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Lack of access to finance at reasonable interest rate affects private schools – Founder, Ladela schools

Ajala Angela [Mrs], is the founder and proprietress of Ladela Schools Abuja, has been on the education journey for over 30 years. She has worked across all tiers of the nation’s education system, from Nursery to Primary, Secondary, and tertiary levels. She lectured for over 11 years, and eventually sat on the Board of National Board for Technical Education {NBTE}, where she got immersed in the values for technical education and skill-building. In this interview with MARK MAYAH, she spoke about how parents can help support their children succeed in post-covid, and what the government should do to support the private education operators. Excerpts:

The world of Education has experienced so many rapid changes, what are the things you believe good schools must do to continue to deliver great services?

Good Schools must consistently deliver great services and this can be done by constantly reinventing, innovating, and researching current trends. If a school doesn’t have a continuous professional development, research, and development culture, it won’t be able to offer value to parents and students. Certain things are a constant – teacher quality, good leadership, having high expectations of students and teachers, and constantly evaluating performance.

How did Ladela cope during first phase of the pandemic?

Ladela School used many strategies to cope during the pandemic. We Participated in relevant webinars to stay updated and shared global practices; Re-tooled and upskilled our staff members by having a training each week that included mental health strategies for coping; Engaged in constant communication with our School community keeping all abreast of new happenings and just sharing inspiring posts and coping strategies for all; Had a mental health coach always available to support interested people; Organized team building and team bonding activities including prayer sessions together online; Looked at other investment options we could tap into as a group; Developed and deployed a Business Continuity Plan; Set up different teams for different tasks; Flattened our hierarchy and transited to a more inclusive approach.

What are the values and uniqueness of Ladela?

Ladela is a unique school because it has highly qualified teachers. Our teaching method and dedication to nurturing every child stands us out. We are constantly innovating and encouraging creativity, and our diverse and varied education offer

ings and services gives room for every child to thrive, from AI to coding, Art, music and drama, and even to scientific inventions to dance. Our co-curricular activities are carefully selected to build relevant skills in a fun way. Our curriculum is a rich mix of Nigerian/british, with Montessori mix in the early years. We also develop skills such as public speaking, critical thinking, emotional intelligence etc. This has contributed to our solid track record of academic excellence and high credibility as a School. Our values as a School are; Nurturing, Professionalism, Value, Innovation, Empathy, and Honesty.

What is your advice to parents who wish to support their children to succeed, especially POST-COVID?

Parents should help their children build resilience in order to help them succeed post-covid. They must teach the children to thrive, rather than cope, ensuring they get essential skills vital for future economic success, and are equipped with the skills needed to succeed in a postCovid world.

What are your future plans for the school?

Our future plans are to build a community that becomes the hub for excellent service delivery. We intend to have an entrepreneurial hub with practical solutions.

What is your advice to the government in the education sector?

The government should always include private education operators in key decisions affecting education in the country such as curriculum review, teacher training curriculum, continuous professional development process, safeguarding policies to ensure safety of all in the education community, etc. We also hope the importance of technical vocation education can be built into the school system.

What are the major challenges facing private schools in the country?

The major challenges facing private Schools are Lack of access to finance at a reasonable interest rate to help Schools scale-up, maintain standards and innovate. Another major challenge is getting good, qualified, forward-thinking and hardworking staff.

What is the way out of this dilemma?

The way out of these challenges I mentioned above is that the government should recognize the importance of education and dedicate a special fund at single-digit interest rate for the sector.

Getting good staff challenge can be addressed through institutionalizing continuous professional development for teachers in the industry. It is also time to overhaul the curriculum used in teaching our teachers at all levels and benchmark them against current market realities and global standards and trends.

What can we learn from what is obtainable in other climes?

What we can learn from what is obtainable in other climes is the importance attached to education and teachers. Once we situate the reality that a nation cannot develop above its human capital, then we will begin to see the importance of education.

What can the government do to assist private schools in Nigeria?

The government can assist private schools in Nigeria by providing an enabling environment for private schools to thrive. Issues like Multiple taxations, High-interest rate, Lack of power, Inconsistent policies, Lack of basic infrastructures, Insecurity, etc. If some of these issues can be sincerely looked into, then the sector will thrive better.

What is your take on the disparity between the fees payable in private and public schools in the country?

The disparity in fees between public and private schools is designed by the system. The government subsidizes and provides everything for the public Schools while the private schools are their own local government. They provide light, water, road, security through funds sourced at very high-interest rates, suffer multiple taxations etc. All these and more make the disparity a given.

What did you aim to achieve when you decided to establish a school?

My aim when I decided to establish Ladela Schools was to have a platform for nurturing and raising children who can think, solve problems and be humble and hardworking.

In terms of quality education, how would you assess Nigerian public and private schools?

In terms of quality education, I believe Nigerian public and private schools are doing their best given the circumstances each operates under. The quality of education private Schools especially provide is very high and this is evident in the way our children naturally top the charts anywhere they go.

How well do you connect with your students?

I connect with my students’ very well as I believe that if we first connect with the heart of a child then it’s easier to connect to their heads. I get personal with them so they can open up to me, I am particular in seeing them thrive in a safe and happy environment and so promote an open door policy.

If not academia, what other profession would you be in?

If not academia, I probably would have ended up a lawyer.

What do you regard as the highest point of your life?

The highest point in my life was when I became a grandmother, have never felt so happy and grateful to God.

Looking back now, do you harbour any regrets?

I absolutely have no regrets; I believe I am walking in God’s plans and purposes for me.

What would you like to be remembered for?

I would like to be remembered for always giving my best in whatever I do. I believe I serve an excellent God and should empty myself of everything deposited in me for the good of humanity.

What are the success stories of Ladela School?

The success stories of Ladela Schools Abuja are numerous. Is it when we were recognized and awarded by the FCT Government under Mallam El Rufai as Minister as the best run FCT Secondary School? Or when we got our first 100% result in WAEC for all our students? Or our recent move to our permanent site which is a dream comes true. So many things to be thankful to God for. We vehemently believe that every child has the potential for success, irrespective their current academic status.

We discover and nurture talents. We are well known for our professionalism and passion. We aim to give our esteemed parents the chance to balance family and work responsibilities with peace of mind and maximum stability. Our clear aim and purpose is to provide the best teaching and learning…

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