Bukola Afolabi – Ogunyeye, an author, child rights activist who won an international award for humanitarian service for protecting children through her NGO; MORNA International Children’s Foundation (MICF), is the head of the management team of WIN-RITES Montessori School. In this interview by YEJIDE GBENGA-OGUNDARE, she speaks on the ills of the academic sector, lack of basic education in Nigerian communities, role of parents in education and other issues:
You are known for many things. How do you combine all and what prepared you for this?
Everything I do is centred on child care, education and empowerment sensitisation for people. As the chairperson in the management team of WIN-RITES Montessori School, a multiple award winning school, I utilise my skills as an author, educator and seasoned child rights activist for the betterment of the children. Also, as an advocate for gender equality trained by the National Advocacy Center, Huntsville USA, l am saddled with the duty of disseminating some of its programmes on child abuse and I have used this to impact thousands of children.
What is quality education and why is it important?
Quality education is one that is pedagogically and developmentally sound and educates students on becoming active and productive members of society. Quality education is important because it provides the foundation for equity in the society. It is a human right and public good. Education is not simply a content delivery system; rather, it is a system designed to help all children reach their full potential and enter society as full and productive citizens.
What is responsible for increase in poor standard of education in Nigeria?
In my experience, there are many factors responsible for increase in the poor standard of education in Nigeria. They include incompetence, laidback personnel, negligent and unmotivated teachers, corruption in the sector at all levels, badly behaved students and even unwillingness of parents to give their wards quality education.
Can you assess how far you have made a difference in the community you operate and the society at large?
You will be shocked that children in this part of the world that are not even in remote areas lack basic education. They may be going to school on a daily basis but there is no impact in anyway. It is sad. However, we are completely changing the game in our community. The difference is so clear. Being an activist who advocates quality education keeps energizing us to give the best. The work out there is enormous. We are doing wonders. Pupils who attend the school become academically and morally sound yet we keep pushing them to do more. Give a child quality education and you prepare that child for the future. I believe that the African child deserves quality education. Children who get quality education find it easy to thrive in a dynamic world.
What can you say is the role of parents in giving their children education? What part can they play?
There is need for collaboration between parents and the school towards ensuring a child gets the best and is also molded accordingly. Unfortunately, the reverse is the case. Many parents want the short cut for their children. There is no short cut to success. Many parents do not know that the school has nothing to lose. It will always be the brunt of the parents to bear now and in the nearest future. Parents must be ready to pay the price to secure their children’s future.
The compromise in the education sector is a deafening silence but we pretend all is well. All is not well in the education sector. We can’t keep burying our heads in the sand like the ostrich. Many schools have lost it. We must go back to the drawing board for the sake of the future of Nigeria.
Let’s save the future of our children.
You are confirming there is corruption in the education sector?
The corruption is a deafening silence. Children are no longer using their brains to do anything yet they get promoted from one class to another. This trend continues in secondary school through university and we can see the ripple effect in Nigeria today.
Teachers are also victims of this faulty education system. You can’t give what you don’t have. You discover that some teachers are as empty as anything. Where will that take the children to?
How can poor standard of education be eradicated in Nigeria?
We can eradicate poor standard of education in Nigeria by going back to the drawing board. Where and how did we get it wrong? We must reflect on that question.
The moment parents felt paying school fees is tantamount to academic success they got it wrong. The moment school owners began to worship money, they missed it. The moment teachers were seen as hungry people who do not have any say about their pupils and can’t control them, we missed it. The moment examination malpractice began to be celebrated and adopted in the system, the sector became completely messy. Teachers are also a product of the faulty education system. You can’t give what you don’t have.
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Teachers should be trained regularly on how to tutor learners. When I mean training, I mean the 21st century training teachers need. On the part of parents, they should be ready to provide financially for their wards to get quality education and leave the school to do their job with no unnecessary interference.
In conclusion, if we are serious about getting it right in Nigeria, we must take a serious look at the education sector; it needs to be totally overhauled. No Nation is greater than the quality of its education.
Is being book smart the same as quality education. And is building morals in children part of education?
Is it all about being book smart?
To begin with, charity begins at home. However, the school also has a role to play in raising children with good morals. For instance, we constantly admonish our pupils to be exemplary and not mediocre. We tell them to stand out and stand-alone rather than stand with the crowd. That everybody is doing it doesn’t make it right. They should be eagles and not flock with chickens. Eagles soar.
What are the achievements of your school beyond impacting on the children positively?
While we do a lot of appraisal on the pupils and monitor their academic progress we also do self appraisal as we set a target for ourselves every term.
Above all, we have won International awards when we were not even working towards that. The West African Quality Education gave us an award as the Best Quality Education School in Life skill development for year 2022. We also won an award from International Standards Excellence Awards as the Most Innovative Quality Education School. We see these as motivation to keep it up and not relent.
As an educator, what have you been doing to ensure that quality education is delivered pupils?
First, we built it into the vision of the school. Our vision is to raise competent and confident generation of scholars who will transform their world and be a solution. Our vision keeps us on our toes. We have been doing everything to ensure quality education is being delivered to the pupils.
What has been your experience so far in delivering quality education?
It has not been an easy journey when you are talking about world-class education. The investment in 21st century materials for teaching which we do not compromise on is another issue but we cannot give up.