Building Life Skills in Children with Art

Modupe Adeyinka Oni

Yinka Olatunbosun reports on an encounter with the Founder, Standard Bearers School, Lekki Phase I, Mrs Modupe Adeyinka Oni, who has a passion for a well-rounded early child education bouyed by art

Unknown to many, Mrs. Modupe Adeyinka Oni, holds a strong background in visual art. But that’s just one of her quiet revelations. Her school, Standard Bearers School (SBS) a private primary school is considered by many as Lekki’s best kept secret.

The school just qualified for a global technology contest, Technovation Challenge with the creation of an app to raise funds for the education of the less-privileged children.

The all-girls Brainsquad team will make a final pitch at Silicon Valley, California at the finale. Oni linked the victory so far to their creative art education which prepares each child for effective communication, critical and creative thinking as well as problem-solving skills.

“Creativity is important to us because of my background,’’ she began. “Before I became a teacher, I studied art. I can paint, act and I felt it was the best learning per week per month experience that prepared me for life.

“I was privileged to go to University of Ibadan Staff School in the 60s when the university was like a haven for expatriates, being the first Nigerian university. My best teacher was the music teacher Miss Ray. She came to school with the guitar and always used to sing.’’

Oni also recalled that school concerts were like mini-festivals,not meant just for entertainment. They contribute to a conducive learning environment.

“In my primary school, concerts were big because confidence building was a big thing. As I have seen over the years, when you build the child’s confidence, the child believes in himself and there is nothing that he or she can’t do. At SBS, every child in year six will sing and most of the time, the parents are shocked,’’ she revealed.

Oni pointed out that the BrainSquad girls won not necessarily because their app was the best and original, but their art of presentation was unparalled.

“Their presentation was spectacular. They were not nervous; it was just another day on the stage. I was surprised to see some girls from other school who looked terribly shaken. I felt sad for a girl who was so nervous that she left the stage. I didn’t realise how much putting them on the stage can bring,’’ Oni remarked.

At the last academic session, over 100 pupils were enrolled in the school. Winning had always been a part of the school success stories.

“Two years ago, one of our girls won the Toyota Art Competition. She came first in Nigeria with a painting,’’ she added while taking this writer on a tour of the school. Every classroom had warm-coloured walls that complement the smiles on the faces of the teachers and children.

“The paintings executed by the pupils lined the walls of the corridor leading to her office. She made a quick stop-over at the display board which paradesexceptional students who have earned scholarship opportunities in top ranking secondary schools.”

For Oni, art is an undying part of her being. Part of her retirement plans is to resume painting and write children’s books. She recounted one Eureka moment when she helped an autistic child discover his talent in music. Another pupil liked to draw cartoons during his mathematics lessons.

She divided the boy’s exercise book into two layers to allow him to solve sums and draw at the same time. Oni has learnt to engage the children on various art platforms without stifling their individual talent.

“Dance is a skill and a language of communication in this 21stcentury. We have an exceptional dance instructor and choreographer from the Spirit of David. Their final performance is a dance performance. We teach our pupils life skills such as cooking, baking, laundry and we teach them about their personal space to protect them from abuse,’’ she revealed.

Oni spoke further on the five building blocks for SBS namelycreativity, innovation, leadership, entrepreneurialship and technology and how these are more practical in equipping the child for the future than theoretical knowledge.

“If Brainsquad wins, it will be Nigerian team winning two years in a row. If the app goes to Google play, we will raise a tremendous sum to keep indigent children in school. We will provide scholarship and health insurance. A lot more children who desire to go to school should go to school,’’ she said.