By Wilson Adekumola
Dr. (Mrs) Elizabeth Oriola is a chartered accountant, educationist and minister of God. She is the owner of Cosmos Nursery and Primary School and the founder of Christ People Truth Centre.
At 75, she has a look that belies her age. Her father is from Ijebu but mother from Ondo State. After her secondary education, she worked with the Ministry of Defense for four years before she left to further her education abroad. She studied accountancy in West London of Commerce, Airle Gdns, Holland Park, London. She taught for two years when she first got to London. She later worked in several International Companies including Rankzerous after her accounting training. Because of her passion for impacting lives she delved into the field of education. Currently, she is the Chairman, National Association of Proprietor of Private Schools (NAPPS) Alimosho chapter. In this interview, she shared her experience with Wilson Adekumola. Excerpts:
How did you come to education sector?
My passion for teaching informed my decision to go in education sector coupled with my experience in U.K. I taught abroad for two years when I first got to the UK. Not only that when I was working in a firm, I taught everyone that came on board. I taught them accountancy and other management courses. I like impacting knowledge to people and I think it is ok when you get them young. That is the time to lay their foundation both morally and academically. At that tender age you will be able to contribute to their lives and lay solid foundation for them. You will be able to know and influence their character. I have always thought about how I can make people benefit from my wealth of knowledge and I realized that if you are not knowledgeable you cannot achieve much in life. My passion to impact knowledge to people was my motivating factor. I love to contribute to the development of children. So in 1985, I joined the education sector to make my contribution.
How can you describe education in Nigeria compared to western countries?
I can say that the standard of education is improving but government is not investing enough in it. They are not putting enough resources to it. I think this is because of our political inclination. They have to take education more serious.
From your experience, don’t you think our education system needs revival?
Revival? Well I don’t know the mindset of the people that are there. Education is gaining ground globally and we must not be found lacking behind. I implore government to still put more effort. I know educationists are trying but there is always room for improvement. Our school must be technologically developed.
We observed that some graduates cannot speak or write simple English, what do you think is responsible for that?
Their parents are responsible for that because they aid and abet malpractice. They don’t encourage their children to read. They want to take short cut forgetting that nothing can replace study. When you study you put lots of things in your brain. Sitting to study will improve one’s brain. But most of them see that as waste of time. So their parents who believe in certificate alone help them in examination malpractice. Indiscipline is another thing. The students are not discipline and this could be blamed on parents and teachers. They don’t instill discipline in them. I have interviewed a lot of graduates and I was not impressed with the outcome. There was a particular incident when I interviewed a youth corper who taught in the school then to write his experience as a teacher but he could not express himself. These are the things parents need to feel concerned about. When they get to the University through examination malpractice, they still continue to get their certificate. Such student will definitely be half-baked graduate. Many of them are out there.
We hear of cases of parents taking their children to write exams in ‘special centers’. How will you react to this?
This is part of what we are talking about. They don’t want to encourage their children to read but they want them to come off with flying colours. They take them to special centers where they can buy answers for exam questions. They don’t really want to work for it. It is not just special centers; there are websites they can pay like eight hundred naira or so per subject to get answers for their SSCE exam. I think government should be aware of this. When I heard about it I could not believe it. I think they gave them the answers when they are in examination hall. In some case, when they pay four hundred naira for eight subjects how much is that? That is about four thousand naira. Why should I be reading when I know I can go and enjoy myself in the club and when the exam comes out I pay my eight hundred naira to clear my result. I have visited two of these websites and I discovered they are functional. I am not saying it is all the parents. Some parents are discipline and they want best for their children. They want their children to develop their brain and bring the best in them. They want them to have something upstairs and what you have upstairs you will apply when the need arises. Parents should encourage their children to learn and provide the necessary facilities for them. Let us fear God and prepare them for the future.
Ma, as an educationist, what do you think we can do to curb this anomaly?
It depends on the individual. You can only talk on that. Now in NAPPS, we have what we call unified exam so that all the students no matter your school, you will write the same exam. As a result of that, all schools will ensure they follow the curricular so that their students can do well. That is one aspect to encourage the children to excel.
Can you tell us about NAPPS?
It means National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools as the national body cutting across the nation and it was established in 1995. It first started as Association of Proprietors of Private Schools by late Mr. Majekodunmi. Gradually, it became a national body.
What is the concept behind the association?
The idea is that all private schools should be under one umbrella like every other profession. Our coming together we allow us to influence government policies on education. That is, influencing government policies on education being a partner. That is what we are doing. Whatever policy government make on education they get us involved. We make suggestion and contribution towards a better education system
In what way has government policy and implementation on education had effect on private sector?
For instance, if government wants to draft some curricula they involve the private sector. We are now working together. The curricula we are using from Federal to State are the same. We collaborate with Quality Assurance and Ministry of education to carry out whatever they want to do.
What has been the impact of the association so far?
The major achievement I can say, we are able to gather proprietors and proprietress together, giving relevant information on education policy that they can work on. If I have any problem as an educator I know where to run to. We are able to help our members in the area of their needs. We are able to resolve issues of land with our members. We have had seminars with Quality Assurance officers of the ministries of education in order to know what to do so that we can meet up with the required standard. This is just to mention but a few.
Is there any association other than NAPPS?
Yes. They are many. We have about 19 other associations in Lagos but it is not like that in Ogun and Oyo State. In Lagos, We have Association of Formidable Education (AFED) and others but we are now coming together as one. When we talk about things that bother on education we bring them together. The real national body is NAPPS.
Can we say the absence of good curricula and tutors is the bane of education?
There is paucity of good teachers. Teachers should be well paid. They should be trained and retrained because things are changing very fast. Quality education invariably depends on the quality of the teachers. Some teachers actually want to be committed if they are well remunerated but the moment you cannot pay them they go. Apart from NCE which is the basic qualification for employment they should upgrade. They should further their education. Teaching is all about commitment but then those who are committed want good pay so they can take care of the home front..
Some argue that private students are better than public students, what is your take on this?
There is no argument about that. Don’t forget that in the private sector the ratio of teachers to students is very low. In a private school the maximum number of students you can have in a class is 28 or 30 and there are also assistant teachers. But in public schools you can have 200 students in a class. How do you expect the teachers to cope with that? You will see some of the students sitting on the walls, blocks and all that. The facility is not there. Apart from the facility, government should do something about the teachers. The attitude of the teachers is that they cannot kill me I will only do my best. It is not like that in private sector because parents are paying for their children and they deserve quality education. You must give them value for their money.
If you are appointed minster for education today which area will you focus?
The focus will still be on the teachers. Like I said earlier, the quality of education depends on quality of teachers. Pay them very well. Let them be well remunerated so that they can put in their best. Curriculum is an ongoing thing to meet the need of the sector. Teachers should be trained and retrained.