-By Wilson Adekumola
The proprietress of Soundminds International School, Alimosho, Lagos, Deaconess Adebukola Akinnagbe holds a first degree in Economics Education from the University of Ibadan and also Masters degree from the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Ogbomosho. She had worked in several financial organizations including Diamond Bank. She was ordained as Deaconess in Living Faith Church a.k.a Winners Chapel. She happened to be the first female secretary and PA to Bishop David Oyedepo. She had taught in various schools including Queen’s Care International School, Ipaja, Lagos, where she had her first teaching experience. In this interview with Wilson Adekumola she shares her passion for education.
How did the vision start?
I became passionate about imparting knowledge when I taught in Queen’s Care International Schools. That was where I started my teaching career. The proprietor of the school and my mentor, Deaconess Dr. Queen Israel-Ozore loved and encouraged me in the teaching profession. She was instrumental to my inspiration. It was there the vision came to me. Even then she noticed that I was a potential school owner. Before that time the only experience I had was my teaching practice (TP) in 1997. Based on this vision I went to acquire training as a prerequisite for the task. As you know, whatever you want to go into you must have adequate knowledge in that field. Hence, on 18 September 2006 Soundminds International Schools was established.
What is peculiar about your school?
What makes us stand out is our focus on the three tiers of education. We groom and nurture the talents that will positively influence the community and society at large. We look at their ability and their age range and train them accordingly. We don’t believe in double promotion. Education is a process so they must take their step one by one. We know what is good and suitable for each child at a particular time.
As a proprietor what has been your experience?
The experience has been so awesome. I have leant a lot through their behavioural pattern and their individual activities. For instance, we are able to discover some children who are good at drumming, singing, dancing and sporting activities. In handling instrument they are second to none. What we do as a school is that we go through the channel of what they can do and introduce the fundamental academic to groom them in the way they should go. We key into those activities they love most. For example, we introduce chess game into our primary school and we discovered they are so good that they will beat an adult hands down. You find out at the end of the day that those children are exceptional in mathematics. If a child can sit and maneuver chess, such child must have mathematical background. We equally make use of cultural subject both in Montessori and early year curriculum. That is, they know the world. No child in my school you will call to mention anything in the world that won’t be able to do well. It is like ABC to them. They are conversant with those cultures across the globe. Those are the things that make us unique. By the grace of God we have received three different awards from Action concept and Global Champion, a media house that covers sixteen channels including cable. The awards are best in academic activities and talents in 2014, 2015 and 2016. We have competed and won a lot of other awards. Some of my children have gained admission into Caleb University on scholarship as part of our support for academic excellence. We have zero tolerance for laziness. We prepare our children for common entrance in primary four so that when they get to primary six it will just be like a revision. We are one of the 15000 schools that were accredited as e-talent centre in Alimosho. We spread what we learn to other schools too.
Considering the level of your achievements, what can you say is your strength?
God has been our strength. Without God we would not have gone this far. The only thing that gives me concern is that we have not started our secondary school. What I observed is that they don’t really cherish education in this environment. Even with pocket-friendly fees we collect they still complain. But thank God those that value us still come to us. In real sense we are improving. I will also use this opportunity to commend my amiable staff. They are contributory factor to our success. Often times we send our teachers to training on long valuation. We believe they need to upgrade because things are changing with time and their inputs have contributed immensely to the growth of the school and education of the children. They have to key into technology and modernization. As matter of fact, five years ago there was nothing like internet in the school but as of today we are 24 hours online.
Life they say, is full of ups and downs, what has been your challenge?
The major challenge I have faced is parental frustration. When it comes to issue of money they don’t want to cooperate. You must have a very strong policy before you can establish something like this here and thrive otherwise you won’t get anywhere. I can say parental frustration was our challenge. But we thank God that parents of our students are beginning to cooperate but they expect more from the children irrespective of their age. They compare their children with the one in their compounds telling you those ones can recite time table off hand. But I believe a child should learn to understand. A child should be able to write and identify every word he or she pronounces. What good is it if a child cannot identify word, letter or sound? You cannot expect a three-year old child to be writing one to ten thousand. They want their children to recite state and capital without knowing the meaning. Such is the type of education they want in this area. They want more than their children ability but in our school here we train them according to their age and ability.
You talked about financial challenge, how are you able to pay your staff and maintain the school facilities?
I don’t see running a school as a profit-making business. It is based on my passion, vision and mission. Initially when we started we found it difficult to pay our staff but today we don’t owe salaries. The kind of the parents we have today are wonderful people. They are very responsive. We don’t give ourselves headache before payment. Despite the fact that there is a financial constraint they respond. So we are able to cater for our needs and invest more in the school. Anything that will make the children comfortable is what we embark on now. We don’t even look at the money. At the end of the day the profit may be small or zero after you might have paid other charges. Why I have not succumbed to the prevailing circumstances is because of my passion for education and I am happy that I am impacting lives.
How has the school contributed to the growth of the community?
We have some children in this community who are less-privileged; we have them on our scholarship scheme. We ensure they too have access to quality education. We have some children who are on full scholarship and some subsidized. Besides, we play our role during sanitation and pay any bill they bring to us as far as the development of the community is concerned. We respond to their request any time the need arise.
What do you see that makes you happy as an educator?
In fact, seeing these children progressing is enough for me to be happy. My first set of pupils is in 400 level in the University. When we started in 2006 our highest class was primary three and those pupils are now in 400 level in their respective universities. Is that not enough to make me happy? Anytime we have an event here they do come around to give speech that emboldens the children. They embrace and encourage them. Seeing them in that level is enough to give me unending joy. The Parents Teachers Association also do a lot of things to encourage me. Most especially the PTA chairman, Pastor Moses Obadeyi, he is a wonderful man. He carries the parents along in everything we do. The achievements of the children make me feel honoured . I give almighty God the glory.
How did you arrive at the name of the school?
Initially we could not register this school as Soundmind International School. I registered it on divine order. God gave me the name from the book of 2Timothy1:7, He says, “I have not given you the spirit of fear but power and of love and of a sound mind”. He is a covenant keeping God. I have had a problem with registration because a lot of people have used the name but because God is involved my certificate of approval by Lagos State government was brought to me at home.
Where do you see the school in the next five years?
By His grace we would have gone far. In the next five years my children will be writing their SSCE in Soundmind Academy both in Lagos and Ogun State. I think in the next five years we should own a university. Actually we don’t have secondary school yet but I know we are over ripe for it. The challenge is that we don’t want a rented apartment for the school. By His grace we have got a land in Ota, Ogun State and in Lagos we will start September next year.
They say children are the leaders of tomorrow, since independence the same set of people are still in the helm of affairs; do these children still have future?
Yes. They still have bright future. I don’t want us to look at the current situation. There will be a generation that will turn things around and the generation is very close. No one is an Island. I don’t pray for the people there now to die but there will be a government very soon that will change things for better and the future of the children will be bright. If you observe the way things are happening, especially, the brains of the children of nowadays are like computer because of what we inculcate in them and their ability to learn fast. They have the potentials to rule the world. I will advise every parent to do the right thing and give their children the best education they can think of. Their future is secured. They are still the leaders of tomorrow. Nigeria will be great again and the generation is very close.