Dr. Onyeka Jaivbo-Ojigbo believes so much in creating a solid foundation in education, which is key to the growth of a society. She has a doctorate degree in Strategic Education and School Management and currently, the administrator of Nemvas Schools. An all-around educational consultant driven by a passion to impact positively on the educational system in the country, she formed and founded an advocacy platform, International Educational management Network (IEDUMAN) with other like-minded fellows. In this interview with IJEOMA THOMAS-ODIA, she talks about her passion for education
Tell us about what you do?
I am an educational consultant. I was raised by parents who were teachers, and I am very passionate about education. At some point in my life, I knew I love knowledge and I want to impact the lives of people. So, I decided to set up a school, a nursery and primary school, because I believe that is the foundation of education. In the process, I discovered a lot of issues in the sector. Governments, too, are not regulating. They are not clear on what they want. We decided to have a platform, International Educational Management Network where we get educators together and people offering any kind of service in the educational sector, we sit at a roundtable to find solutions. Obviously, the issues are beyond government. Everyone is a link in the chain teachers, students, and parents. We talk about issues and we offer our own little solution, hopeful that we will be able to get to the decision-makers someday. We were able to get together professors from different universities, school owners, trained teachers as well as other educational consultants. Everybody volunteers his or her service. We publish our magazines. Every year, we organise Education and Skills [EduSkill] Fair. We are currently working on getting a database of all the schools in each state, to know what their standards are and what is lacking.
Who is an educational consultant?
When you say you are a consultant in any sense, it means you have the expertise to look at problems in different dimensions. Sometimes, we have simple things, compelling things, complicated things and chaotic things. A consultant should be able to differentiate all of them. When things are simple, the solutions are there and everybody will get it; when things are complex, the solution may be there and nobody is seeing it; when they are complicated, there are so many solutions but you want to look for the best. To say you are an educational consultant, you must have that experience, you must have seen things in that sector. I cannot claim to be an educational consultant if I have not run a school before. I have run both primary and secondary schools. I have seen things. I have had experience. I have also had the training. So I can counsel. I can advise on what school to attend and I can look at a child and tell the learning problem the child is having. With these, you are on your way to getting there.
There are a number of education fairs in the country. What makes yours unique?
Most education fairs are merely advertisements of schools. Ours is different because we are not telling you to go to any school, we are asking you to come and see that there is a vocation in education. There are a lot of manufacturing people involved in our EduSkills Fair. We do not just bring schools, we bring people with vocation they can add to education, such that when they come out of school, they don’t have to wait on the government for employment. The first one we had last year was a resounding success. People came and were willing to offer their services. We had people from the fashion industry, a massive industry now coming up and is currently employing a lot of Nigerians. We had people from catering, tourism and arts and culture. We teach people new skills.
You find that the way certain things are taught in this country is not proper. Children complain that Mathematics is too tough. This is because it is not taught in a practical way. Therefore, we are in alliance with a school in India, and as the country representatives, we have brought the Abacus Academy here. We showcased that in our last fair, teaching children that Mathematics is fun. There are several exciting ways of using the abacus tools in ways that can be faster than the calculator. Things like that distinguish our EduSkill Fair.
How do you differentiate between someone who runs a school as a business or for passion?
When you are doing something for business, you want to do so much at once to get your return on the investment. When you are doing something out of passion, money is not your driving force, but the result and where you are going. It is funny when I come to some schools and found that they are doing six different curriculums. They tell you they are doing American curriculum and British curriculum. You cannot be master of all and be using the same teachers to teach those different curriculums. They can’t possibly be having those three sets of teachers. Or did they really train them all? Those pieces of training are not cheap and you don’t get most of them in this country. These are little things you look for when you go school hunting.
As a professional, what are those professional ethics lacking in today’s teachers?
Teaching as they say, is a no-thanks job. If you don’t have the mind of giving and just being dedicated, you are going to get frustrated when your salary is not paid. You are going to get frustrated when a child is not learning well. You must have that commitment. When I interview teachers, I always ask, why are you looking for this job? I frequently hear this statement: I just want to find something doing. That is wrong. My friends sometimes call me to say: ‘My child has just finished national youth service. Can you employ him pending the time she would find something better?’ I don’t tell them my reason for saying no. You won’t want to offend your friend. I simply tell them I don’t have an opening now. You can’t come to a school with such mindset. It doesn’t go well with education at all. As a teacher, you need your total devotion. Children are attached to their teachers than anyone else and they even look unto them as their role models. So, the commitment first, followed by proper training. That someone is a graduate doesn’t necessarily make him or her a teacher. If you employ such persons, you will need to spend money on training them.
In the overall educational structure in Nigeria, where does your concern lie?
I would say the primary school. Because from early childhood education, zero to eight years of age, the child’s brains is like a sponge, even when you are teaching children values at that age, they are formed. Beyond eight up to 15, it is a bit of a struggle to put a value system in that child. Primary school is the foundation.