‘At 40, Chrisland Schools’ giant strides are evident
High Chief (Mrs.) Winifred A. Awosika is the proprietress/founder of Chrisland Schools which recently celebrated its 40th anniversary with the launching of a book titled, The story behind the glory and a public lecture with the theme ‘Education in the 20th century and now: the future of the Nigerian child,’ at Muson Centre, Onikan, Lagos, with Prof. Wale Omole, Chairman of The Guardian Editorial Board, as guest speaker. She spoke to Paula Eseghene on the strides made by the renowned school, Nigeria’s educational system and other issues. Excerpts:
A brief introduction of how Chrisland started 40 years ago?
Well, it is a very interesting story. When I got married to my late husband, Dr. Victor Awosika, of blessed memory, he told me that the place of the woman is the home, that the woman is the Home, and that the woman is the housekeeper while the husband is the bread winner. So I was full time housewife; occasionally, when I got bored I taught in one or two schools for some months but all the time I stayed at home, taking care of the children but at one stage I become very bored. So after my post-graduate diploma in education even though I still waited for his approval, my friends encouraged me that if I start something, he will not stop me. So I decided to start with the boys quarters of our house at Ladipo OluwoleIkaje. We have for duplexes there, we were living in one and the boys quarters of that house was where I started Chrisland and that time I started with three children including my own two young ones making five and it was a home away from home because I will go into the house to prepare. I used to bake their cakes for their lunch and at that time there was some milk; so each time I left their rooms two small rooms and went into the house they will follow me. If I went upstairs they will follow. Some of our parents when they came they asked: is this a school? But they where happy it was a home from home. From the beginning I had the inspiration to do something very good, to run a school that everybody would say is a good school.
Can you tell us the story of the little beginning, how it all started?
Well, my educational background. I went to Government School Owo for my primary education and government schools those days had teachers from all over the country.
Yes, that is the take of the two rooms boys quarters at Ladipo Wola Avenue, Ilaje. My office was a very tiny room. In fact I had to make a small table, smaller than the usual size. The place was supposed to be where the staff cook; so that was what I used as my office but I put in my best, my very, very best. The furniture was very colourful. There was this man who made very colourful furniture for me, very colourful and attractive. The first time I invited the inspectors from Lagos State Ministry of Education, they could see that this was a special school.
At the time we started at thatboys quarters at Oluwole, we were already building this house.I liked walking around, looking at everything, even at the gate. At 6.30 a.m, I am at the gate already making sure that every child coming was well dressed. I will open the car door if a child wasn’t properly dressed. I will put the child back into the car and say mummy, please drive off. So when I got the first head teacher, a Russian lady married to a Nigerian, I told her that I employed her to work in the compound and not at the gate. So I continued to be the gate and that tradition is still kept today in all Chrisland Schools.
What can you say about our educational system today?
You see when people say the standard of education has fallen yes but at the same time the knowledge the children have now, the awareness is very high. Indeed what the young ones know now we didn’t know in our own time. The young ones are smarter, more vocal. My granddaughter— if you ask her do this she will ask you why should I do but in those days, you never queried what your father or mother said. They are more intelligent, learn more quickly. There is so much for them to study, there is awareness of everything happening all around the world.
Before we used to have teacher training colleges but right now we have many schools, many universities, many graduates but the quality of these graduates is low. When I hear the grammar, the way people mix up tenses and all that, it is something else, because in those days, a lot of premium was placed on your composition of sentences, you don’t mix past tense with present tense, everything was well analyzed and impacted into the child. For example, when you talk about calculating, the way I was taught, I am even faster than those who use calculators today.
For years I did not allow calculators in Chrisland. You are taught to do your calculation quickly and mentally but now things have changed. They are not as good as before; so in that regard the quality has gone down.As for our educational system in Nigeria, actually I don’t know where we are now. I am sorry because there is so much confusion, as if we don’t know where we are going.
Even the government is pulling the private schools always from the public schools. The government is for all and those of us who are trying to do something good in the private schools should be encouraged and the public schools should emulate what is good in what we are doing; not to ignore us and say this is private, they are charging money and all at that. In those days, the ministries were giving what was called grants-in-aid; so with that they were able to run both schools without charging us too much. The government can support us so that we make our services more affordable although I have never discriminated against any child on the basis of background or inability.
When i first started the fee was so low that some parents asked m, ‘how will you manage to give our children the best with these low charges?’ So each time I collected fees, I will put aside salaries and then for any project and allowed parents to pay whenever they could. The staff members were saying ‘mummy the way you are doing people will not pay, you have to make sure you are strong about it and make sure that they pay at resumption of new terms’ but I was lucky that I had so much in favour of what I was doing courtesy of my husband even though we did not have all the facilities like good electricity supply.
Our secondary school, our full boarding school, we have to provide electricity and we spend millions on diesel. If the government was giving us electricity supply, we have boreholes, we can provide water for the children and this will be easier, better and cheaper. In fact, we have many challenges but God has seen us through it all and we are grateful.
What is your take on sex education in the curriculum?
You know the way we were brought up not to talk about sex, not to discuss it; it was actually a taboo to discuss it, and to expose children to what you called sex; you can’t discuss it at home because you were not expected to know what is happening. But now things have changed. If you don’t even discuss it now, the children are exposed to so much; if you know what those children know, it will marvel you; so I believe the way everybody is going about it now we need to focus on what God guides us to do. We cannot be explicit but we can guide them, we can guide the children in a very soft manner that will put it across to them, because temptation can arise from the way you arouse their curiosity; so persons and schools must be cautious the way they talk to children about sex.
Educating them is different from protecting them. The way some people, adults play with young ones is part of the evils prevailing in the society. In the society now, if a father can molest his daughter, somebody who is old even to have this girl as his own child, if he is tempted or allowed, can do negative things.
The government needs to be aware that the curriculum is not all-encompassing. Many things need to be reviewed and it is a pity that when the government is taking decisions, they don’t invite us, who are parents, grand parents, apart from being owners of secondary and primary schools. They should call us so that we can have a joint meeting to see how we can review the curriculum including sex education, sex awareness. Whatever we need to tell the children should be a joint effort and we can do it together and bring out the best way to present it to the children because right now everybody is saying this, let’s do it this way, let’s do it that way, causing more confusion. We need to work together to find solutions. You say you are not going to talk to your child but her friends, her peers are already exposed through the internet. Nowadays, the little ones are busy playing with their phones. When you try to find out what they are doing, you discover it is conversation, they are chatting with their friends and they enjoy doing that more than interacting with their parents. So we need to put heads together to find a policy that will bring real education, positive education to the children and not make matters worse by exposing them to more danger.
It is pertinent to guide the children but not in a way that will arouse their curiosity and then they want practise it. We can’t shy away from it anymore. When our parents never talked about it, we never discussed such a thing, but if we don’t do anything now, the Internet will expose them to it. But by the time we the educators and the government join hands to arrive at the proper solutions, we will get a good way to reach the children and educate them. This not just sex morality. Right now what you hear our young ones say or discuss is really frightening, very frightening. So we need to work together. It is no more a question of this is a private school or this is a government school. We are all working together for the same purpose, that is, to educate our young ones and bring out the best in them so that when the time comes for them to enjoy adulthood the world will be a better place for them. So there is the need to educate the children and let them know the best way to take good care of themselves, the way to reject pressure so that that if any pressure comes their way, they will know how to protect themselves. Parents, schools and government should work together to educate the young ones and us.
So many things are happening. In the society, we hear of and see the way the young ones now drink, drug themselves and flirt. So there are many things we need to watch out for and try to tackle before the society becomes very rotten.
How do you feel that Chrisland is 40 years?
First of all I feel grateful to the almighty God because it is through grace and guidance that Chrisland is what it is today.
Most of what I did in those early years were done under inspiration, pure inspiration and I was very lucky to have good people whom I now call members of the Chrisland family who joined me and many of them are still with me today. The Chrisland family has grown in leaps and bounds. In those days, I never advised, but I allowed the school to be adviser, to advise itself. I believe I was doing God’s work because I did not start Chrisland to make money; I just wanted to serve humanity in the field of education, good education.
The emphasis from the beginning was quality education. So after sometime God asked me to invite one of children to take over and I feel grateful to God for His guidance because the passion the present M.D. has is so strong that he carried the banner higher than I.
Where do you want to see Chrisland in the next five to ten years?
You know by God’s grace we have started a university in Abeokuta. We are going to our third session. We want to encourage our children to continue with quiet education that we have given them; that is what our vision is and our mission is quality education all around that will be world class, that will be so good that our children will not need to go abroad except we have interlink educational link with some universities and they want to be exposed, they want to go and learn and add to their studies in Nigeria.
Academics call for curriculum review
By Paul Adunwoke
Academic professionals have called for a review of the Nigerian school curriculum as this would help to improve the education system and promote excellence.One of them,, Prof. Wale Omole, speaking at Chrisland Schools 40th anniversary and launching of a book titled, The story behind the glory and public lecture with the theme ‘education in the 20th century and now; the future of the Nigerian child,’ held in Muson Centre Onikan, Lagos, guest speaker at the programme, said education must recognize agriculture in order to create values if the country truly want to improve.
The Guardian editorial board chairman said: “The issues are self value and value chain which means Nigerians should use all natural resources to be productive and truly bring value to ourselves. All we are doing now is to import things we do not need to import things. We need to create values in our agricultural sector to feed ourselves, feed Africans, and the world. Why did we go to school if we cannot create valves for ourselves”.
“For individual values we need to build our integrity; go for trains, capacity buildings now; there are values and models teaching can impact and we can translate it to our children. The stealing we have in our government officials and other places is because we do not have value; value person will never steal money because he wants to add value. What we need to do is to start to add values to our children starting from kindergarten.”
The former Obafemi Awolowo University vice chancellor said the existing curriculum was brought in after industrial revolution in Britain in 1709 and there was need to change it to improve learning in Nigeria.
He added: “It is not relevant to us anymore because we are advanced; they should also change language of communication in the learning process. We have not review the curriculum, which has been in existence for over 100 years; it is very late but never too late for us to change. We need to communicate with our indigenous language to tell our children the real subject matter, character, honour and integrity to starting from kindergarten to tertiary level.”
The founder of the school Mrs. Winifred Awosika, stated it is a limited liability company incorporated for the purpose of providing educational services to the children from kindergarten to tertiary level.
“Chrisland School had a very humble beginning. It was established on the 3rd of October 1977 in the boys quarters of the founder in Ikeja, Lagos, but no distant time the school had large population and begin to open other branches”.
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