Corona Agbara at 25: Principal Emphasises Continuous Improvement

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For 25 years, Corona Secondary School, Agbara has continued to maintain a culture of excellence among staff and students, evidenced by the quality of results and graduates it has produced over the years. The Principal, Mrs. Chinedum Oluwadamilola, who briefed journalists, on the school’s exploits these 25 years, also shared her dream for the country’s education sector. She also shed light on the school’s recent partnership with the Goethe-Institut to support the study of German Language at the school, among other issues. Uchechukwu Nnaike reports

One of the recent additions to the Corona Schools Trust Council, Corona Secondary School, Agbara, Ogun State recently turned 25 and the anniversary coincided with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with the Goethe-Institut to support the study of German Language at the school.

Judging by the distance to the school from Lagos and the bumpy ride, one would wonder why anyone would take the pains to go that far for secondary education. However the beautiful neighbourhood and the serenity once inside the school premises make all the difference.

The Principal, Mrs. Chinedum Oluwadamilola, an astute administrator and easy going woman is an epitome of continuous personal development and hard work, having bagged chains of degrees and certifications with a PhD in view.

As someone that is passionate about teacher development, she said as a one-time monitoring and evaluation manager, she derived joy in seeing teachers improve and gradually become the kind of proficient teachers that the school is looking for.

She however expressed concern that a lot of teachers are demotivated in Nigeria, saying that when someone is demotivated no matter how much skills the person has, it doesn’t show because the person works from the point of view that he/she is not appreciated and there is no point putting any effort.

“I have had the opportunity of training teachers in the public sector. I have done that over the years and one of the things they keep saying is that ‘all these things you are saying how do we do them with about 80 or 150 students in the class’. So they are demotivated by the system even when they want to do something. So I think that generally government ought to give a lot of attention, they need to build more schools, more classrooms so that one teacher does not teach 80 students, there is very little he can do in a room that is meant for 30 students.”

Asked how the school has maintained a culture of excellence over the years, the principal said: “Corona Secondary School is the only secondary school owned by the Corona Schools Trust Council. The council stands for world class education, the ownership structure is different, it does not have a proprietor so every Corona staff is a stakeholder. That is ingrained in our heads that whatever I do, I do for myself. And then it is a trust, no expense is spared in training the workforce; in providing facilities for the schools so there is this culture of continuous improvement.

“That is a major reason why the secondary school has lasted this long. As at today, the people who have worked here for over 15 years are almost 50. So there is continuity that is quite remarkable. People who have been here from inception are here and it is not like one odd person, so attrition rate in Corona is very low. That continuity helps the school to maintain a tradition, a culture that whoever joins cannot dilute.”

Asked why the school opted to teach German Language, Oluwadamilola, who has been with the school since 1993 said the world is a global village and because most of its students go abroad for their university education, and in the process of searching for universities abroad, the school realised that in Germany there is quality education with little or no tuition fees, but language is a big barrier. “They have schools that teach in English but you have to speak the language to live with them.”

According to her, the German teacher established a rapport with officials of the institut and after several correspondence with the school, they visited the school to inspect facilities on ground and then they came up with the MoU.

“They have sent many materials to teach German, ordered for equipment and furniture for language room for us. It is an initiative that stated in 2008 and other countries are benefiting from it, including schools in the US, Europe because it gives the students the opportunity of getting into good schools, getting scholarship offers, going for excursions, teacher exchange programmes and a whole lot.”

Commenting on the standard of education in the country and the role of education inspectors in improving teacher quality, the principal regretted that education inspectors are almost always behind the time. “They ask questions about things that no longer exist so we try and explain what we are doing. You can’t be inspecting people with the aim of raising and maintaining standards and you are like two decades behind. So yes they come but for a school like Corona, they make no difference. They feel intimidated so they don’t have anything to ask.

“Inspectors should get up to date education, but they are battling with so many things and that may not happen until the government takes a strong grip on education.”

She maintained that if inspectors are diligent and have integrity, there are so many schools that should never exist. “One of my dreams is that one day, there will be a thorough cleansing of the education sector just like the banking sector by Soludo. When that is done, more than 80 per cent of private schools will close; they don’t have qualified teachers, facilities; we have schools sharing compound with mechanics; we have traders setting up schools and all sorts of things.”

While reliving some of her memorable moments in the school, Oluwadamilola, said getting students to score A* in about seven subjects or having a student score100 per cent in mathematics, physics, biology, chemistry in an external exam is amazing.

“When students have been taught so much that they finish everything they can find for O’ Level and they start studying A’ Level stuff, that is mind boggling.”

On how the school instils discipline in the students, she students all forms of distraction are eliminated and the students are always busy with school work, extracurricular activities or community service. She cited an example of how she had directed one of the photography students to record proceedings of an event held at the school on a weekend to be shown at the assembly ground for those that did not witness it. But the student reported back that a teacher seized the laptop he was using because he was doing it at the wrong time despite the fact that the assignment was given by the principal.”

In terms of supporting public schools, she highlighted some of the activities of the students in a number of public schools in the community to include donation of books, construction of classroom block, science laboratory, home economics laboratory, toilets, sinking of bore hole, donation of furniture, among others.

“We don’t encourage students to call their parents to write a cheque, for their community service, what we do is the students will use part of their pocket money. They come up with what they can do to earn money, sometimes they come up with car washing, they wash our cars and we pay or they come up with a movie so staff will buy tickets or mufti day, for instance on such days I will wear a T-shirt and jeans and we pay them to wear it. On visiting days they sell things. They make us go to the market and buy all sorts of things and parents will buy so they raise money. That way, they take ownership of the projects.”

On the future plan of the school, she said “we are open to opportunities, innovations; we are open to things we can do that will help our students be better equipped for life outside school. And so since we are on the look-out, there definitely will be new things.”