Who is Pastor Gbolahan Bright?
Gbolahan Bright is a pastor of the Redeemed Christian church, Masters Sanctuary in Barking & Dagenham College. I am married to beautiful and dutiful Sade, a local counsellor in the Barking & Dagenham borough and we are blessed with three lovely children. Teaching is my profession, I have been a teacher for 36 years, an experience though challenging and very demanding is also rewarding and fulfilling at the same time.
Take us through your teaching career before coming to the UK?
I spent most of my teaching career in Nigeria at Birch Freeman High School, Lagos. It is the Alma Mata of former Lagos state Governor, Raji Fashola. During my time there, I was the head of science and it is on record that the school won the National young scientist Award for nine consecutive years from 1981 – 1989. I also taught A’ level chemistry at Anglican Girls school, Lagos.
Why free Maths lesson?
I am very passionate about my job, I believe I was placed on earth to impart knowledge that impact lives and by extension, my community. The Bright Academy concept actually began in Lagos Nigeria in the early 80s when myself and a former colleague, Barrister Oluwemimo Ogunde who later went on to become the Ogun state attorney general. He handled English while I tutored maths and science. I arrived United Kingdom in 1990 to find my wife already involved in the local politics in Hackney borough where we lived then. Watching her living a life of service was an eye opener for me as I quickly realised that politics in this clime is completely different from what it is in Nigeria. It enable me understand the essence of living, realising that there is more to life than just making money, that life is more fulfilling when you are a blessing and testimony to people and your community.
That stirred me up and I became challenged to restart Bright Academy as that is the only way I know to be of service to my immediate community in London. Also, living in Hackney then, exposed me to a lot of disadvantaged children from ethnic minority background. Lastly, as a Christian, I know we are meant to be a light in our community. Personally, I don’t like sitting on the fence, I’d rather be involved in the process that brings about positive change and development particularly in Education, to my community. These are what motivated me to start Bright Academy in UK.
What has the experience been like?
It has been a fulfilling experience for me, particularly when I see that our labour of love has not been in vain, when our student shatter academic records and go on to universities. One of my student holds the current best GCSE result in the whole of Havering borough. When I receive positive feedbacks from parents of my students. These are what makes the whole exercise despite all the challenges that comes with it fulfilling. It’s my life and I enjoy every bit of it.
What are the challenges of running Bright Academy?
No doubt, there are a lot of challenges, one is that of committed volunteers who sometimes may not turn up thereby mustering enough courage not to call off classes. This happened a lot at the onset but now we are proud of our committed volunteers who consistently give their time to the project.
Secondly, as anyone can guess, finance - but then I’m grateful to God for my very understanding wife. She not only key into the project from the word go, she has remain the backbone of Bright Academy, my income is limited and even as a Pastor, I had made a commitment not to draw salary that was offered me until such time that the church is financially stable. So this limited my source of income but like I said earlier, my wife’s support in keeping the project alive is unparalleled.
We run four centres and although, we are eternally grateful to Tesco, Roneo corner for allowing us the use a space on their premises free, the rest we had to pay to use. A typical weekly class cost us a bit over £400.
As would be expected, Bright Academy’s unique tuition free classes did not go down well with existing after-school tuition centres who naturally, lost some fee paying pupils but we were undeterred. Today, we have been vindicated that we had no hidden agenda but passion to help underperforming and under privileged pupil experience the joy of knowledge. Our watchword taken from the bible is ‘’freely you were given, freely you should give’’.
On the MBE honour?
To be honest, the award was a revelation to me because I did not expect it, it came as a surprise, I am greatly humbled. Two months before the presentation, I received a letter that I was being considered for the Queen’s honours list. I was overwhelmed and humbled as I never thread this part for show or to get recognised and certainly not by her majesty The Queen of England.
I am content with the joy I get from the success of my students but then, the bible says ‘’you cannot fight against the truth and that everything has its time and season’’. I guess this is my time to reap what I have sown over time.
Where do you see Bright Academy in 5 years?
Anything with a life has got to grow and develop, in the next five years, we hope to have opened up more Bright Academy centres, and our target is to have a centre in each electoral ward in Barking & Dagenham as well as Havering Boroughs. That is our UK projection alongside mentoring like-minded individuals to replicate our module in other boroughs. Already, a centre has opened in Newham borough by one of our former volunteer tutor.
As the African saying goes ‘’a river that forgets its source, will dry up’’. We have plans to return Bright Academy to Lagos Nigeria where it all began in the 80s. I am optimistic that the country has begun its recovery process to glory and Bright academy is sure to be part of that.
A lot of misconception abound on the influence an MBE honouree wields, take us through some of your encounters and enlighten our readers?
There is always two sides to a coin, relatively, I like to keep a low profile but I understand the honours will not make that very easy for me but I have had to draw a line on the extent of exposure I get as a result. Frankly, I believe the attention I now get is too much, the glory should be to the Lord’s. I have now decided to be selective of the amount of public functions I attend and to make my arrival unnoticeable with the hope of toning down the attention and formal recognitions.
Some of the misconceptions I have encountered includes people approaching me to help them speed up their immigration status in the UK, people coming to me for financial assistance because they think the award came with loads of cash.
The thinking is that meeting the royal family, I must have left the palace with not just my medal of honour but also with loads of cash. Fact is, the reverse is the case, ‘’to whom much is given, much more is expected’’, that is how the honours works, it’s a call to rededicate yourself to the cause (selfless service to your community) that earned you the recognition.
In all of this, I thank God because in any civilised society, no one is ever honoured for taking but only for giving. As believers, we should understand that there is greater reward in giving, give your time, give your talent, and give thanks.