‘Government should supervise, monitor funds going into education sector’
Mrs. Iyiola Olatokunbo Edun is the Executive Director of Grace Schools Gbagada, Lagos. In this interview with ENO BASSEY, she proffers solutions to falling education standards in Nigeria, calls for upgrade in infrastructural facilities as well as provision of scholarship for the less-privileged in the society. She also believes well-meaning Nigerians and corporate organisations should fund education.
What is your assessment of education in Nigeria?
Education system in Nigeria has worsened since independence. While growing up, someone with Primary 6 certificates could teach. Graduates today are half-baked, as some of them cannot communicate well in English. The quota system that is being adopted in the country is horrible. It guarantees admission for poorly performed students. Inadequate funding also affects the standard of education in the country. There are no infrastructural facilities. Government must not just provide funding but 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. In Rwanda, 60 per cent of private schools have closed down due to the excessive funding of the education sector by the government. In Nigeria, however, private schools have taken over the responsibilities of government.
What is the way forward for education in Nigeria?
There should be proper supervision of the sector. Government should not only release funds but also monitor funds going into the sector. There should be specific projects to promote growth. Government should also focus on upgrading infrastructural facilities.
The foundation of everything is important. It takes huge efforts to correct fundamental errors. It should be noted that leaving primary education in the hands of the local council is not appropriate, as the officeholders do not pay adequate attention to improve the quality of education.
What is the government’s attitude towards private schools?
Private Schools have better facilities than public schools. Private schools are actually doing what public schools should be doing. There should be a strong partnership with private schools. Government should stop overtaxing private schools. Private schools boast more facilities than public schools. All sorts of multiple taxes are being forced on private schools. The owners provide private schools’ infrastructures. Owners provide water and electricity for the running of the school.
Government should be more friendly in its approach to private education stakeholders. There should be more of partnership and collaboration between private educators and the government.
What advice do you have for parents over the monitoring and supervision of their children?
Parents believe once they pay school fees, the school should take over completely. Parents should not abdicate their responsibilities to the school. Parents should create more time for their children. Depression is taking place more among children. Children hardly see their parents at home. We have seen cases of drivers asking questions about home works for their bosses’ children. How can a driver suddenly become the one to monitor a pupil’s schoolwork? Children blossom more when they are shown, love. It is expected of parents to do more for their children beyond paying school fees.
What edge do Grace Schools have over others?
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 a computer from the nursery level. This is through some visual aid learning. The primary school arm was established in 1968 while the second 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 favourably 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 teachers’ competencies be improved?
Teaching profession is not only about teaching students alone. It encompasses several things. Teachers need to develop skills set to enable them to perform their roles effectively. The educational system in Nigeria is faulty. Teachers need to be specialists in their own fields. Teachers should not be employed but tested on their competencies and capabilities. We have sponsored our teachers to educational conferences in Ghana, Dubai, South Africa, Singapore among others, to improve their competencies.
Why do Grace Schools organise a yearly indigent scholarship award?
The yearly indigent scholarship award is designed to provide succour for the less- privileged in society. Indigent students are awarded scholarships to enable them to have access to qualitative education, regardless of their family backgrounds. The scholarship is worth over N1million per session, covers tuition, books, uniforms, boarding fees and pocket money and even extends to their university education afterwards. Over 50 students have benefitted from the awards since its inception in 2004, while over N100 million has been invested in the scheme by the school.
The scholarships are from SS1-SS3. We hold the examination yearly and the scholarship is open to students of public schools only. We also support them when they leave Grace Schools. We pay their university fees, accommodation and give them a monthly stipend for the four or five years at the university. We also encourage them to do the SAT exams, which is also paid for by us. At least, two of them have through their high SAT scores won places to reputable American universities.
We instituted the award in honour of my mother, the late founder of the school, Deaconess Grace Bisola Osinowo, and it has become a yearly event. Recently, we started to give out cash donations of N50,000 and above to some of the beneficiaries, who couldn’t emerge as the overall. We started this as a palliative measure to support the families and also help the student’s education. In some cases, eight students take such amount while the three overall students obtain the full scholarship. My passion really is to support as many children as possible but the funds are not there and that is why I believe corporate organisations can do better in this regard.
Some of these students actually graduated with first-class, which means they can excel if given the opportunity like others. We are open for sponsorship in order to alleviate the sufferings of parents in educating their children. These people are poor in every sense of it and you need to visit where some of them stay. Some stay in one-room apartments with three or four children as the case may be.
What are your contributions to public schools and your host community?
Grace Schools donated cash and materials towards the upgrading of several schools within Gbagada environs. We also gave furniture, including tables, chairs and books to Gbagada Primary School. This has been a major activity for several years till date. We powered the school borehole with electricity.
Ajidagan Primary School, Grace Schools’ next-door neighbour has also been a major beneficiary of the Corporate Social Initiatives. The school, which collapsed last year, was reconstructed by Grace School. We also donated play equipment to the school. We have sponsored sporting events of several schools in Gbagada, including Idi Oro primary school, Al Moroof Primary School, Gbagada Primary School, Ogooluwa Primary School, Temidire primary School, Adaranijo Primary School, National Primary School and Ajidagan Primary School.
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