The first female Vice-Chancellor in Nigeria is Grace Alele-Williams. She is the woman that made history in a country and time where women were pushed to the backseat. The fight for gender equality is one which has lasted decades. The privileges enjoyed today as a female was fought for by feminists before us. The man is believed to be the head, to always lead however the University of Benin defied the odds by appointing Dr Grace Alele-Williams the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Benin.
Dr Grace Alele-Williams was born December 16, 1932, in Warri, Delta State. She is an educator and the first female to receive a doctorate degree in Nigeria. Dr Grace Alele-Williams in her early years, attended Government School, Warri and Queens College, Lagos. She obtained a university degree from the University College, now the University of Ibadan. She went on to the University of Vermont in the U.S and all studied at the University of Chicago, also in the United States of America.
Grace Alele-Williams’ career as an educator began in 1954. She was a mathematics teacher at Queens School, Ede, Osun State, Nigeria until 1957. It was after which she pursued her graduate studies at the University of Vermont and was appointed a graduate assistant and an assistant professor later. Between 1963 and 1965, she was a post-doctoral research fellow in the department and Institute of Education. From there, she was appointed a professor of mathematics in the University of Lagos in 1976.
Grace Alele Williams, served on numerous committees and boards and contributed immensely to the education sector in Nigeria. She was chairman of the curriculum review committee, former Bendel State 1973-1979. From 1979-1985, she served as chairman of the Lagos State Curriculum Review Committee and Lagos State Examinations Boards. Also as given by her personal profile on Wikipedia, Alele-Williams was a member of governing council, UNESCO Institute of Education. She is also a consultant to UNESCO and Institute of International Education Planning. For a decade (1963–73) she was a member of the African Mathematics Programme, located in Newton, Massachusetts, United States. She was also vice-president of the World Organisation for Early Childhood Education and later president of the Nigerian chapter. ]Alele-Williams has published a book titled Modern Mathematics Handbook for Teachers. After serving as the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Benin, she joined the board of directors of Chevron-Texaco Nigeria. She is also on the board of HIP Asset Management Company Ltd, an Asset Management Company in Lagos, Nigeria.
At the time Dr Grace Alele-Williams was to head the University of Benin as Vice-Chancellor, the menace of secret cults, crime, confraternities, and societies had spread across the Nigerian universities. In these trying time of 1985, being female was the last thing on anyone’s mind. The plague that other men failed to deal with, she had to conquer. Grace Alele-Williams is an activist on issues not limited to gender alone. She has/had a passion for mathematics which led her to publish a book titled Modern Mathematics Handbook for Teachers.
As Vice Chancellor and an educator, Dr Grace never hid her keen interest in women’s education. Though she was qualified for the head position and her appointment was not just to satisfy the female gender, being Vice-Chancellor created an avenue for her to show that women can also rise to the occasion and lead accordingly. On November 25, 2017, Dr Grace Alele-Williams was conferred with an honorary doctorate degree from the University of Benin. This honour was as a result of the service she rendered 25-30 years ago as the first female Vice-Chancellor of a Nigerian university, at a time where female professors were few and far behind, thus placing the University of Benin on the map and in the spotlight. She is the perfect example of an educator turned feminist and agent of change.
Her appointment as the Vice-Chancellor changed the narrative for women in education, Nigerian woman and black women as a whole. She proved that being female has nothing to do with your capabilities tied to biology. In recent times Dr Grace Alele-Williams has devoted her time to counselling women on marriage. Dr Grace herself was married to the late Babatunde Williams, with whom she has 5 children. During her 10 years directing the Institute of Education, she introduced non-degree programmes to benefit old women working as primary school teachers. These programmes allowed them to obtain certificates in respective subjects. She has always expressed her desire to not want to celebrate women in leading positions because they are the first but celebrate them in leading positions because they earned it amongst many of their peers in the female gender.
Dr Grace Alele-Williams is celebrated as a female pioneer and a pioneer overall in the field of mathematics. Her contributions greatly developed the field of education in Nigeria for the average Nigerian and the African woman. Feminist by default, she has empowered so many other women and served as an inspiration to the younger generation of women. Over time thousands of women have pushed causes and programmes that benefit both males and females.