I Became A Teacher By Design –Oni | Independent Newspapers Limited
Newsletter subscribe


I Became A Teacher By Design –Oni

Posted: May 26, 2015 at 1:29 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

While many owners of private schools are scrambling for quantity, in terms of numbers, one woman who has braced all odds to become a household name in the sector, Mrs. Modupe Adeyinka Oni is more interested in quality and she deliberately decided to have the number of children she currently has.

From one pupil over 19 years ago to 300, Oni, proprietress of Standard Bearers Schools,(SBS) Lekki, has been able to groom excellence in her students. She speaks with Sam Anokam about how she became a teacher by design.

How did it begin for you?

Mrs Oni

Mrs Oni

Firstly, I had my primary education at the staff school of the university of Ibadan. I was privileged to go to school at a time when there were a lot of expatriates in the university and so my primary experience was that of a very diverse community both in the student and the teaching staff. We were not exactly an international school but we were taught along the lines of an international school and for me, my primary years are my best years in education. From there, I went to Queens College Yaba, Lagos. I sat for my O’ Levels and from there I went to International school, Ibadan, and on to the University of Ife and I studied Fine Arts.

Technically, I’m a painter but somehow, God changed my part because when I came to Lagos looking for a job, I wasn’t able to get a satisfactory job in the arts. I guess as the last resort, I accepted a teaching job with Corona School, Victoria Island and I worked there for 13 and half years. Technically, I was not trained as a teacher. I became a teacher by design because even though I grudgingly accepted the job, within three months of teaching, I knew that I love working with children. I loved affecting their lives and was able to impact them positively.

I remember with great memory a young girl in my class when I came into the school, she was so introverted, she wouldn’t even look up at anybody not even her peers, but within a  space of a term and a half I was able to sufficiently put a smile on her face and draw her out of that place where she had no self esteem and she began to see something good about herself. And that was great motivation for me that you can affect children’s lives by what you say to them and what you do with them. What I did with Temitope always remains one of my greatest achievements even though it’s been such a long time. Every child like Temitope I have met ever since, I have used the lesson I learnt in how I connected with her to bring them out. When people come to SBS today to say their children are shy or withdrawn, I just say leave that, she will be fine because it’s now a way of life. Children are not meant to be shy, it’s always something that pushes them in that direction. It could be lack of attention or too much attention. Sometimes when you have children in quick succession, one feels abandoned. These are things that in society we really don’t look at closely but it does affect the child and even though I am not a psychologist, I sort of know how to work with children to get them to feel good about themselves and once they feel good about themselves, they feel good about everything else. That was how I ended up in teaching.

What actually influenced the establishment of SBS?

I would say it was just something that God wanted me to do because left to me, I was very happy in Corona, it was a great school, and I enjoyed my time there but you know time and chance happens. I just found myself in a place where I was questioning certain things and at the end of the day, I just thought this is the time to get off being an employed boss and get on the entrepreneur boss. Even though I am not entrepreneurial by nature, I’m a teacher by nature. It has been an interesting journey.

We are about 19 years old, going to 20. I started with just one; my own son, Yimika, in January of 1997.  It was a long term for us because my son cried a lot. His elder brother was going off to corona everyday and he had no friends to play with but God’s grace prevailed because I was ready to go and register him in another school, I just happened to speak with my pastor, Tunde Bakare who advised me not to do that. He encouraged me and we got over that bad patch playing games with ourselves and the next term we got two girls who enrolled. My son didn’t care they were girls but just people to play with and that was our story. We are not one of those schools that can boast of and say we became a success story overnight, it was a painful journey but it was a painful journey that has a lot of good memories but the learning curves has been very distinct because at every curve that we had to go through praying for change, we had become better and I think that the only thing that is constant in life is change . I’m at that stage in my life where whatever that is going to come, let it come. It can only be for my good. Nothing shakes me anymore about Standard Bearers.

Education is changing so fast and rapidly all over the world, unfortunately Nigeria has been out of touch with it for such a long time. And so getting back in the mix with what is happening globally is taking a bit more out of us. For example, the whole world knows that technology is not just a tool that children learn to use, technology is actually the pen of tomorrow. If you don’t get them to be technology savvy and compliant, it will be a problem for them.

What is your vision for SBS?

We are on the verge of accomplishing the physical in the sense that we are about to embark on a project to put up a state of the art bespoke learning environment that is 21st century compliant in every way. It is a beautiful building and it has all the facilities that a child could have. For example, in our new facility, dance is something that we do here as a subject, so we actually have a dance studio in there. Robotics is something that we feel children need to get into because technology is also important. Language is something we have learnt through neuroscience that children between the ages of two and 11 can actually learn to speak six languages. In our new facility, we will be teaching various languages. We will not depend on people to do the teaching but will depend on technology to be doing the teaching. We will have a lot of interactive software that we will allow them to learn at their own pace.

What are your thoughts concerning the general educational sector?

My concern is that we have all let it slipped. I have moved away from pointing fingers and saying government let it slip because I feel that with every successive government, we saw it going down. We talked amongst ourselves. There are a lot of things that could have been done. what I feel government should do at this point in time is to go back to the foundation like the nursery and primary school and try to fix it there first. A lot of them cannot read and that is the crux of the matter and they cannot read because they haven’t been taught to read so, the question here is how are they been taught to read? We need to go back and see how the teachers are teaching and probably get the teachers the right tools to teach them.

Government has tried. It is not every person that needs to go to the university to have a good and happy life. If you look in the UK there are a lot of trade schools, and in UK , they encourage their people to go through trade schools-to learn plumbing, paint. It takes the burden off everybody trying to get into the university and let the best minds go to the university. If you look at a country like Finland that I admire and I wish to visit, they have one of the best educational systems in the world but it is said of Finland that if you want to be a teacher, you have to be top of your class, just like it is difficult to get into medicine, for them it is difficult to get into teaching because both are dealing with life. They need to find a way of attracting young people who like myself ventured into it over 30 years ago and loved it. If the civil service was kind to teachers, I’m sure they would have people like myself who will be willing to go into the civil service because they know they can have a good career path. It’s a process that we pray they will get right but it is going to take a lot of work and there is no quick solution in the education sector.