Dr. Ekua Abudu Akinsanya is the Administrator of Greenwood House School, Ikoyi, which recently commemorated its 25th anniversary. In this interview with Funmi Ogundare, she explained how private school owners can partner government in ensuring quality education and gender equality so as to promote the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of 2030, among other issues. Excerpts:
Your school recently commemorated its 25th anniversary, what would you say has been your biggest achievements over the years?
First is the fact that we have consistently over the last 25 years delivered high quality education with outstanding results. We have an enviable academic track record and in every year of our existence, we can boast of scholarships to various secondary schools without fail. Second are the outstanding students the school has produced over the years; young men and women who got a solid foundation from Greenwood House School and are getting accolades in secondary schools; young working fathers and mothers, dynamic men and women who are independent, creative and productive. We equip every child with the confidence and open mindedness to pursue their dreams wherever that may take them. And our alumni are thriving. A few examples: Ore Ogunbiyi, who spoke at our anniversary event, went on to Cambridge University, has authored a bestseller, ‘Taking Up Space’, which will soon be turned into a movie, and is now a speechwriter to Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo. I went to the opening of a boutique hotel over the weekend, and the general manager was an ex-Greenwood, Wendy Famoroti; there is also Temidayo Seriki, who is a main voice, teaching boys how to be men; similarly, I got a phone call recently that another alumnus, Solomon Amba got the Mayor’s award in Maastricht for Human Rights. This is just to mention a few. The list is endless and I am proud to be a part of all their journeys. Greenwood House School was the first school to introduce the Letterland reading scheme in Nigeria, and we are the pioneer school to adopt the school angel security system. Over the years also, we have recorded many firsts in music, sports and dance and other academic competitions, as well as spelling bee. I am proud of that sense of family we have achieved over the years. We see ourselves as a close-knit community of parents, children and staff.
What drives your passion for education considering the fact that you have a law background?
Once we started the school, I knew it would be worth a career change. I believe the sense of fulfilment you get in this profession is second to none. The fact that you can help young children develop the skills and characteristics needed to become productive, fulfilled and contributing members of society, and see the result, increases my passion daily. The opportunity to positively influence, impact and mould so many lives meant I had to give it my 100 per cent commitment. I went on to study Montessori at the London Montessori Centre and later got my Postgraduate Certificate in Education from the University of Nottingham. I subsequently partnered with the University of Nottingham and another institution to start their Postgraduate Diploma in Education training in Lagos. However, I do miss law now and again, but fortunately, there are legal aspects to consider in every business and I make do with that.
Are there challenges, if any, how were you able to overcome them?
Of course there have been challenges along the way. Finding staff who keyed into your vision and have the same standards as you, was a major challenge. We are lucky to have identified some solid teachers from the beginning and they have remained loyal. Continuous professional development, training and retraining were the only way to overcome this challenge. Lack of proper regulation in the sector meant competing with all manner of schools. Random government decrees sometimes make planning difficult.
Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently to ensure that your school is able to compete globally?
There are always opportunities missed that one should have taken up, that in hindsight, would have given us a better advantage. For instance, we had the opportunity to purchase the land next to the school, but we did not take it because we thought the asking price was too high. Looking back now, that was a mistake, as the land has increased in value, 500 per cent, but more importantly, we missed the opportunity to develop more first-class facilities for the school.
What fond memories of the school have you had over the years and what efforts have you made to galvanise support from the old students?
There are so many lovely memories of the school. When we finally finished setting up the school, Mrs. Durand, my aunt and co-founder and I were so happy. There are so many memories of laughter. I especially love the beginning of every new academic year, when you see excited familiar faces eager to start and new faces joining our Greenwood family. I have fond memories of all our events; sports days, fantastic plays, world book day, tea parties etc. I also particularly love, though a day of mixed emotions, each graduation ceremony because you see how these young children have developed into beautiful intelligent people over the years they have been in your care. One very exciting memory of recent was the day one of our alumni brought her son to school. We were all so happy to welcome the second generation of students. My jaw ached at the end of the day and I realised it was from the wide smile I had on my face for the whole day.
We are lucky to have developed a very active alumni association. The President, Victor Ezeamama and the Vice-President, Nefe Etomi are very dedicated. We have had successful annual reunion events. The alumni formed an integral part of our 25th anniversary celebrations especially on day two when we had parents and alumni take over teaching in the school. It was so heart-warming to see their enthusiasm in giving back. We also had a novelty football match between fathers and alumni, and the alumni won on penalties. They are a very productive group, keen to steer the resurgence of their old school.
What key corporate social responsibility project(s) has your school been able to address within your community and how would you describe the response of its members?
We are very intentional about teaching our children the importance of giving back to society. We have different projects. Every year, our primary six pupils go to Ile-Aanu School for the Physically Challenged. They entertain them and other children from the school for the blind and distribute gifts to them. Every year, we donate furniture and books to government primary schools. Yearly also, we have ‘Crazy Socks Day’, where children raise funds and also bring presents in shoe boxes, which we give to various sets of children, for example, children with cancer, children in Massey Street Hospital, children in Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps in Bornu State and children in Makoko. We have supported Makoko for the last three years. For our 10th anniversary, we renovated the Girls Modern Primary School in Obalende; new roof, revamped their nursey classes and built new toilets. This year, to mark our 25th anniversary, we will be renovating the Eko Akete School in Campus Square, Lagos. We intend to renovate their library, sick bay and change the furniture in the JS1 class. Giving back is essential to who we are.
How do you think private school owners can partner government to promote the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)?
I believe strongly that private school owners can partner with government in the areas of assisting to give quality education and promote gender equality. When I was President of the Association of International School Educators (AISEN), we made sure that every school had a CSR project most of which involved partnering with public schools. We also invited teachers from the public schools to some of our trainings for free. I know that AISEN as well as APEN (Association of Private Educators in Nigeria) are ready to work with the government to achieve its goals by partnering to train teachers, develop a strong national curriculum and set minimum standards in this sector.
Where do you see Greenwood House School in the next 25 years?
A household name nationally and internationally: a solid modern school with traditional values, serving and meeting the needs of its second and future generations effectively.