Dear Mrs Adediwura,
What does a good school mean to you? What is good for you may be terrible for others. Let me just assume that you don’t know what you actually want. Owing to several reasons, I don’t want to recommend any school here but I can assure you that if you are patient enough to read this article to the end, you will know what you want and how to get it. If you are so much in hurry now, you may have to read the last point now, then you can go through other points later. Thanks for your concern.
1. There are too many schools these days and it could be very difficult to get the right school for your child. Don’t be deceived by the flashy adverts and publicity of the schools, the business is competitive, most of them can do anything to get your attention but they lack the resources to sustain your interest and help actualize your child’s career goals. So, the first thing you need to know is that there are many schools and some of them are not approved by the government, even some that managed to get government approval did not get it meritoriously. This is Nigeria, as a school owner, with your money in hand, you can wine and dine with the guys at the top and make things happen.
2. Most private schools are set up to make money. They can go any mile to keep you as a loyal client even if it is at the detriment of your child’s essential academic goals. Please, note that some of these school owners are only after your money while only a few of them can actually give you the best value for your money. Check the way they deal with their teachers, non-academic staff and school facilities. Some schools charge exorbitant school fee but short pay or underpay teachers and other staff members while some schools unnecessarily delay payment of salary. Never enroll your children in a school where teachers are treated as private servants and parents are treated like Kings, gods or simply as money-making machines, such school owners are nothing but gold-diggers.
3. Most of the academic reports from schools these days are not true test of knowledge. Don’t be deceived by the excellent performance of the school’s students as presented to you by the school. School business is highly competitive in Nigeria; some school owners go as far as bribing their way to win national and international competitions and awards so as to boost their corporate profile. Many schools instruct their teachers not to grade their pupils below certain scores, no matter how weak the child is in the subject. They believe that the best way to retain the loyalty and patronage of the parents is to award excellent marks. Imagine how you would feel if you pay 3.5million naira as school fee per session for your child in primary school and you get a report at the end of the session that your child fails Mathematics and English Language. What meaningful excuse would the school give you to make you keep your child in the school by retaking the session? This is why some parents only realize that they have made a wrong decision about their child’s school when they fail woefully in external examinations. Majority of the big and expensive private schools in Nigeria are guilty of this one; the best way to check if your child is on the right track is to consult some education agencies and ask them to conduct a periodic independent assessment for your child. You can check online for education agencies that offer this service in Nigeria. You may send me an email or send me an SMS for an update about this service. I can link you up with some agencies that offer the service for free. Serious-minded school owners can also consult these agencies so as to check the reports presented by their teachers.
4. Don’t be deceived by the big names, good old records of the school or the fake testimonies on the school website. What really makes a school is the caliber of qualified teachers and administrative team that run the school with the appropriate structural and technical facilities. Some schools are old and big but their visionary is dead, legacy derailed and policies manipulated. Some schools may be old but useless while some are new and very relevant with a clear vision to blaze the trail among their competitors.
5. No matter how good a school is, children don’t learn at the same pace. This is as a result of several factors such as age difference, the background of the child, psychological background and access to relevant educational materials. So, don’t compare your child to his/her peers if he/she is not doing well. You may consider getting a backup. There are several cases where all it needs to get your child back to the track or keep him/her ahead of other students is to get a professional home tutor who would conduct one-on-one home lesson sessions for your child. There are many tutoring agencies that you can find online but I can recommend www.thinkfirsttutors.com.ng. They have been tested and trusted over time.
6. In most cases, there is a need to do a quick online search about the school you wish to enroll your child before making any decision. Online reviews may be the lifebuoy here. Don’t just depend on what your neighbors, colleagues or family members say about the school, they may want you in for associative purpose or for some financial benefits from referral. There are many good, bad and worse schools who call me to help recommend their schools for better patronage with attractive reward but I try as much as possible not to taint my reputation with their offers. Do your findings on the personality of the proprietor of the school, the principal, teachers and the opinions of other parents and students about the school. At times, you may be surprised to discover that the school advertised to be the best in Nigeria is run by a cruel and clueless politician without a sustainable administrative policy, having dream killers and terrorists as their academic staff, then employing rapists, pedophiles, and uncivilized men and women as teachers based on nepotism.
7. You really need to know what you want in a school and why you want it. As an experienced educationist, I have realized that several parents want their children to go to a particular school for some special reasons. Some parents want their children to go to school so as to boost their social status. Such parents don’t care about the academic strength or reputation of the school as long as the children of their colleagues, church members or business associates go to the school, they don’t even consider the high tuition fee. Other sets of parents put much emphasis on the security of the school, the structural, technical and medical facility of the school, the quality of education passed across to the students, the moral and religious foundation of the school, etc. Above all, it is advisable that you go for what works for you. I have met a mother who told me she wants her son to be a renowned professional footballer because she has observed that he has a keen interest in playing football. However, she said he doesn’t need to be excellent in school because most excellent students end up being a professor or teacher without sufficient money to live a comfortable (or what I will call luxurious) life. So her major concern is not a school with too much focus on academics but a school that embraces sports and other recreational activities.
Having read this, you really need to set some criteria that you expect in a school to make it good for you and consider the points raised above to enable you to choose wisely.
Advice for Private Schools in Nigeria
This article is not written to directly or indirectly castigate private schools in Nigeria but to charge us to be creative and effective in running educational business in Nigeria. There are too many schools in Nigeria today with no focus or a clear view of the future of education in Nigeria. Hence, some of the school owners see school administration as a business venture. In developed countries, school education is not a priority; Nigeria will soon get to that stage of civilization. Soon, people will start shifting focus from paper certification to what you can actually do with your brain and talent; not what your papers can do for you. I advise emerging school owners and existing schools with the eyes for the future to start working towards a Focus-Based-Educational-Institution instead of just running a school. Why can’t I set up a school that will have all its curriculum and policies channeled towards building a business mind in a child from primary to tertiary level? This can also be applicable to other sectors such as sports, arts, and sciences. Don’t get me wrong, I know there are sports academy, technical schools, business schools, colleges of education and colleges of medicine already existing; there is a need to start raising these kids to develop their passion from elementary level. More details on this will be presented in one of my subsequent articles. It is easier to build boys than to mend men.