Helen Elelagu: At Louisville, Excellence Remains Our Hallmark

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Louisville Secondary School in Gwagwalada, Abuja is one of the few schools where discipline is the watchword and excellence, the hallmark. Principal of the School Helen Elelagu takes Stanley Nkwazema  through the ten years journey of the school

How long have you been with the school?

I will say I was one of the pioneer staff that started this school with the late Principal, Reverend Sister Fagbemi on the 30th of September 2006; we are 10 years and some months now. I was here in the first five years but left in 2011 and I am here again on my second missionary journey.

Why do you place emphasis on discipline?

The beauty of a person lies in the character of that person. If you really want to be successful in life, you need discipline. You must be disciplined to be hard working. We try to let our girls know that there is nothing they can achieve in life without discipline. If you really want to leave legacies, remembered for life, you need discipline. I think what people admire most here is discipline. Sometimes when people talk about discipline, they relate it with being strict. I tell people they can be strict but the word I use for it is firmness. What I do with my girls is that I let them know why they should do what they are asked to do. They need to understand the reason behind what they are asked to do and what not to do. They need to accept it and believe it to live it out. I don’t coerce them, I teach them to know it. We also let them know that they need it to be prosperous in life.

How has academic performance been in the last 10 years?

We are doing well for now, but you can never say you are satisfied till you get 100 percent. We are waiting for 100 percent. We will be very satisfied when all the students get all A’s but at the same time, we appreciate that the girls are doing very well and excelling in different parts of the world.

How are parents reacting to the high level of discipline here?

Deep within them, they are happy. That is what they saw that brought their children here. When you talk of discipline, no one enjoys it, but we need to be successful. At the moment, it pains, but when they sit back to evaluate it, they are in support. I am not surprised at what I observe or get as feedback when they say we are too strict. I know they appreciate it. Interestingly, I attended a Catholic School. Marymount College Agbor in Delta state and went to University of Nigeria Nsukka. I am a Lioness. I studied Biochemistry, Microbiology. I have combined Honours but did PGD in Education. I joined the religious life as a graduate. After my profession, I was asked to do a Diploma n Education. When I was at Marymount, it was already taken over by government. So, I would not compare that to what we have today. I will say that the Catholic Schools are doing very well. When you have a Catholic sister or priest in a government school, you also see the difference because they put in that touch of discipline. We have such discipline during my days in secondary school. Though, it was a Government school at that time, we had an old girl of that school as the Principal, so that discipline was still there because she was trained by Missionaries. Today, the school has gone back to the church.

Some say co-education hinders quality education. Do you agree?

I don’t understand why people should be against Co-education. We must also have separate schools for boys and girls. They all have their advantages and disadvantage. Some people are not versed to single sex schools because they say that when they come out from there, they are shy, timid. I don’t believe in that. It depends on the training. I don’t think that any girl from this school will go out to the larger society and be timid, not relating well. We have to strike a balance. Apart from the fact that they are only girls, our staff strength is still a mix of male and female. They still have that touch. Whether it is coed or single sex, I encourage that there should be a standard which is very important and I will encourage the Federal and state governments to put in a lot in education. It is an area a country should invest in. It is not all about reading books; education should be wholesome, both in intellect and building the character of the person.

What legacy do you hope to leave at Louisville?

The legacy I am going to leave here is that every child in this school will have freedom to exercise her strength, freedom to explain why she is able to do, or why she has done what he did. There are two kinds of discipline; some people discipline children by coercing them, forcing them, I don’t believe in that. I discipline a child by teaching that child, letting you know the advantages and disadvantages of whatever action and then it is left for you to now take that decision while I guide. I am here to guide, I expect that any child that passes through me should be courageous enough to defend whatever action he or she takes. I have expelled many students in the past; we have sent about two out this term. There are certain standards we expect from a child and if after several cautions, disciplinary measures and there is no change, then the child will leave so that we can concentrate on the serious ones. So that she won’t pollute or cause others to join her way

How long have you been with the school?

I will say I was one of the pioneer staff that started this school with the late Principal, Reverend Sister Fagbemi on the 30th of September 2006; we are 10 years and some months now. I was here in the first five years but left in 2011 and I am here again on my second missionary journey.

Why do you place emphasis on discipline?

The beauties of a person lie in the character of that person. If you really want to be successful in life, you need discipline. You must be disciplined to be hard working. We try to let our girls know that there is nothing they can achieve in life without discipline. If you really want to leave legacies, remembered for life, you need discipline. I think what people admire most here is discipline. Sometimes when people talk about discipline, they relate it with being strict. I tell people they can be strict but the word I use for it is firmness. What I do with my girls is that I let them know why they should do what they are asked to do. They need to understand the reason behind what they are asked to do and what not to do. They need to accept it and believe it to live it out. I don’t coerce them, I teach them to know it. We also let them know that they need it to be prosperous in life.

How has academic performance been in the last 10 years?

We are doing well for now, but you can never say you are satisfied till you get 100 percent. We are waiting for 100 percent. We will be very satisfied when all the students get all A’s but at the same time, we appreciate that the girls are doing very well and excelling in different parts of the world.

How are parents reacting to the high level of discipline here?

Deep within them, they are happy. That is what they saw that brought their children here. When you talk of discipline, no one enjoys it, but we need to be successful. At the moment, it pains, but when they sit back to evaluate it, they are in support. I am not surprised at what I observe or get as feedback when they say we are too strict. I know they appreciate it. Interestingly, I attended a Catholic School. Marymount College Agbor in Delta state and went to University of Nigeria Nsukka. I am a Lioness. I studied Biochemistry, Microbiology. I have combined Honours but did PGD in Education. I joined the religious life as a graduate. After my profession, I was asked to do a Diploma n Education. When I was at Marymount, it was already taken over by government. So, I would not compare that to what we have today. I will say that the Catholic Schools are doing very well. When you have a Catholic sister or priest in a government school, you also see the difference because they put in that touch of discipline. We have such discipline during my days in secondary school. Though, it was a Government school at that time, we had an old girl of that school as the Principal, so that discipline was still there because she was trained by Missionaries. Today, the school has gone back to the church.

Some say Co-education hinders quality education. Do you agree?

I don’t understand why people should be against Co-education. We must also have separate schools for boys and girls. They all have their advantages and disadvantage. Some people are not versed to single sex schools because they say that when they come out from there, they are shy, timid. I don’t believe in that. It depends on the training. I don’t think that any girl from this school will go out to the larger society and be timid, not relating well. We have to strike a balance. Apart from the fact that they are only girls, our staff strength is still a mix of male and female. They still have that touch. Whether it is coed or single sex, I encourage that there should be a standard which is very important and I will encourage the Federal and state governments to put in a lot in education. It is an area a country should invest in. It is not all about reading books; education should be wholesome, both in intellect and building the character of the person.

What legacy do you hope to leave at Louisville?

The legacy I am going to leave here is that every child in this school will have freedom to exercise her strength, freedom to explain why she is able to do, or why she has done what he did. There are two kinds of discipline; some people discipline children by coercing them, forcing them, I don’t believe in that. I discipline a child by teaching that child, letting you know the advantages and disadvantages of whatever action and then it is left for you to now take that decision while I guide. I am here to guide, I expect that any child that passes through me should be courageous enough to defend whatever action he or she takes. I have expelled many students in the past; we have sent about two out this term. There are certain standards we expect from a child and if after several cautions, disciplinary measures and there is no change, then the child will leave so that we can concentrate on the serious ones. So that she won’t pollute or cause others to join her way