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‘No nation can be economically stable with mass illiteracy’

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Obafisoye

Mrs. Olayinka Obafisoye is the Head of School of Meadow Hall Education. An accomplished education practitioner with well over 15 years of teaching, she was the first Instructor/franchisee in the East London area of Stratford for Kumon -the largest educational body of its kind in the United Kingdom. In this interview with select journalists, she maintains that economic stability and mass illiteracy are incompatible. GLORIA EHIAGHE was there.

Tell us about multiple and artificial intelligence and how they are incorporated for proper development?
You cannot be 21st Century compliant as an individual, parent or as a school if you are not multiple intelligences aware. Gone are those days when the cognitive subjects were the main subjects in the world. Gardner in 1985 or thereabout, thought about this concept of why it is that Numeracy, Science, Literacy, are often celebrated and called intelligence, but then, you have a child who dances well or is good at scoring goals and it is called talent, such talents are largely ignored or downplayed. So he’s come up with a number of multiple intelligences. He didn’t form them but through research, he came up with these intelligences, and he has tried to educate the world about the importance of multiple intelligences.

Now in Meadow Hall, we strongly believe in the wholesomeness of a child. We want to see the entirety of a child. We want every child’s potential to be fully harnessed. We want to show them what their potentials , and how to harness them and maximise them. So we have a culture of celebrating pupils achieving in both the cognitive and the other areas of learning. We have multiple intelligences being celebrated, we give out prizes to pupils who have achieved well in Numeracy, Literacy, Science, and we have also deliberately created platforms for other pupils who aren’t doing so well in the academics to shine in other areas where they are very talented.

We have platforms such as our Meadow Hall’sGot Talent, Meadow Hall Summer Football Camp with Daniel Amokachi, Meadow Hall Musical Concert, Meadow Hall Edutainment Centre and others. Back then, we had a term known as extra-curricular. That has changed. It is now co-curricular. Our pupils are learning sports alongside Numeracy.

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What is the importance of extracurricular activities in children’s education and how is the school involved?
Sport is ever so important in everyone’s lives. 21st century health focuses on prevention rather than treating illness, and sports can help in this regard. We are very deliberate about sports in our children’s lives. We want them from a very early age, from their formative years, to be aware of the importance of sports. Different activities, fitness keeping and even the competitive side of sports are as important. We want our pupils to understand that they can achieve a lot with sports. We know people who have achieved a lot for themselves and are able to engage a meaningful charitable work via sports, built a career in sports, not only can they help themselves, they are beginning to help others. Not to forget the health part of sports. We do not want our children to be obese before they start thinking about keeping healthy, engaging in sports activities, going to the gym, exercising, etc. we take it very seriously in Meadow Hall, and we hope that every child that passes through us would have formed a habit, a hobby and even a career in sports.

What is your view of inclusive education in Nigeria?
Of course, the antidote to poverty is education. A country will never be economically stable if the majority of the citizens are not educated. This is one of the prevalent issues in Nigeria. Education is not prioritised by the government and even the form of education that we have is not inclusive. The average Nigerian school is designed to cater to children’s needs as though they are one and the same. Every child is unique with a different ability, strength and limitations to the next child. The acknowledgement of this is paramount if any school, family and nation will provide adequate and appropriate education for all. Meadow Hall is at the forefront of inclusiveness in Nigeria Education today. Just last year, GTBank Plc acknowledged us as such.

How is Meadow Hall preparing its pupils for the acclaimed jobs that have not yet been created, technologies that have not yet been invented?
When we say to pupils, parents and even prospective parents that Meadow Hall is the place to excel, we haven’t just said that in words but actually indeed. In Meadow Hall, we are very 21st Century compliant.

We are aware that for a lot of the jobs around now, chances are that they would not be in another decade or even less, so we know the core skills that are quite futuristic that would help them now and even later. The skills that are quite constant and are not likely to have changed drastically if at all they do are innovation, critical thinking and communication. Basically, what we do is we make sure that these core skills are solidly embedded in our curriculum. We make sure that we give them ample opportunities to problem solve, to critically think, to innovate; we also make sure that they are technology aware. Technology is going nowhere if anything; it is evolving from us using technology to technology being autonomous. For example, when you think about Artificial Intelligence, what we do in Meadow Hall is to make sure that pupils are well equipped with these skills. The way we communicate with them, the content of our curriculum, when they work, play, etc., all these opportunities are available to them.

How are you leveraging technology to develop a unique learning path?
We are constantly thinking beyond now. Our lessons are IT based, our students are IT aware with the inclusion of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics (STEAM) and a particular consideration in encouraging our girls to embrace science if that is their desire. Differentiation is the mitochondria of learning and teaching in the 21st century. It is the energy that supplies and powers learning, and eventually, progress in the course of teaching. Our teachers are well aware of this and make use of this tool in that consciousness.

While many may see technology as negative influence on the reading habits of students, as many engage in conversations through social media instead of reading, I would rather say that all we need to do is to redirect our children and pupils. And I know, whilst this may sound controversial, it is our reality. Children do not develop a lack of interest in reading because of technology rather, they develop it because they have not been fully guided and supported to form the habit of reading.

Most homes are filled with more electronic gadgets than books. A lot of parents will consider an electronic game for their child to a book. If we had a census on which child received a book from their parents on their last birthday, then you would realise that either none or very few did. Technology ideally should enhance reading and not deter it. There are a lot of ebooks, audio-books and educative content online, and once we can develop a reading culture in students, you will find that students would naturally gravitate towards sites where fun and learning cohabit.

What makes Meadow Hall unique for learning?
One of our unique features that stand us out, amongst schools that consider themselves the best, is our policy of ECM (Every child matters). In Meadow Hall, we pay detailed attention to pupils’ progress, teachers’ expertise, quality of teaching and learning, depth of pedagogy, parents, the safety of children, quality assurance and control, etc. we take pride in teaching our children values that stay with them forever. We work towards being outstanding in everything we do. Evidence can be seen in the consistent excellence of the children in external exams, from IGCSE to checkpoint, co-curricular activities, just to mention but a few.
In a conventional school, we have the Head teacher, management, but one of our uniqueness is the existence/presence of a very strong QAC department headed by our most able director. The quality assurance and control department makes sure that our standards and policies are intact. Our practices are informed by these policies. Our standards are unilateral.

You have excellent records in external examinations like IGCSE. What is the secret?
I would always go back to our teachers. We have seasoned teachers. When we recruit for our secondary school, we are very particular about getting experienced teachers, who are certified to deliver the Cambridge Curriculum, Cambridge International Exams, IGCSE, or any international exams. We use our pedagogy, teaching methodologies, differentiation, inclusion, AFL, mentoring, etc., to instil excellence in them. We cannot do all of that without excelling significantly.

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Our boarders just like our day students are blessed with such committed staff. We strategies in everything we do in Meadow Hall. After planning, we prepare. We have a plan that will avail our boarders the opportunity to excel. We go beyond planning and preparing, to making sure that they are never at a disadvantage, if anything, they do so well that we are beginning to have a lot of day students convert to boarding. Their study time is non-negotiable. A huge percentage of their house parents are teachers, their studies are adequately provided for. We go beyond the academics. We are not just looking at exam candidates here, but the entirety, completeness and wholesomeness of every child. We believe that every child has leadership skills; we deliberately plan and prepare them for leadership skills in life.

The vice principal-pastoral is in charge of the boarding school who is a Stephen Covey trainer. He imbibes a lot of his values into what they do. We have tried to make these things quite intrinsic; we do not see this as extra-curricular but as part of what we should be doing. The entrepreneurial aspect is not left out. We want our pupils to be financially literate. We don’t want them to be individuals who would grow up not having the proficiencies in the area of either making money, saving money or investing money. We also have as part of our curriculum and part of what we teach them in the boarding house is how to be prudent or frugal if you want to say that, how to invest, how to save. We celebrate their ideas and we have quite a few of them that have come to us with different business ideas.

Where do you see Meadow Hall Group in the next five years?
In line with the vision of the CEO/Founder of Meadow Hall Group, Mrs Kehinde Nwani, I see Meadow Hall Group growing stronger, ensuring that Meadow Hall Education and all our other subsidiaries continue to fulfill the objectives for which they were set-up. I see us doing more in the aspect of teacher training and grooming lifelong learners. We also hope to be an advocate of quality education, not just in Nigeria but in the whole of Africa.


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