MR EMEKA ENEMUOH, the Vice Principal (Junior School) of Whitesands School, Lekki Lagos, spoke to Marruff Bello (Nigerian Tribune) and Nwachukwu Egbunike (Feathers Project) during an in-house capacity building workshop for the staff of his school, which took place recently in Ibadan. Mr Enemuoh a teacher’s teacher was not only passionate but also optimistic that if things are done the right way, the education industry will be able to pull the country out of its current cyclic state of despondency.
Why host an internal continuous capacity building workshop for your staff outside Lagos?
This is the second year of having a more comprehensive workshop for the entire staff. Prior to this, we always had it in Lagos and it was usually a one day affair. Last year we had it in a vacation resort in Ijebu-Ode, Ogun State, while this year we decided to come to Ibadan.
The aims of the workshop are many: to foster unity – internal unity – among all categories of staff, academic and non-academic. Living together also helps to strengthen the team. It provides an opportunity to interact in a relaxed atmosphere outside the official school setting. It is also necessary to foster the idea of having one mind and one voice among the staff. Lastly, as a school that wants to remain at the top, it’s an important way of fostering the spirit of excellence, developing the teachers in human refinement, professional orientation and cultural formation. It is absolutely essential to enrich the educators, because it has a ripple effect on the students and the school. It is also in line with the philosophy of our institution, that by re-educating teachers, it goes a long way in improving the quality of their output. One cannot give what he/she does not have.
Quite intriguing to have all the staff together; the usual practice in some establishment is to segregate the management from senior and junior carder employees.
A school is a learning institution for all those involved in it – the students, teachers and parents. A school should also educate with all that it has, both material and human. I’ll give you an example, in Whitesands School we have a gardener who proudly refers to himself as the horticulturist. He carries out his job with amazing professionalism, that it is always a delight to admire the flowers and the lawn. I always tell my fellow teachers, that we have a lot to learn from our horticulturist. It is not only those found in the classrooms that are responsible for educating the children. That’s why in my school, all members of staff are called educators irrespective of their specialisations.
Also in education we have what is called the hidden curriculum. Although it is not seen, implicit and unwritten, nevertheless it is very important. The drive is that every single member of staff is involved in educating. For instance, a florescent goes off in a classroom and it is replaced after two days, may seem to be the usual thing. However, if it is changed immediately, it becomes a more potent way of teaching the kids about punctuality and vice versa. However, if the so called technician does not see himself as much of an educator as the teacher, he will probably not be so keen on doing his job well. Thus the messenger is as important in our school as the principal. For us, it’s all about teamwork, not the ‘we’ and ‘them’ mindset, which is counter productive. Education does not stop at teaching mathematics or physics, but should be all encompassing, building the whole man. This is called the integral or all-round formation.
The future of education in Nigeria
I have my fears; it’s a real problem that we are facing. The standards have been deteriorating for quite some time now and nobody seems to care. If you remember the attempt to reform the education sector in the last administration. The level of decay was horrifying and these are things we have been living with for a long time. The photographs taken around the country made the former Minister of Education to weep during the public presentation. Individually those pictures were not significant but when collated, it was really depressing. This is because not enough attention is been paid to education, though we cry about the rising trend of societal ills. A country that does not value its educators will always end up in this situation.
You just returned from a post-graduate study in Europe. Can you compare the industry in Nigeria with that in Europe?
Personally, I’ll rather not compare education here with what is attained any where in the West. The reasons are obvious. However, there have been reviews of the level education in many countries by the Economist and other bodies. Finland has the highest standard of education in the world. The results showed that countries with high standards remain so because of the attention paid to their educators. Not that they paid their teachers fantastically high salaries, no, it’s just that these countries spend a lot of time and resources in training the teachers. They expend a lot of energy and effort in selecting the very best as teachers. Also the mentoring, lots of money is spent on educators themselves and not on their supervisors. Thus the educator has to be a role model – professionally and on the human level. It’s high time our country tries to follow suit.
Education is meant to be a leveller not a privilege for the rich only. It is one of the few available means of raising people out the indigence of their parents. In Europe the emphasis is not just on schooling but on quality, by which I mean a well-planned and well delivered, rounded education. A school is ranked based on its ability to expose her students to many possibilities (sports, culture, arts/music, academics, etc.) and in so doing fixes each child where he/she has shown better proficiency. Each child is different, while one may be highly talented in academics, he/she may also be very hopeless in other areas and vice-versa.
The crisis of paper qualification in Nigeria
This is a fall out of the negligence in the educational sector, we are churning out millions of practically – pardon this expression, but that’s the truth – useless people. Some are of the view that half education is better than none. I vehemently disagree with that because in this country we have many people in this category. They have so much energy but they have little education. They may be literate, but they are uneducated. Since I interact with some parents who involved in the human resources units of many firms, they are all telling the same story. We have graduates who don’t know anything.
About Whitesands School
Whitesands Schools is a project of Ikota Education Foundation, a non-for-profit trust based in Lagos. The school was established eight years ago. The Principal is Mr James Efekodo and the Chairman of the Board of Governors is Professor Albert Alos, Vice Chancellor of the Pan-African University Lagos. The religious and moral formation in the school is entrusted to Opus Dei, an institution of the Catholic Church. The philosophy of the school is to form a whole man: students who are not only academically competent, but also groomed in virtues.
Part of this article was published in Nigerian Saturday Tribune, August 9, 2008.
Evans School Supplement, Oct-Dec 2008.