Mrs. Edna Obaze is the Executive Director of Emerald Schools. She explained to Funmi Ogundare why schools should have a mentor/mentee system in place so that when students have issues, they can always discuss freely with their mentors. She is of the view that government should support the private sector when it comes to education, among other issues
The importance of a mentors in the lives of the youths cannot be overemphasised, as they help to support parents in enhancing their lives and also reinforce good values in them, as well as promote confidence building.
Additionally, mentors help children grow and close the social and/or economic opportunity gap, as the Executive Director of Emerald Schools, Mrs. Edna Obaze said once a child is enrolled into the school, he or she is assigned a mentor which might not necessarily be the class teacher, but another teacher that they can discuss private issues with.
According to her, "We have to do a background check on the kind of person you are before we assign a mentor to you. So every teacher in the school is a mentor. Before we make you a mentor, we have seminars so that the children can have people to talk to when they may have issues. But it is not necessarily the class teacher. It is somebody outside of the class . With the mentor, you can discuss private issues.
"Teenagers have a lot of issues because it is an impressionable age. We purposely do that so that they can have an interaction. These mentors go as far as helping in their academics aside the social aspects of their lives. The child can also report the class teacher to the mentor. With that we found out that the children are more comfortable."
She said her school has been living up to its corporate social responsibility to impact its immediate community through construction of road leading to the school, giving full scholarship to some children of the community, as well as embarking on community development and assisting a public school with different projects.
"In this school, we are very much in touch with the community. We do the roads leading to the school. We have some children from this community that are on full scholarship in the school. One will be graduating very soon and one has just joined us. Aside that we have a government school that is not properly run which is affiliated to us and our students are the ones taking care of the school.
"We have our community development and our students go there to teach the children. We gave them desks and chairs because when we first got here and visited the school, the children were sitting on the ground, they didn't also have toilet facility. When you go to the school now, you would see quite a number of projects that Emerald school has done."
Obaze however, stressed the need for government to throw its weight on the private sector when it comes to education noting, " For example, we cater for our own power and water supply ; and grade our roads . The government should assist us because we are also assisting them in the area of training and development of the environment."
Asked if she shares the view that teachers are often undervalued and underpaid despite global recognition, the executive director said, "It depends on the school, I don't believe that they are under paid. The money that comes from the school is what the children pays and that extends to the parents. For example, in our school, we pay dividends to our teachers and contributory pension. For this month, they are getting leave bonus, aside their salary and even Christmas bonus. So with that I dont think they are undervalued."
On effort being made by the school to achieve the new global education goal (SDGs), she said, "All those have been taken care of considering our mission and vision . We on our part, right from when the school was established, we are producing children who are global citizens. Because of that, our curriculum are tailored towards that. Our children also go out for competitions even outside Nigeria. For instance, they go for the GIS programme in different countries and our children go out there and compete favorably well.
"Aside that, we know that most of our students school in Nigerian and abroad, so we prepare them adequately for that. From our experience, by interacting with other children and benchmarking other schools, our children will not have problem with that at all because they have been well trained for that."
Obaze attributed the success of her students in the West African Senior School Certificate Examinations (WASSCE) to collaborative efforts between the school and the parents, discipline and not cutting corners.
"If you trace the history of the school, we are very particular about discipline and academic excellence. We put everything in place to make sure that everything that we stand for comes out the way we have highlighted.
"For instance, in academics, when the children are in school, under normal circumstances, their exams are done merged together. This means that a year 12 student will be sitting together with a year 11 student and they are in the same hall doing different exams, so you do not even have the option of checking what another person is doing .
"When we give results to our children, they are their results, not doctored in any way. In Emerald schools, we don't want to satisfy the parents at the detriment of their children. We are very particular about their growth and development and that is why whatever we do, we are very truthful about it because we know we are building lives which is very important.
"When our children go for exams, the results they take home is their work, so we don't care if your parents pull you out just because you are failing exams. It is better to present who the child is to the parents so that they can understand. It is all about collaboration and work on the child.
"Even with the facilities that we have today, when some of these children got into the school, they were very weak academically, but we do a lot of work on them. For instance, we organize extra classes for them, and they must work from morning till evening. The success is a lot of things all together."
Empowering the students through vocations, leadership programmes and playing musical instruments, the executive director said are added advantage as these would make them self sufficient by the time they live the school rather than looking for white collar jobs.
"For every child in this school, once you come in, you must be able to play two or three musical instruments and those that are not so good in the instrument, they go into the choir. There is something you must be able to do.
"Of recent, we have the vocational school where the children can learn a trade and acquire entrepreneurial skills, so that by the time they leave the school, they will be self sufficient, they will not be looking for white collar jobs. They also go to motherless homes to serve for two weeks, attend leadership programme at the sea school. It is based on the leadership programme that we actually pick our prefects," Obaze stressed.
Asked where she sees the school in the next five years, the executive director said, "When you come here next time, it is not what you see today that you are going to see next because we are always thinking of what next.
"About our results , last year, we aimed for 100 percent, but we had 93.7 per cent and already we have given ourselves a target that we are going to move further up next year. It is beyond saying 100 per cent. What is the quality of the 100 percent? That is what we are working on now."