Government should see private schools as partners, says Edun
Mrs. Tokunbo Edun is the Director, Grace Schools, Gbagada. The school marked its golden jubilee last year. In this interview with UJUNWA ATUEYI, she said government at all levels must show commitment to educational development just as she urged state governments to be friendly in their dealings with private schools.
As an educationist, how would you assess the country’s educational system?
Nigeria’s educational system has worsened since independence. While growing up, someone with primary six certificate has a good command of English and could teach at that time. But today, that is no longer the case. A lot of our graduates are half-baked. Some of them cannot communicate well or write coherent memo in English language when they come for interview. So you begin to wonder how they were able to graduate.
Since the 1990s, things have gone worse; you know why I said that? Universities abroad accept pre 1990 certificates from Nigerians without further examination. But those after 1990 were asked to take some qualifying examination. It is that bad.
The quota system currently in use is not helping matter. It guarantees admission for poorly performed students. At the end of the day, you see them becoming ministers and commissioners, heading educational institutions. What do we expect?
Also, government is not spending enough on education. Infrastructural facilities in most public schools have deteriorated. Government seems not to understand the benefits of having educated citizens. Countries like France and Finland spend a lot on education. How much is our budget on education? Sometimes the little that was allocated goes into things like buying diesel and paying staff. So at the end of the day, nothing changes.
Government must not only provide funds, it must monitor and supervise the funds to ensure proper allocation and judicious spending. For instance, in the last 10 years, Rwanda has overhauled its education sector. 60 per cent of private schools have closed down due to the excessive funding of the sector by the government. In Nigeria however, private schools have taken over the responsibilities of government.
How would you describe private schools’ relationship with government?
Well! Some of their policies are unfavourable. Sometimes, we feel as if government hounds us. They have inspectorate division that comes to supervise our activities, but sometimes the attitude they portray when they come for inspection is undesirable. Government should know that we are doing what they are supposed to do. It is the responsibility of every government to provide education for its citizen. But if they don’t have the capability and private schools are involved, then, they should see us as partners. We should not feel harassed or overtaxed.
Government taxes us according to the number of pupil we have. Sometimes when we give them our figure, you will see them moving into the classrooms and be doing head count. A lot of us are our own government, we supply water to ourselves, generate power, and here we spend about N560,000 on diesel every five days. We provide all our infrastructures. Government should stop harassing us; it should be friendlier in its approach to private education stakeholders. There should be more of partnership and collaboration between private educators and the government.
What stands Grace School out among its contemporaries?
We make learning fun for our students. We provide education that makes the students fit in anywhere in the world. It is interesting to note that we have included a lot of technology into how students are taught. For instance, our pupils are taught how to operate computer from the nursery level. This is through some visual aid learning. The primary school arm was established in 1968 while the secondary arm commenced in 1994.
We have been around for some time and this underscores our commitment to provide qualitative learning for all our students. Our strong focus is to develop students who will compete favorably across the globe. We boast of an enabling and conducive environment, with world-class facilities for intellectual, academics, spiritual, moral and physical development of a child. We are poised to producing godly students who are the future leaders of our dear country, Nigeria.’
How can the country improve teachers’ competencies?
Teaching profession is not only about teaching students alone .It encompasses several things. Teachers need to develop skills set to enable them perform their roles effectively. The educational system in Nigeria is faulty. Teachers need to be specialists in their own field. They should not just be employed; they should also be tested on their competencies and capabilities. They should be regularly exposed to new trends in the sector and also be encouraged to develop self. In all motivation is key.
Your partnership with Loyalist College of Applied Arts, Canada, what is it about?
The main purpose is a solid partnership to further provide quality education and with affordable fees for parents who want to improve learning experience for their children. The partnership provides support for students to also accomplish their dreams of schooling in reputable schools overseas.
A mini campus of Loyalist College will be set up in Nigeria for first year students of the institution. The successful students will undergo their first year programme in Nigeria before proceeding abroad to complete their education. We chose Loyalist College because of the state-of-the-art facilities and teaching aids, which are the most suitable for the training of the 21st century workforce.
What informed the school’s yearly indigent scholarship award?
Our annual indigent scholarship award is designed to provide succor for the less privileged in the society. The scholarships to indigent students enable them have access to qualitative education regardless of their educational background. This is one area that the school becomes socially responsible by helping the less privileged in the society.
The scholarship is worth over N1million per session, and it covers tuition, books, uniforms, boarding fees and pocket money and even extends to their university education afterwards. Let me say that over 40 students have benefitted from the awards since its inception in 2004 which was instituted in honour of my mother, the late founder of the school, Deaconess Grace Bisola Oshinowo and it has become an annual event to support the less privileged in the society.
Way forward for the educational system
There should be proper supervision of the education sector. Government should not only release funds but also monitor funds going to the sector. There should be specific projects to promote growth and spending so much on diesel while neglecting the core areas that can engender growth and development. Government should also focus on upgrading infrastructural facilities.
The foundation of everything is important. It takes huge efforts to correct the fundamental errors. It should be noted that leaving primary education in the hands of local government is not appropriate, as the office holders do not pay adequate attention to improve the quality of education.