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‘PPP model is best alternative to tackle Nigeria’s massive education sector challenges’

Omotola Oni

Meadow Hall Foundation (MHF) is strategically set up to improve the educational outcomes of the Nigerian Child. In this interview with KELECHI EWUZIE, Omotola Oni, head MHF explains the vision, mission of the foundation and their future plans to enhance teacher quality and advocacy for the teaching profession. Excerpts:

What are some of the sustainable initiatives/projects that Meadow Hall Foundation have executed?

As a non-profit organisation in the education space, Meadow Hall Foundation is part of Meadow Hall Group, an educational company with five subsidiaries. At MHF, our main aim is to improve the educational outcomes of the Nigerian Child through enhancing teaching quality, changing mindsets about teaching and advocating for the teaching profession.

MHF partners with individuals, public and private organisations to implement sustainable initiatives, projects and programmes that support teachers, students, schools and communities. MHF has impacted 41,850 school pupils, 56 school leaders, and 331 schools, trained 1,395 teachers and adopted 1 school.

We have done a lot in this regard mainly by implementing various developmental and advocacy-based initiatives. Some of our programmes include our Graduate Teacher Trainee Programme (GTTP) where we develop young graduates for entrance into the education sector. As part of their training, these trainees learn about best educational practices and also teach at Meadow Hall and Ilasan Primary School (our adopted school).

This programme has an absorption rate of over 96 percent into the education sector. We have a Teacher Professional Development Training (TPDT) whereby teachers from low-cost private schools and public schools receive free training on the best 21st century teaching and learning practices and skills. We also have the School Adoption Programme (SAP), which is a school improvement programme aimed at providing support (infrastructure, adequate teacher training, teaching aids and educational technology) to public school students and teachers. Our pilot adopted school is Ilasan Primary School in Jakande, Lekki and some of the developmental initiatives that have been carried out there include building of a school fence, training of their teachers, distribution of resource packs, book donations, ongoing library and sick bay projects.

According to the United Nations, there are about 13.2 million out of school children in Nigeria. Through our Core Centre programme, the Foundation develops and partners with churches, mosques and other organisations to provide out of school children a comfort zone where they can have access to acquiring the core academic skills of numeracy, literacy and ICT including vocational skills and civic education.

The first centre which kicked off on the 18th of February, 2019, is providing education to at least 35 children. At the moment, the Foundation is collaborating with other organisations for the establishment of more Core Centres across the country. We also have the Education Convention and Inspirational Educator Awards (INSEA).

Looking at the policy of education in Nigeria, do you think it is working? What is the way forward?

Nigeria has a robust education policy which unfortunately isn’t working as it deserves to. Successive administrations have brought up various policies to improve access to education, often not looking at enhancement of quality of education. In 2004, the free Universal Basic Education (UBE) was introduced and the present administration launched a free school meals programme for pupils. However, these policies have not translated to improved quality of education. The achievement gap has continued to widen and deteriorate.

It is my view that government should adopt the Public Private Partnership (PPP) model which has relatively been successful in general infrastructural development in the country; this could be a way forward for the education sector.

Corporate bodies should adopt schools to improve on the infrastructure and also ensure that the quality and standards of teaching are increased and sustained for the benefits of the pupils. The Government in collaboration with the private sector should come up with a qualitative and structured school adoption policy, a win-win policy. This will endear corporate bodies to the public and serve as an enviable corporate social responsibility programme.

The third sector should be more involved in the education system; as the invaluable roles of NGOs, religious organisations cannot be overemphasized. Teacher motivation and professional development should be the number one priority of our education policy because the quality of your educators determines the quality of your education.

As a concerned stakeholder in the development of human capital, how best do you think the Nigerian education system needs to be managed to achieve productivity and competitiveness?

Nigeria has three critical challenges; these are lack of energy (electric power), leadership challenge and inaccessibility to quality education which is the most critical. If we can get education right then every other thing would fall in place. Education is our main tool for human capital development. This begins from ensuring and being intentional about access to quality learning by our citizens, the encouragement of lifelong learning.

This cannot be achieved without looking at the quality of our educators; the quality of your educators determines the quality of your education. Any nation that does not prioritise the professional and personal development of teachers is set to wallow in mediocrity and underdevelopment.

The creation of an enabling environment, motivation and opportunities for the qualitative training of teachers are the basic elements for the achievement of productivity and competitiveness in the Nigerian education system.

What is The Inspirational Educator Awards (INSEA) concept all about?

The Inspirational Educator Awards (INSEA) is aimed at elevating the teaching profession and motivating school teachers and school leaders to continue to strive for excellence in their profession. The awardees emerge from a merit-based competition and are rewarded for their commitment and passion for the profession and for the children. We award Four Million Naira in total to inspirational educators; the Foundation encourages teachers to strive for excellence and professionalism always.

One of your targets with The Inspirational Educator Awards (INSEA) is to support teachers to achieve professional excellence. How successful have you been in this regard, considering the challenges that public education system still grapples with in Nigeria?

Teachers in Nigeria are heroes and heroines. The teaching profession is one that has been looked down upon in our country. Teachers make the doctors, lawyers, engineers and all other professions but they are the most marginalised. Over the years as we receive thousands of nominations for INSEA we read the story of several inspirational and outstanding educators.

Individuals who have sacrificed and gone out of their way to ensure our children get the best possible education within their capacity and ability. Despite the challenging environment these teachers thrive and we believe that they deserve to be celebrated and encouraged.

In the last two years, we have been able to show that a teacher’s reward is not just in heaven; it starts from here. By the time we hold this year’s INSEA, Meadow Hall Foundation would have awarded 13 inspirational teachers and school leaders with the sum of 13 million naira.

What are some of the strategies you think managers of Nigeria’s education system need to put in place to boost opportunities for teachers, students to achieve their full potential?

The first thing is for them to be genuinely passionate about the development of the education system. Without passion and empathy, we cannot make appreciable progress in the sector. Also, quality assurance must be established in the Nigerian education system. This must be a key focus for policy makers and all stakeholders.

Private sector engagement is very important. In addition, Government should put incentives in place for corporate bodies and individuals who support education especially the public school system while also ensuring that private sector involvement is well structured and planned.

Furthermore, education must be made affordable and accessible for all. Quality improvisation is essential at this point. An example is the Meadow Hall Core Centre initiative where we partner with churches, mosques and other religious organisations to provide spaces where out of school children can access quality learning.

We provide the learning content and teachers while our partner organisation avails us their space. These religious bodies are spread all over the country, so this serves as an opportunity to reach the nooks and crannies of Nigeria with quality education and give our citizens access to same.

Managers of the Nigerian education system must think outside the box, they can’t just fold their arms; they must be strategic and tactical.

What is Meadow Hall Foundation’s Education Convention about? How can someone participate?

Meadow Hall Foundation’s Education Convention provides an opportunity for teachers, school owners, parents, government officials, policy-makers and other stakeholders to gain fresh perspectives on pertinent educational issues from their interactions with educational experts and various stakeholders. This is the third edition. The theme for this year’s convention is “Accelerating National Development Through Education”. It promises to be a refreshing opportunity to discuss national development through education.

The Education Convention comprises: keynote address, panel discussions, workshop, networking and professional interactions. Some of the topics to be discussed include Optimising Students’ Achievement through Formative Assessment, Preparing for Disruptive Teaching, Features of an Outstanding School, Leveraging on Digital Marketing to Promote Your School, Cyber Safety, Parental Control in the Digital Space, Improved Access to Quality Teaching and Learning, and Closing the Achievements Gap in Education.

The education convention is set to hold on Saturday, 4th of May 2019 from 8am to 4pm at the Landmark Event Centre in Victoria Island, Lagos. The education convention is a must attend for teachers, school leaders, school owners, parents, government officials and policy-makers.

What are the key drivers of the successes Meadow Hall Foundation have attained in this INSEA project?

The number one key driver of our successes has been the passion of our founder Kehinde Nwani to see that the teaching profession is elevated. She is committed to professionalism and excellence in teaching. Another is the continued support of our various partners made up of both government and the private sector over the years, who believe in our vision and have thrown their weight behind us.

Meadow Hall Group has played a very strategic role in ensuring the success of INSEA. Most important of are Nigerian teachers who against all odds have been resilient, resourceful and inspirational in ensuring our children have access to quality education.

Where do you see the INSEA project in the next five years?

In the next five years, through INSEA we would have identified and awarded teachers and school leaders not only within Nigeria but the whole of sub-Saharan Africa. INSEA will be a major source of inspiration and motivation for educators on the continent; it will be a global flagship award in the educational sector. It will stimulate the interest of more youngsters to go into the teaching profession, because by then the project would have significantly and positively influenced the narrative.

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