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-the Teacher of Teachers.

B. Sc in Social Science and English,
M.A in English Education at the New York University and
P.H.D. in Administration and Higher Education.



Born into the Onikoyi Chieftaincy family of Isale Eko, Lagos to Pa Sanusi Giwa Fafunwa and Madam Morinatu Fafunwa on Sept 23, 1923. Professor Aliu Babatunde Fafunwa is a dedicated husband, father and grandfather.

His wife Doris Elaine Jones who hails from North Bennington, Vermont U.S.A. has been a companion and a pillar of support for more than fifty – four years.
Their marriage is blessed with four children and several grandchildren.


Born into the Onikoyi Chieftaincy family of Isale Eko, Lagos to Pa Sanusi Giwa Fafunwa and Madam Morinatu Fafunwa on Sept 23, 1923, his early beginnings were full of struggles, set – backs and successes.

At a very tender age, young Aliu Fafunwa assisted his father in his trade as a fisherman and his mother, in petty trading while in Jebba, Niger state, where they had moved to, from their native Lagos, for economic reasons. Perhaps it was the memory of such happy childhood moments, that went through his mind, when he later wrote about the character forming nature of Traditional and informal African education.

He had his primary education at Muslim training school Ebute – Elefun and Ahmadiyya Talimul School Elegbata Lagos, between 1932 and 1936. He proceeded to C.M.S. Grammar School, Lagos between 1937 and 1943 for his secondary education.

Before leaving for Florida, United States of America in 1947, Prof. Fafunwa worked for a short while, at the Nigerian Railway Corporation. He was so dissatisfied and exasperated by the treatment of his British colonial bosses, at the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) that he was eager to further his studies and return to Nigeria to join in the task of nation building.

His time in the United States of America afforded him the opportunity of bagging three degrees, all cum laude. He was awarded his B. Sc in Social Science and English, his M.A in English Education at the New York University and his P.H.D. in Administration and Higher Education.

The Philosophy behind Prof. Aliu Babatunde Fafunwa’s life work has been, the de-emphasizing of formal, structured, examination-oriented, and Western-oriented education, for a more ‘holistic’, functional educational system that emphasizes flexibility and usefulness to the society. Prof. Fafunwa sees education as a means to an end, and not an end in itself.
Incidentally, Professor Aliu Babatunde Fafunwa’s career in education began on a humble note on his return from the United States of America.

He started as a Senior tutor and later became Principal of the Ahmadiyyah College, Agege from Jan. to Dec. 1956 Then he moved from education to take up employment as Public Relations Manager, Esso West Africa, 1957 to 1961. He went back to the classroom as a Senior Lecturer and head of education and later Associate Professor and Dean of the Faculty of education, University of Nigeria Nsukka in 1964. By 1965, he was Professor, Director of the Institute of Education and Head, Department of Education. And finally by 1966, he was acting Vice Chancellor of that University. From 1967 to 1972, he was a Senior Lecturer and later Deputy Vice Chancellor at the Obafemi Awolowo University.

He was appointed to the Ibadan University Council from 1972 to 1975 and was member, board of Lagos State teaching Service Commission between 1976 and 1979. Between 1985 and 1990, He was the Vice President and later President of the Nigerian Academy of Education and was appointed Honourable Federal Minister of Education and Youth Development where he served from 1990 to 1993.

He held numerous administrative and academic appointments; he was an external examiner on education to five Nigerian universities. A number of foreign universities have benefited from his wealth of experience for example, Makarere University in Uganda. University College Cape Coast Ghana, University of West Indies, Jamaica and the University of Sierra Leone.
Professor Fafunwa also served in very crucial capacities and has been appointed to numerous organizations and commissions.

He was National President, Nigeria Experiment in International Living (1957-1980); Member, Editorial Advisory Board, Teachers College Record, Teachers College, Columbia University (1973-84); Chairman of Council, Lagos State College of Education (now Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education) (1981-82). He was also President, International Council on Education for Teaching (ICET) Headquarters, Arlington, Virginia, U.S.A.(1990-1994).


1. Perhaps Prof. Aliu Fafunwa will best be remembered for his advocacy of learning, in our ‘mother-tongue’ with English as a second language during the six years of primary education.

2. His second most important pioneering work is the introduction of primary science programme at the Primary education level in Nigeria.

3. Establishment of the National Institute for Languages in Aba in 1992.

4. Established the Nigerian French Language Village, in Badagry in 1991.

5. Establishment of the National Arabic Language Village in 1992 in Gamboru, Borno State.

6. Honourable Federal Minister of Education and Youth Development where he served from 1990 to 1993.

7. The recommendations of the Fafunwa Study Group on Funding of Education at all Levels in 1984 brought two notable institutions into existence, namely: The first was the establishment of the National Commission for Colleges of Education (NCCE) in 1986 and the establishment of Federal Ministry of Science and Technology.

8. The setting up of the Longe Commission on the Review of Higher Education in 1990;

9. The adoption of the Federal Government/ASUU Agreement in 1992;

10. The decentralization of external examination bodies through the setting up of the (a) National Business and Technical Examinations Board (NABTEB)(that handles such examinations as Royal Society of Arts (RSA), City & Guilds etc), and (b) the National Board for Educational Measurement (NBEM) for the conduct of junior secondary examinations and National Common Entrance Examination, all of which were previously, handled by the West African Examinations Council (WAEC).

11. He also established the Education Bank, Abuja, in place of the Students Loans Board.

12. The National Institute for Educational Planning and Administration, Ondo State.

13. Finally along with Prof. C. Taiwo and Prof. B. O. Ukeje, Fafunwa initiated the formation of the Nigerian Academy of Education - one of the five prestigious national scientific academies in Nigeria.

14. Professor Fafunwa is an author of international repute. He has authored about twenty-two books and has nearly fifty publications in National and International Journals. Over the years, his contribution to education have attracted recognition including scholarships, awards, medals and appointments world-wide.

15. Aliu Fafunwa was a powerful force behind the formation of the Nigerian Academy of Education. He also chaired the Fafunwa Study Group on the funding of Primary Education. The report of the group spelt out how to stabilize education at the base (primary level); the role of each tier of government and of parents too. It was that report that led to the birth of the National Primary Education Commission in 1987.


1. A History of Nigerian Higher Education, Macmillan.

2. History of Education in Nigeria, 1970.

3. New Perspectives in African Education, 1967

4. Education in Mother Tongue: The Ife Primary Education Research Project, 1970-1978 (Editor)

5. Up and On: A Nigerian Teacher's Odyssey, 1991.

6. Memoirs of a Nigerian Minister of Education, Macmillan (Nigeria), 1998.

7. Sense and non-sense in Nigerian Education, 1998


1. In 1955, he earned a Ph.D. in Education, becoming the first Nigerian recipient of a doctoral degree in Education

2. In 1973, he received a Medal for Distinguished Service in Education, Teachers' College, Columbia University, New York City.

3. In 1976, he got the Franklin Book Award for Outstanding Contribution to Educational Development, New York City.

4. Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award, New York University School of Education,1982;

5. In 1983, he was appointed a Distinguished Fellow, International Council on Education for Teaching, Washington D.C.

6. In 1986 he was honoured with Hon. LL.D by the University of Nigeria, Nsukka

7. In 1987 the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife honoured him with Hon. D. Litt.

8. In 2000 the Lagos State University conferred him with another honorary degree in the year 2000.

9. Again in 1989, he was conferred with the prestigious Nigerian National Merit Award,

10. In 1989 he was appointed the Federal Minister of Education. His two other national awards include Fellow, Science Teachers Association of Nigeria in 1990; and Fellow, Nigerian Academy of Education in 1990.

Professor Fafunwa is “Mr. Nigerian Teacher No. 1. Here was a man who spent only 15 years (1961-1976) as an active university teacher, but yet made tremendous contributions in all the levels of the Nigerian education system. His successful academic and
professional career will surely remain for a long time to come, an inspiration to many budding scholars”. - Dr. Isaac N. Obasi,
University of Botswana, Gaborone, Southern Africa.

Not included

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Professor Fafunwa would always be written in gold whenever and wherever education is mentioned in Nigeria. His footprints are indelible and his humility in service is infectious. He was not just a prolific producer but a foremost planner and strategist. He sought for and delivered solutions to intractable educational issues and set up lasting institutions, standards and objectives. We would always honor him as our educationist per excellence.

Professor Aliu Babatunde Fafunwa, CON, is a rare role model and a trial blazer.

Sources: Dr. Isaac N. Obasi, Daily Champion, January 2007. www.hallmarkoflabour.org, www.wikipedia.org.


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