Private schools are the relief to the rot in our National education system, opine some people. On the other side of the divide, others argue private school owners are only taking advantage of government inefficiency and neglect of the education sector, amassing profit in the process. Their motivation is hinged on turnover and nothing more. Whether the former and later argument is valid we cannot validate, deliberately so. We are not part of the debate.
As we cover education news here in Edugist and provide various services to some of the top schools in Nigeria, I discovered something working with these schools; running a school goes beyond the pecuniary benefits derived from it because of the vital role schools play in the society and every school owner has a unique story to tell.
This is why at Edugist we regularly interview school owners to share their motivation, challenges, long-term goal and some exclusive stories admirers and adversaries don’t get to hear everyday. In this series of School Owner Desk, I sat with Mrs. Adedamola Balami, CEO of Gleaming Star School, Akonwojo, Lagos whose story and foray to starting her school is unique and passion for education actuating as you will find out in this interview. She apprised the downside of school owner solely focusing on profit thus:
If you are about only financial benefit for starting a school, the school would immediately be lacking in its ability to deliver on present knowledge and never adapt to advancement in educational techniques.
Please read excerpt below.
Editor’s Note: This interview got about twenty comments and was one of our top posts before our site was hacked. We are glad to be back with our security fully in checked. Efforts are ongoing to retrieve more interviews and other posts that are missing on the Blog.
Elvis Boniface of Edugist: Could you please introduce yourself?
Adedamola Balami of Gleaming Start School: My name is Adedamola Balami, I am a wife, a mother of three and I am the C.E.O of Gleaming stars school.
EB: Could you please describe your motive for establishing this school?
AB: Gleaming Stars School was born out of passion, I had a list of things I would like to achieve as a teenager and running a school was one of them, so much that I had a name for the school already then only to find out that some schools were existing with that name.
I realised that a lot of the leadership issues we have in Nigeria are foundational in nature so we thought having a school and influencing children’s thought pattern will help in correcting such foundational issues. The absence of values, self-identity and the sense of self-worth within our society accounts for a lot of moral issues that we are faced with.
EB: What are the goals and mission of the school?
AB: Our vision is to raise leaders of thought and conscience to impact the world
Our mission is to Equip Boys and Girls of today with knowledge, skills and confidence to create a better world by supporting the development of the whole child intellectually, emotionally, socially, spiritually and physically – through dynamic partnership among staff, families and the greater community.
Our core value is what we call our ACRES of gold: Academic excellence, Cleanliness, Care, Confidence, Reliability, Empathy, and Self-discipline.
EB: Using this school as a case study what are the challenges faced running an educational establishment?
AB: I’d say, inflexible mind sets.
Modern educational systems are evolving and are more fluid, there is no one size fits all technique as practiced before, the learning environment must be flexible such that the individuality of the child is brought to bear and systems tailored to cater for his/her strengths and develop weaknesses must be adopted to bring the child into proper understanding of his or herself, the world, society through critical thinking, problem solving and application to immediate and communal problems.
This dictates the teaching-learning process, it is important for all stakeholders to be informed; this I believe will afford parents the ease of giving schools correct information about their children, also allowing the children especially at the preschool stage to attain the different developmental levels and learning stages without being rushed in order to be like another child who has his or her own rate of attainment. The focus should be on each individual child.
Another challenge is the personnel, if the environment is called a school, then the teachers should be able to speak and write simple and correct English, since it is the generally accepted language of learning, however, the impact of poor educational structures over time affects all so having the right quality of people becomes a challenge despite the large pool of CVs and graduate that are available to us.
EB: How do you effectively manage these challenges?
AB: We have entrance examinations that we do before enrolment which is not only to check academic ability but physical, psychological, social, and emotional development of the child, this helps us engage our parents better and together we agree as partners in raising our young stars.
In the area of personnel, we do in-house training after recruiting as much as we send our staff members out on relevant training and conferences.
EB: It is believed that a school business is one of the most lucrative ones in the world today; How authentic is this assertion?
AB: The main reason for setting up a school for anyone should not be for financial benefit, because it is beyond that, schools more than most businesses require a lot of ploughing back to have continuous improvement, at what point do you say your students have attained?
Because we are dealing with people, in particular children, though the end goal is defined the idiosyncrasies vary to such an extent that a very robust system must be developed, maintained and improved upon based on consistent feedback and appraisal.
Hence, if you are about only financial benefit for starting a school, the school would immediately be lacking in its ability to deliver on present knowledge and never adapt to advancement in educational techniques. I would advise that they consider other areas and not short change their children. However, what makes a business is its ability to generate profit. It is good for those who work to reap the reward of their labour; the greatest reward in education is to see the impact of ones students in society when you engage in developing lives and giving it your best, it is only good that you benefit from it and financial reward is a good one among other benefits.
In the area of personnel, we do in-house training after recruiting as much as we send our staff members out on relevant training and conferences
EB: Madam, if I may ask to what extent does this school cater to the academic needs of special children?
AB: We at Gleaming Stars School practice the Montessori system of education at our pre-school level and this I believe caters for some special needs. Gleaming Stars School is inclusive and as much as possible, to the best of our level of expertise and available facilities, we make room for some special needs. We also engage in training to facilitate our involvement in this area.
EB: Schools all over the world are adjudged standards based on the availability of learning facilities and the quality of teaching staff.
What are the learning enhancing facilities that you have put in place to facilitate understanding?
AB: The school is ICT compliant and this makes teaching learning process easier and faster both for teachers and pupils, the focus is on the individual child and not the number of pupils in class.
We have a well-equipped ICT classroom where pupils are guided to explore the world through technology, we have a well-equipped music facility where children learn and master at least one musical instrument coupled with voice training, our up- to- date science laboratory is to enhance the hidden genius in our stars to blossom and our arts studio is to enhance creative capability, our extracurricular activities at Gleaming Stars School are intentional : Taekwondo, table tennis, badminton, basketball, health and safety club, we intend to include football amongst others in the near future.
EB: Do the teaching staff here meet the standard prescription for this profession?
AB: At Gleaming stars school, it is important to us that our teachers have education background so entry level for teachers is NCE, we have people with higher degrees and we encourage more studies.
EB: What skills are required of the teachers to come into the system?
AB: Attitude is everything, much as we require education background, being teachable as a teacher is priceless because the educational system is evolving as such, requires forward thinking, flexible and passionate personnel.
EB: How often are teachers sent on self-development training to ensure efficient lesson delivery in the classroom?
AB: We work with education consultants who send us their training schedule at the beginning of each term, this makes budgeting easy and since we have provision for training our staff are sent based on needs, it is not about whether they merit it or not, it is a part of the system.
EB: There is this erroneous believe that teachers rewards are in heaven, how do you sympathise with this notion?
AB: First, I have realised that teachers cannot be fully paid for all the sleepless nights spent in preparing lesson notes, thinking about some children that are not theirs, planning an engaging and fun classroom whist managing their own personal, family and parenting lives, nothing gives you much joy as seeing someone in their thirties well placed in the society and knowing that this same person passed through your tutelage at two to three stages of their lives. however, there should be some form of reward here on earth, teachers should have access to HMO, accommodation allowance or staff quarters, some free time to be able to apply themselves to other profiting skills, and an intentional teacher’s day celebration among other benefits that can be considered.
setting up a school for anyone should not be for financial benefit, because it is beyond that, schools more than most businesses require a lot of ploughing back to have continuous improvement.
EB: How attractive is the salary structure of the school?
AB: I think the staff will be able to answer that, nevertheless, we are at par with the industry standard and we have room for improvement because we believe that as we grow as a school, our staff grow with us.
EB: How often do teacher receive promotion and what are the criterion?
AB: We have a standard mode of operation, line of reporting, key performance indices, appraisal system and functional HR that help facilitate this.
EB: Are there programmes in the school that help discover the uniqueness in a child?
AB: Yes, Like I mentioned earlier and this is the reason for our tagline at Gleaming Stars School ‘every child counts’ because we know that there is uniqueness embedded in every child and our responsibility is to discover and harness it early.
It does not matter whether it is through the private sector or not, we need to be more intentional about developing our education sector, all stakeholders should be willing to give what it takes to create a better future for the next generation
EB: How would you describe teachers’ classroom management style?
AB: Our style is child centred, working with us requires that you are ready to understand each and every pupil in your class and their peculiarity, this we believe is the way to facilitate effective teaching learning process. It also impacts the quantity of pupils per class.
EB: What method and devise does the school use to ensure quality assurance?
AB: We practice management by walking around, we undergo training, we have a reporting system in place and periodic appraisal.
EB: There are some major trendy crimes that have characterised the education sector such as examination malpractices, student teacher amorous relationship, bullying etc.
Which of these has the school, experienced?
AB: We have had instances of some teachers introducing laws that will diminish children’s self-esteem and confidence, we made necessary correction and tried to align the persons to our practises and when they could not adjust, we let them go.
Examination malpractice for us is anathema, we have measures in place that prevent this should someone consider it; and every staff is well informed on where we stand when it comes to upholding our ACRES of gold. (core values).
EB: There usually is solid relationship between a school and community within its location.
In what way has the community benefited from your school?
AB: Working with ‘We Count Foundation’, we have adopted a school within the community where we give the pupils stationery for their session and computer systems; we have visited and supported an orphanage within our community and we intend to do more because education should influence the community at large and it is a continuous process.
EB: In your own opinion do you think our education sector in the next 20 years will compete with others in advanced countries?
AB: Educational development is advancing as rapidly as social development in this modern world. It does not matter whether it is through the private sector or not, we need to be more intentional about developing our education sector, all stakeholders should be willing to give what it takes to create a better future for the next generation. My desire is that all schools be committed to excellence, that is the true meaning of passing on the torch, we require a paradigm shift as any advancement should strongly illuminate the student bearing in mind that the teaching learning environment is as important as the content; causing them to see further and achieve greater rather than slight detours producing pockets of growth from championing institutions as we have now.
To overcome the dark, the rate of illumination must be faster, which means we should be passing on the blaze.
School: Gleaming Star School
Phone: 08160161658, 08181019122, 08079244761