Sefunmi James-Ogbe is an educationist and co-founder of the Cypress Hillside School, Lekki, Lagos. 

In her three decades of establishing the school, she told Daily Sun, recently that education requires “110 per cent attention from whoever is interested in it.”

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Assessing the level of seriousness by the Nigerian government towards the educational sector, Mrs Ogbe said, for them, education should be like the water they drink. After all, it is the same educational system that produced the leaders of the nation, so, they have no reason not to treat the sector well.

She submitted that the government should be brought to show a level of accountability and made to take responsibility for education in Nigeria.


How would you describe this government’s handling of education?

We cannot say that they are not serious but they have not put 100 per cent attention on education. Education requires 110 per cent attention from whoever is interested in it. Education, to government, should be like the water they drink. This same educational system produced the leadership of Nigeria today, so, we must also bring them on board and to a level of accountability of taking responsibility for the proper education of Nigerians.

Considering the economic situation in the country, do you think parents still value quality education for their children?

Yes, they do. That is why a lot of parents don’t mind the distance these days. Parents have realised that good education costs money and are willing to put their money down for their children to get it. They want their children to be able to compete favourably with other children globally.

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What is your opinion about Nigeria’s educational system?

A lot of things have gone wrong in our educational system. The nation is lagging behind, educationally. We are a decade behind where we should be.

And for us to advance to where we should be, we must understand the problem the system is facing. We must reflect a decade back and be willing to find solutions to the problems. If we want to go by the educational system of Finland that we all are proud of today, we should realise that they actually dug deep into their past and found the solutions they are projecting now.

If Nigeria will ever break this record, we must also go to the past and fish out our problems and solve the problems of the past.

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What is your school doing to attract, train and retain quality teachers?

We have realised that the training of teachers is a prerequisite for us to sustain the value and quality of our teachers. So, we train and retrain our teachers from time to time with a good standard.

The quality of the teachers is a key factor in the total upbringing of students here and that is very important to us. We have a minimum level we can’t compromise upon entry. We also ensure that in-house training is regularly done.

Looking into the future, how are you preparing pupils for 21st Century education, considering the increase in disruptive technology?

Disruptive technology is very relevant to the advancement of every 21st Century child. You cannot compare the education of yesteryears to the education of today or the education of today to that of next decade. It is important to understand that disruptive technology in education now is a tool in the hand of every child. You cannot put them behind but tap into them and leverage on them. When we are talking about the global world, we are talking about technology and the child being at peace with what the world offers. Therefore, it is a tool in the hand of every 21st Century child.

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Are you referring to our history?

Yes, we must dig deep into our history and solve the problems that are identified from the past and build from there.

For the inactive child, what learning approach would you propose?

There is no dull child. We all learn at different paces. Aside from the pace, a child is learning, you also have to put the temperament of the child into consideration.

What is the makeup of that child? You need to find out before you arrive at conclusions over any pupil.


What inspired you to set up this school?

The vision began much earlier than that. However, the platform to building on that vision began 30 years ago. I remember those years when I was a child and meeting another child was a point of excitement to me. Being the lastborn in a family of eight and having no one to play with connected me to the vision through the vacuum I experienced.

The vacuum of having no younger one to play with, you see your older siblings playing together and you are quite young, you then wonder if the world is against you.

As I said, that brought me the passion of connecting with children, caring for them and playing the role of a mother. While growing up, I remember my older siblings having children and how I connected to serving them by taking caring of their children.

Of course, most of those children are graduates today. It has been a very fascinating journey. My love for children is the main reason behind the establishment of the school.

I remember how I practically converted my grandmother’s bench to a chalkboard. I would turn the bench upside down and write on it. At times, I wrote on the wall and would call on our tenant’s children to bring their books, and I would teach them and play with them.

I found joy in taking care of my cousins whenever their parents dropped them with me after school. As a matter of fact, the first two pupils of my school came through that. Aside from being an educationist, I am a passionate mother.

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What distinguishes the school from other schools?

One of the distinct features of the school is the leadership-based education we offer the children at an early age. Not only do we offer them the education theoretically, we ensure that our day-to-day life in the community exemplifies what we are talking about to them. We don’t only talk about leadership in the abstract. We bring principles of leadership into place, all written and stated on the wall for definite action and interaction with the children on a daily basis.

Although we operate both Nigerian and British curriculums, we are not limited to just what has been handed over to us as a curriculum, we have infused leadership principles to ensure that we develop children that can lead in the world ahead.

We are very particular about character-building. The character of humility is one of the things that we know leaders of this age do not have. We realise that the moment you hand over to them the opportunity to lead, pride comes over them but when we teach them from this early age, it becomes part of them and something they work with.

Where do you see the school in the next 10 years?

I see the school competing favourably with renowned schools nationwide. I make bold to say that we have contributed our quota to the development of the nation as well as moulded children with good values who are in positions of leadership today. And we have continued to do so. Running the school has given me fulfilment.

I see it contributing more towards solving the educational problems of Nigeria. I see the children as role models upholding good values.

There is nothing you will give to a child that the child will ever forget. We function on the principle of teaching a child and, when he grows, he will not depart from it.

Research has shown that children have different learning abilities. Could you share what your school is doing to integrate different ways of learning into your curriculum?

We put every child into consideration, starting from the point when the child joins the community. Before a child joins the school, we must have assessed the child and come to understand the learning style of the child. We must have interacted with the child before he enrols into the school. We use differentiated learning approach to ensure we bring every pupil to the same learning objective. You can be an active learner, not too active, or a child that is not even interested at all; yet, we have an objective to achieve. We then put consideration on their levels of learning and use different approaches to ensure that we bring everyone to the same point of learning. We ensure that no child is left behind.

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Queenta N. Duru Iruka
A certified Senior Reporter/Advert Executive Evergreennewoline, Creative Writer/Graphic Designer/Political Analysts/ Entrepreneur & Fashionista



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