‘Our mission is to provide world class education’
In June, one of the renowned post-primary educational institutions in the country, Corona Secondary School, became a member of New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC), a non-profit international association based in the United States. The school happens to be the first in Nigeria and second in West Africa to become a member of NEASC. CEO Corona Schools’ Trust Council, Mrs. Adeyoyin Adesina, tells The Guardian how the school has gone thus far and the status the new NEASC accreditation has conferred on it globally.
Can we have an insight into your background?
I am Mrs. Adeyoyin Adesina. I am an educator. I was born in Ibadan but grew up in Lagos, schooled in Lagos and attended University of Ife. Like every other person I had a normal childhood. I am married to an Anglican Priest, a management consultant and blessed with three grown-up children. I am presently the Chief Executive Officer of Corona Schools’ Trust Council. I hold a degree in English Studies from the University of Ife, a Postgraduate Diploma in Education from the University of Lagos and a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (International) from the University of Nottingham.
At what stage did you embrace teaching as a career?
Ironically, I veered from banking to teaching. I studied English at the Obafemi Awolowo University but was invited by my brother-in-law who was working in a bank. I worked in various departments and some financial institutions that sprang up in the early 90s. From there, I made my way into teaching. I actually started in church as a councellor and having found it was my calling, I embraced teaching 18 years ago. In 2002, I joined the CSTC as a teacher of English Language and later a class teacher at Corona School Victoria Island. I moved through various ranks and became the Principal of Corona Secondary School, Agbara in 2014. I was appointed the CEO of the Corona Schools Trust Council on the April 1, 2017.
What has sustained the school for over six decades where others have failed?
Corona School started 62 years ago with a group of foreign women on Mobolaji Johnson Avenue in Ikoyi. They were expatriates’ wives who came together to get themselves busy and decided to start a school for their children. The school’s knack for excellence and its commitment to the values have stood it out over the past six decades. The mission is to provide world- class education and there is a commitment to that vision. Integrity is also key. We also have a rich board comprising people from all walks of life, who have committed their time on working on the board of the trustees. For instance, Hon. Justice Bukunola Adebiyi, a High Court Judge sits on the Corona Secondary Trust Council. So it a commitment of members of the body, moral integrity with clear expectation that have set it apart over the years. Again, ours is merit based. The admission process is very simple. You obtain the form, you write the examinations, and if you pass the examinations you get admission.
Do you offer scholarships to indigent students?
At the secondary school levels we offer scholarship to the first two outstanding students at the entrance examinations. At the primary level what our policy says before we can offer scholarship to our students is that, for example, if we have a student on admission and for one reason or the other the parents are unable to continue payment of fees, we administer what is called a “means test.” Of course, such student must be exceptionally brilliant.
How does the school help to bridge the gap between the poor and the rich in terms of education?
Corona school is a not-for-profit institution and we are mindful of the community. One thing that all of our schools do is that we give back to the community. It is one of our core values-community service. So all of our schools have an adopted school. It goes beyond CSR, but we want our students to know from the primary school and it is done to a greater level at the secondary school because they are older and they are able to take initiatives. So we had our students build a block of classrooms in the community school they have adopted, we had them roofing the whole school and buying musical instruments, donating books and even building public toilets for the community. There was a time when there was cholera outbreak in Agbara, they went round the market to clean the public toilets. When I was in Lekki, we went as far as a school in Ibeju Lekki, it wasn’t just enough that we took things to them; we roofed their classrooms and donated so many things. We have had parents partner with us, we got them a generator and we brought their primary six pupils to our school just to give them a renewed sense of belonging, to aspire to greater things beyond where they are.
What impact has that made on your students?
Not to throw things away because these are the values that we teach them. Firstly, to enjoy the privilege that God has given rather than taking it for granted, Secondly, to realise that for everything that they have, there are people that do not have. We join a few organisations who feed the poor, and send some money to their children to go to school. It is the thought process that we get our children to engage in, and get them to know the need to give back to the society and the less privileged.
Recently, your school became a member of New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). What’s the benefit for the students and the school in general? Does it confer any special status on the school?
The New England Association of Schools and Colleges is an association that originates from America and was founded in 1885. It is a body that accredits schools across the world. The emphasis for the association is not to introduce American Curriculum but every school that they accredit must be operating at certain standards that meet international levels, qualities wherever you go to and it doesn’t matter whatever curriculum says. And this is not restricted to what happens in the classrooms but cuts across in terms of facilities, security, safety, governance, policies, processes and everything that happens in the school.
Our mission is very clear, to provide world- class education to our students. And one of the things that has helped us is that we adhere strictly to that mission and this guides our principles and ask ourselves constantly… Are we practicing the best standards? The NEASC is something we look out for because the association sets standard for schools. We have been in business for over 60 years and we believe we know what we are doing. The accreditation process is a journey that has taken us four years. The whole process was a collective effort: Chairman Secondary School Board, Hon. Justice Bukunola Adebiyi, the Principal, Mrs. Chinedum Oluwadamilola, Chairman Steering Committee, Mr. Paul Obah, Secretary, Anthony Ilobinso, teachers, parents, students, security and everybody was involved. The accreditation panel visited the school four times. So, we scaled four inspections and, in one of the inspections, six of them came from different parts of the world: China, Turkey, UK, and United States. It was a one-week visit where they stayed in school. This has led to a lot of improvement in the way we run the schools, governance. And in June, Corona was finally accredited as a member of New England Association Of Schools And Colleges. We are the only school in Nigeria and second in West Africa and one of the first schools in Africa. The benefit essentially is an improvement exercise and it has not ended there because there are post accreditation and other visits that would follow. The next one is in three years and it is a continuous things. This is not the first time we will be blazing the trail. For every child mother is key, but mothers are now busy pursuing their careers.
What advice do you have for mothers?
Every parent is key because, in Corona, we engage our fathers too. It is both parents now working to ensure that the responsibilities of the family are met. Nevertheless, we do acknowledge that it is a tough one. Times are hard and people have to work. And in recognition of that we are starting after-school service and crèche in September, which parents have been clamouring for. We also believe that parents have their roles, as school cannot take over the responsibilities of parents. We try as much as possible to talk to parents and encourage them to get involved and engage with their children. Apart from open days we have programmes that bring parents to the school, for instance, family fun day. For some parents that is the only day they let their hair down and play with their children just to get parents engaged in their children’s school life.
How do you think government can improve the standard of education in Nigeria?
Government can intervene in the collapse of education sector by putting the right policy in place, by pumping enough funding and by appointing the right people.
How do you take time off your busy schedule?
Well, all my children are grown, but by virtue of my profession, I still have children that I am nurturing. I derive pleasure in my job. Nevertheless, I enjoy reading and traveling. I am a very humorous person and once a while I take time off to relax with my friends.