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OYINSAN: Quality Education Is The Right Of Every Nigerian Child




DR. Bunmi Oyinsan is known for her literary, film and theatre prowess, having written books and played active roles in the Nigerian authors association. However, her passion to ensures that every child in Nigeria gets access to basic education led her to set up the Lekki Peninsula Affordable Schools, which started out over 18 years ago as an evening tutorial for secondary school students.

“In 1997, soon after Maroko was demolished, we started with an evening tutorial; we lived in Victoria Island at the time and we knew people, including drivers and househelp whose lives were turned upside down after that demolition and we had to house a lot of properties for people. Students who were affected by the demolition were posted to only two schools; one in VI the other in Osborne estate, transportation wasn’t well organised and so a lot of kids fell out from the educational system; those were the kids we started out with.

“Afterwards, some market women whose kids were taught came to beg us to transfer the lessons to mornings to stop their kids from roaming around till evening to attend classes and that was how the morning school started. Of course it required that we have to be duly registered, have a proper lab, paid teachers among others. Over the years, we have been able to run the school as inexpensive as we have run it; is still not where we want it be in terms of making quality education affordable.”

She however noted that the primary school berthed after they found out that the quality of students admitted in JS1 needed a lot of remedial work and so the primary school helped us ensure the kids are properly trained even though we are cheaper by far to other schools in the area, with all graduate teachers and standard facilities which is the over 80 per cent we target.

Continuing, Oyinsan said, “By the time we wanted to start the primary school, we decided to do some research on how such affordable schools around the world have been funded. I know it is done in Asia, so we started looking at India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and we found out it was even being done closer to home, in Ghana, Kenya and we found out people who have invested in affordable schemes; Pearson Affordable learning fund and Village Capital, who are now partnering with us. Now, we have been able to open our doors fully in September for the elementary schools.

Even though the school has over 120 pupils, she noted that parents are still apprehensive about the school in terms of our affordability. “When parents ask us how much our school fees is now, I still say, N20, 000 and out of it we give school uniforms, sports wears, work books. Parents still don’t believe we are here for real, they think it’s a gimmick where we may still increase the fees as the terms go by.”

For Oyinsan, while growing up, she didn’t know there were kids who were being kept out of school, because her parents cannot afford to send them toto school. “When I had house helps, I always ensured they acquired some form of education, I will be fulfilled when education becomes the right of every child in this country and whether or not a parent can afford it or not. Quality education do not need to be expensive, we just need to be innovative.”

Although, born in Lagos, she had most of her growing up in Port Harcourt, Rivers State. “While growing up, all I wanted to do was make up stories, my grandmother was a fascinating story teller; being from Benin Republic she had a lot of story to tell us about Nigeria and that led me to knowing so much as a young child and making up my own stories. I started out writing Silhouette in 1991, which was adopted in a 26-episode serial on the Nigerian Television Authority entitled ‘Dreams’. I was not so satisfied with the adaptation and that led me to writing my own screenplays.

Having stayed away in Canada for over 20 years, studying, she only came back to manAGE the school. “I have masters in Gender and Literature which focused on women’s writings from Africa and the African Diaspora, and talks about the oral cultures and how it influences their writings which are elements of traditional story telling. I found out a lot of fascinating things. My Doctorate was also in Gender and film studies; I went into the oral philosophical culture and how it challenges traditional filmmaking practises, while allowing them to address gender issues.”

Oyinsan who describes herself as an unapologetic feminist said, “I was not raised to realiSe that there were differences between me and my brothers. I was raised to be myself; I didn’t know that as a woman some restrictions should be accorded to me, but then when I grew up, I found out that I was expected to behave in a certain way just because of the accident of my sex and that led to my feminism.

“As a parent and mother of boys and girls, I do not imagine raising my boys different from my girls and so I am not capable of writing anything that has those kinds of sentiments attached, I believe in the quality of human beings.”

Oyinsan whose dream of empowering young people either through vocational training or education in the past ran a fashion designing centre, which trained over 2000 young people. “Vocational training is still dear to my heart; I will be looking at starting up computer training in January, where people can come into the school in the evenings after school hours and learn to compete favourably in this Information Technology day and age. Our hope is to support public schools and show that the public schools can be more effective when it comes to learning outlets.”

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