‘How science education can eradicate corruption in Nigeria’
What is STEM and how does it work?
STEM means Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. In our own case, we prepare our students in STEM education; so we place a lot of emphasis in foundational science and mathematics courses like Algebra 1 & 2, Geometry, Calculus, Biology, Chemistry and Physics. We have a highly trained staff that caters for this and we have an advanced exchange programme with our mother institution in the United States. Our students spend time in the United States in the best environment available.
Recently, President Muhammadu Buhari announced the country’s intention to invest significantly in Science, Technology and Innovation (STI). Fortunately, we have blazed a path in this direction. The Good Samaritan Society of America, which is the owner of the school, strongly believes that Nigeria has the human and natural resources to join the world’s great nations, as an economic and industrial powerhouse if significant emphasis is placed on STEM.
In STEM, students are not only well trained in the sciences and in mathematics, but they are trained to also have multiple, high-quality experiences in which those mathematics and science skills are applied. We believe that it is essential that they have positive experiences in solving real world problems.
How can STEM help Nigeria’s education with all the challenges in our environment?
I appreciate the fact that we need to be honest about the situation. The production of science students, will not by itself, solve the problems in Nigeria. We must address all the deficiencies together to get the desired result. If only one problem area is solved, other areas would prevent the country from advancing.
So certainly, corruption must be addressed. However, a well-educated population, especially in science and technology, would go a long way in helping the country in not accepting and tolerating corruption, with the understanding that we can create our own future. Science and technology is the key that enables people to control and create their own future and I believe Nigeria would be able to advance and the adoption of science and technology would go a long way in accomplishing that.
There are so many Nigerians doing well in the U.S. How can Nigeria make the transfer necessary to be able to perform at a higher level?
That is one of the key elements that we brought from the U.S. that sets us up apart from other schools at the American International School.
It is one of the features we brought to the campus here from the United States, which creates the enabling environment that gives our students the opportunity to experience, that enables each student realise his or her own potentials. We encourage them to accomplish the task of being what they can be. We delve into those unique things that work in America and bring them to our classrooms and to the environment to help our students excel.
How long have you been in Nigeria? Where do you go from here, as far as this programme is concerned?
We have been in operation for three and a half years. So, we are going into the fourth year of operation. Our oldest students are in their 10th grade; so, we would not graduate any student for another two and a half years, at which point, our first graduates can go into the world, to any university overseas or anywhere they might want to go.
How well are the students coping with to the programme?
We have seen these students accelerate very proficiently in certain areas that I would not have expected. I believe that our students would be able to compete favourably with other students in
other parts of the world. They are very proficient in many areas and they even surpass American students in many respects. I think our students will very well succeed.
How many Nigerians do you have in the programme and at what level are they engaged?
We have 41 Nigerian students in the programme distributed among four classes – seventh, eighth and ninth grades – and we have a number of Nigerian staff on campus teaching. The students are the main focus and most of them can succeed anywhere in the world they want to go once they finish six years here.
Do you have any programme in place for children from poor homes?
We have a few students we call Scholarship Students. We went to the local areas in the vicinity of the school and invited the top academic students from each area to apply for the scholarship. Perhaps, the school administrator can tell you how many of them we have at the moment, but I can tell you, the scholarship students are among our best students; they do very well.
How do you train your staff?
Training the teachers is one of our top priorities and we do many different things to train them. Before each term, our Academic Director and myself or someone from the U.S. would come and present a series of trainings for the teachers. Another training programme we run requires that we find the best teacher training, advance training programmes and we send teachers to the United States to attend and we pay for them. We don’t compromise the training of our teachers and we offer them the best available in the world.
In addition to these, we have regular teacher improvement efforts within the school, in which each teacher would sit down in another teacher’s class and provide them with observations and feedbacks. Every time I visit the school, I sit down in each class and provide the teachers with feedbacks. I tell them, ‘here is what you have done well; here is what you can do better’ and so on and so forth.
Teachers’ training is high priority and there is a lot of emphasis that we attach to it.
Do you have any plan to take this programme to other parts of the country?
Right now we are not fully established here. So, we are not ready to expand beyond this ground. I think it will be a brilliant idea to replicate this in order locations, but we are not at that stage yet.
How affordable are your fees?
Compared to the very expensive schools, we are affordable. But like you mentioned, for the rural students, many of them cannot afford it, except through scholarship.
Do you have any sort of support from government?
Only as much as we had to go through the registrations and documentations we needed to establish the school. So we worked with the local government to formalise our papers. Apart from these, I’m not aware of any other form of support or collaboration.
Can you accommodate other schools that may want to tap into this programme?
I think we are much more interested in Nigeria succeeding. So, anything we can do to help, I will personally be strongly in favour of doing it. But it has to be case by case in order to understand how we can help a particular school. Do we have resources? Can we afford to do it? We have to go about it case by case. But it is a very good idea, in my opinion.
What would you say is your opinion about Nigeria?
I would say Nigeria is not realising its potentials and education is the best chance for Nigeria to overcome the difficulties that keep it struggling.
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