Lead British International School, Abuja, recently celebrated its 10th anniversary. Damilola Oyedele writes that the highlight of the weeklong event was the honour accorded its alumni who have excelled after school
For the management, staff, parents and students of Lead British International School (LBIS), Abuja, marking the 10th anniversary of the school’s existence was worth rolling out the drums for. Indeed, they rolled out the drums and laid the red carpet for their alumni who distinguished themselves in their university education, and bagged First Class. LBIS now has the credit for the first female aeronautical engineer from northern Nigeria, Miss Hauwa Umar Usman. Usman, who finished from LBIS in 2012, graduated from the University of Brighton, United Kingdom with a First Class honours in Aeronautical Engineering in July 2017.
Other honours students include Mr. Ahmed Sani Dan-Bello (First Class, Law, University of Hertfordshire, UK, September 2017), Mr. Ahamefula Brendan Rochas (First Class, Mechanical Engineering, University of Manchester, UK, July 2015, MSc, Advanced Mechanical Engineering and Diploma of Imperial College, London, May 2017), Mr. Ismail Tahir Mamman (First Class, Biomedical Science, University of Surrey, UK, July 2017), and Ms. Adama Olumo (First Class honours degree in Civil Engineering, University of Brighton-June 2017)
The Founder of the School, Hon. Wole Oke, in his address harped on the need for the encouragement of the private sector to boost the country’s ailing education sector.
He however noted that establishing a school cannot be motivated by profit alone, but rather as a way to impart values in developing children and establishing legacies.
“You may have a gigantic structure but what is important is what comes out of it. Legacies are important. What value are you adding to others? Our focus is that when you give us your little boys and girls, we return them to you as responsible men and women,” he said.
Oke, whose parents were both teachers, revealed that his decision to start LBIS, which has since expanded with a campus in Ibadan was borne out of a need to give back to the society. Oke himself started out as a teacher on level one, step two with a salary of N109.
“The only gift they (parents) gave to me was education, which has given me power, resources and has brought me to this stage. I asked myself, would I continue to be a teacher? I left the job and joined an accounting firm. After all we have had successful people in my hometown (Eesa Oke, Osun State), Chief Bola Ige and others. I was posted to Suleja,” he said.
He added that the firm wanted to close at some point after the military coup of 1985, but he negotiated to keep the branch open and head it in return for profit sharing.
“I made good money and thought what I would do with it. I bought the land,” he said and secured a loan from a bank with which he built the Abuja school. “The loan has since been repaid,” he added.
“The only way that occurred to me, to give back to the society that has given me so much, was to open a school that would teach children to be responsible, knowledgeable and future leaders in whatever sphere they choose,” Oke said.
The school, which has graduated over 500 students, now boasts of about 350 employees and consistent in meeting its tax, pensions and other obligations to them and to the authorities. It comprises early years section, primary, secondary and advance learning/pre-university. It boasts of standard classrooms, music room, ICT and science laboratories.
The Ibadan school also kicked off just at the beginning of the 2017/2018 session.
The Guest Lecturer, Professor Abdullahi Y. Shehu, who spoke on the ‘Fortunes of Education in Nigeria’ said several Nigerians who benefitted from the public school system have contributed to the decline of the public education system.
Shehu is former Director General, ECOWAS Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA) and currently Director, Olusegun Obasanjo Good Governance and Development Research Centre, National Open University of Nigeria, Abuja.
He highlighted the constitutional duty of the government towards education to include directing its policy towards ensuring that there are equal and adequate educational opportunities at all levels, promoting science and technology, striving to eradicate illiteracy; through free, compulsory and universal primary education; free secondary education; free university education; and free adult literacy programme.
“Education contributes to national development by developing in individuals, values which make for good citizenship, including honesty, selflessness, tolerance, patriotism, hard work, and personal integrity, all of which provide the nuances for good leadership.
“Despite the recognition of the importance of education in development, the fact remains that either we have not invested sufficiently in education or we have mismanaged our fortunes in promoting education to our desired standards. Whichever is the correct perspective, our educational system has been characterised by misfortunes,” Shehu added.
Citing several policies of successive governments towards education, Shehu lamented that bridging the illiteracy gap remains a challenge particularly because of the high rate of illiteracy for the girl-child especially in Northern Nigeria.
“Over 85 per cent of the children of politically exposed persons are studying abroad; there is a dearth of technically qualified teachers at all levels; in short, “not only is the crisis-state of education in Nigeria is a threat to productivity, and commerce; it is also a threat to life and civil society” hence we have an ‘army’ of unemployed and unemployable youths that are potential cannon fodders for all sorts of criminality, including terrorism,” Shehu said.
He urged the government to declare a state of emergency in the education sector because it targets the children and youth, ensuring the future of the nation.
“It is understandable that there are competing priorities for government, and yet the resources are limited. What is required to optimise the fortunes of education therefore is to prioritise. In Nigeria, there seems to be a choice of priority between education and infrastructure. While I agree that we need infrastructure to develop, infrastructure is a product of good technical and vocational education,” Shehu explained.
The Head of School, Ms. Jacqueline Ranger, speaking during the inauguration of the Alumni Association, lauded the honours students.
“Our 10 years anniversary is a time for us to look back at our many achievements and successes whilst simultaneously looking ahead with increased determination and motivation. You give us more reasons to celebrate. You have made your families and country proud. Our students now know that they stand on the shoulders of giants,” she said.
“Having distinguished itself as one of the best schools in Nigeria, LBIS continues to transform education through the delivery of high quality education that supports our children in achieving the best possible outcomes. Our School Board, Leaders, Teachers, support staff and families are all passionate and committed to education and are driven to go the extra mile,” Ranger said.
The management of the school also used the opportunity to honour its long serving staff, those who have stayed between seven years and 10 years, including its non academic staff. The staff received gifts such as microwaves, televisions, and refrigerators.
LBIS vision is to produce the best intellectuals in Nigeria and a legacy. With the array of First Class honors alumni it already boasts of in just 10 years of existence, it is well on its way to achieve this dream.
It is however also important for the Nigerian Government to sit up and get serious about revamping the public education system. Education remains the most veritable tool to cause change in all sectors of national economy, and to guarantee a better future for the country.