‘Extra-curricular activities essential to child development’
Dr. Ekua Abudu is a co-founder and school administrator of Greenwood House School (GHS), Ikoyi, Lagos. In this interview with UJUNWA ATUEYI she maintained that schools must regularly engage pupils in extra curricular activities as it has the capacity to transform a child’s life. She also said that proper funding and teacher development is critical to quality teaching and learning.
What influenced your decision to become an educator and what motivates you daily?
I qualified as a lawyer in 1997. Shortly after, I became a Chartered Secretary /Administrator. After we founded Greenwood House School, Ikoyi I realised that the school needed my fulltime attention and decided to change my career to education. To better prepare myself for this new path, I went and got a diploma from the London Montessori Centre and a couple of years later, I earned a Post Graduate Diploma in Education from the University of Nottingham.
My aunt, who had worked as a teacher for 24 years, actually invited me to start Greenwood House School (GHS) with her. We started the school in 1995. She was Principal and I was Administrator. After we started, I found educating children to be the most fulfilling experience I had received so far in my career. Seeing the positive impact we are making in so many lives is the motivation for my change in career and the reason why I would continue in this field despite so many challenges.
Extra-curricular activities are viewed by some individuals as tiring for pupils and expensive for parents, what are your thoughts on this?
At Greenwood House School, our focus is to develop the wholistic child, identify their inborn talents and help them become well-rounded adults. Education has evolved way past academic achievements exclusively. Participation in extracurricular activities enriches the children, strengthens their self-esteem, broadens their friendship circle and helps strike a balance between studies and social life. Their chances of competing at high levels and earning non-academic scholarships are significantly increased by exposure to extracurricular activities.
As an educationist, do you think extracurricular activities should be mandatory in every school?
Most definitely! The end goal is to help a child develop into a holistic individual capable of achieving whatever he sets his mind to. As a school, we are interested not just in the academic growth of our students but also help them discover their talents. You never know what might give you your next big break.
What extra-curricular activities does GHS engage its students in and what are the academic and social impacts?
We offer a wide variety of extracurricular activities and encourage our students to participate in at least two of them. We currently offer chess, music (individual instruments), Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) club, arts and craft, press club, etiquette and language club (Spanish, Hausa, Ibo, or Yoruba). Sporting activities include football, rugby, gymnastics, taekwondo, tennis and swimming. social and cultural clubs include contemporary dancing, ballet, Red Cross, boys scouts and brownies. These activities help to broaden their knowledge base, keep them abreast with current affairs, bring out their creativity and help exercise their mental and physical bodies.
Who chooses the extra-curricular activities that the students partake in and has any of the GHS alumni built a career around any?
The extracurricular activities pupils participate in are chosen carefully by the school management to cover a broad variety of activities with regular input from our parents and students. Participation in extracurricular activities has helped our students gain advantage over others in admissions into secondary school. Furthermore, some of our alumni have received scholarships into higher education from developing themselves from activities they started in GHS.
How can we improve quality in the country’s institution of learning?
We have to invest heavily in both the public and private sectors training, development and retraining of teachers. This will contribute to the quality of education that children receive. Also, the budget allocated to education should be meaningful enough to motivate teachers to give their best and to set up the best structures for kids to learn.
What curriculum do you use and how does it compare with the curriculum of other schools?
At GHS, we use the British curriculum and in particular, the Cambridge primary curriculum for the core subjects of English, mathematics and science, with suitable adaptations to reflect our international nature and Nigerian heritage and location.
The Cambridge curriculum provides subject content, planning and resource guides, guidance for curriculum implementation and development, plus support for classroom teaching and student learning. Because it is a programme which has been developed with consistent standards that are externally benchmarked across thousands of students, it enables reliable structured reporting to parents about the performance of their children, which has validity beyond our school.
What differentiates us is our determination to make “The Child” the centre of schooling. The academic curriculum is only one part of our school and our focus is always upon the needs and happiness of each individual child. We firmly believe that school days should be the happiest days of everyone’s life and we work hard to make sure that is true for all our students. This means educating according to the abilities, background and potential of each individual.
Differentiation is a key concept in each class so that each student is set high, but achievable expectations relative to their potential.
The challenge to the child is to do his best no matter how high or low. And with this comes a respect for every other child, whether classmate or not, as an individual, just as unique and entitled as yourself. All our children are respected and expected to show respect, courtesy and understanding to all around them. In this way, we engender mutual respect and a supportive, harmonious environment throughout the school.
We also make our children aware that they have a responsibility to give back to society. We involve them regularly in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) projects. We give gifts to and actually entertain the children of The Ile Aanu School for the Handicapped every year and also give gifts to and visit the schools in Makoko regularly, amongst other projects.
What is your vision for GHS in the coming years?
I see Greenwood House as the reference point for best practices in education not only in Nigeria, but far and wide.