching because it means you have to develop people,” Olorunfemi said. “That’s the aftermath of teaching— that we are excited to see kids grow. The kids you try to help will often try to offend you. They’ll call you rude.

I’ve had kids come up to me years after taking my class and say, “Olo, if you hadn’t pushed me, I wouldn’t have been able to make it to college. Things like that give you joy.”


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