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Monday, 5 September 2016

‘’Our School, Not A Curricula-Pumping Factory Like Others’’-Oyebolu, Premier College’s Boss

Dr. Segun Oyebolu is a great scholar who believes the only way the culture of education can be
improved among Nigerian students is through qualitative teachings and wide scope of social media knowledge including choice of institution. The unassuming businessman of international repute is the proprietor of the wave making Premier College, Ijebu Ode, Ogun State. In this no-hold barred exclusive interview with National Enquirer, the academician who has interest in other ventures dissected some of the challenges facing our educational sector and why the Premier College is different from the packs.     

How did your journey of life begin?
My name is Dr. Segun Oyebolu, I obtained my first degree in Computer Science in 1992 from the then Ogun State University now Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago Iwoye. In 1998, I obtained my Master’s in Computer Science from the Pennsylvania State University, USA and got a PhD honorary causa from the University of Canterbury, United Kingdom. My impact on society has been chiefly focused on Technology Education and Children and it is noteworthy to say that in the whole of Nigeria, I was the first person to present and implement a statewide computer education project for high school students as far back as 1994 when I partnered the then Ogun State University and the Ogun State Government to introduce Computer Education into public secondary schools throughout the State.  This project, the first of such magnitude in Nigeria came about because of my extreme dedication to ensuring that no student graduates from our public school at the time without sufficient and life-changing skills in Computer Education. Abeokuta Grammar School, African Church Grammar School, Egbado College, Ilaro Comprehensive High School, Ayetoro, Ijebu-Ode Grammar School, Remo Secondary School, Muslim High School, Ijebu-Ode, St Brendans, Ogbere, St Anthony, Ijebu Imushin, Methodist High School, Arigbajo-Ifo, Iganmode High School, Otta were part of the early beneficiaries of this effort. This was a project that set the ball rolling in Nigeria and confirms that Public Private Initiative can indeed succeed in the Nigerian Education sector. In 2004, at the invitation of the then Ondo State Government, I returned home from Canada to implement the Ondo State Computer Education Project, a project that covered and connected over 300 public secondary schools in Ondo State. For our children to operate in the new world order and be significant players, they must be taught and be well grounded in technology education. This belief is our guiding principle at Premier College, Ijebu-Ode, a school I currently superintend as its Director and a member of its Board of Governors.

As an educationist, what are the wrongs in our Education system?
Like I said earlier, I have been involved in Education over the course of my life time teaching and managing technology aspects of education. Our country operates a severely defective, highly jam-packed curriculum to the detriment of our children. In Nigeria today, we overburden our children with too much to learn within just an academic term. We crammed their days with endless teachings and their nights with excessive home assignments. This perhaps is one of the reasons we end up with mostly student-robots on our streets. There is simply no room for the student to think as a person. All thinking has been done for him and the school forces these youngsters to memorize and cram the curriculum so as to do well in exams – nobody cares whether they actually know the subject. This poor standard and thinking is what Premier College, Ijebu-Ode has set out to correct. At Premier College, we allow a kid to be a kid. We have very generous times for studies and we allocate sufficient periods for play and individual time-to-think-things through.  We already have too many robot-minded graduates in Nigeria – graduates that cannot think a problem through, graduates that can hardly express themselves clearly even at job interviews, graduates that cannot write well, graduates that are more happy to learn hair weaving, nail polishing, ushering, event packaging and such menial activities because they lack the intellectual stamina to effectively contribute to society.

What’s the Unique Selling Point of your school, Premier College?
Premier College is a community that puts the needs of the students first and foremost. As a school, we aim to foster creativity in children through self-discovery and dissemination of the right education both in quality and quantity. Our commitment to academic excellence is second to none. Our students are the center of our learning process, they represents the core of our mission. We are a school building tomorrow’s global leaders. Recently, our school came 3rd in the Roche Forte L'Afrique International Spelling Bee Competition which took place at the National University of Benin Republic that featured 27 top secondary schools from 3 West African countries (Ghana, Benin and Nigeria). Aside placing 3rd overall, we were also the best performing school of the 9 schools that represented Nigeria at the competition. On the home front, in June of this year, our school also emerged 3rd in the International Kangourou Mathematics Competition conducted all over Nigeria by the National Mathematical Centre, Abuja. Not only did we come 3rd, 3 of our students also scored above 70 percentile in the same competition – these are results we are proud off. Without overburdening our kids, our kids are excelling on their own because we provide a robust, self-enhancing environment for them to thrive.

And what else can you say stands the school out?
Like I said earlier, a lot of things set us apart. As far as Nigeria is concerned, we are the only school that on weekly basis gives Newspapers to our kids to enable them understand what is going on around them and also improve on their English composition and comprehension. By making them read newspapers, we have definitely prepared their psychic to significantly improve their confidence in spoken and written English. My experience with Nigerian graduates’ poor grasp of English was part of what led to this early initiative. I am thankful to God that this singular effort has paid off greatly. The 2016 WAEC Result for our 5 candidates amply shows the effect of this effort as 3 of them scored A1 while the other 2 scored B2 in English Language. I am happy that a core part of our effort is already yielding fruit. Our school boarding unit operates like any normal home and not a dorm. Our House parents are genuinely passionate about the kids and their academic goals. They lend very good hands in the supervision of these kids ensuring they complied with school rules and overall goal of their being in school.  We offer free school uniforms, free daily lunch, free textbooks in all subjects to all students. We know for a fact that once a student has the needed tools to succeed, the rest of the journey is easier for him or her. Premier College takes the readiness of our students for higher education, works very seriously and will stop at nothing to ensure a continuous investment in learning facilities and creating such a stimulating environment for them to thrive and be competitive at all times. Our cardinal goal for science education is to consistently drive the “what if” question, to open our students to new discoveries and encourage creative solutions in sciences.  

 What has been your Students’ Performance in public examinations such as WAEC?
In the 2016 WAEC Examination, our worst performance in WAEC for English was B2 and for Mathematics it was B3. For Computer Studies, our worst result in the same Examination was A1. In Physics, Chemistry, and Biology, our students came home with B2 as the worst score. For a fact, our worst candidate passed all 8 subjects with 6Bs and 2Cs. I am eternally grateful to our parents that stood with us to deliver these incredible results.  We are a real school for kids, not a curricula-pumping factory (called schools) where students are grilled mercilessly without a break. Our school encourages unbridled student thinking, we play, we learn, we cooperate and we succeed – it’s our way of life

Why do you encourage students to read and keep daily Newspapers?
Reading and analyzing national stories and events on a daily basis by students is a core part of what makes Premier, Premier. We want our children to be a part of the nation. Each student has access to read daily Newspaper and get his or her own copy for records. From inception, Newspaper distribution to students has been part of our focus – we wanted to enhance their ability to comprehend happenings around them, begin to start forming opinions on news items, improve their spoken and written English and impact their overall confidence level especially when they are outside our campus. My students can basically engage adults as well as their age-mates in matters affecting our nation because they have had access to follow and read news, read opinions, read commentaries and form their own positions. This is one of the greatest gifts that Premier College provides for our children.

How has your computer knowledge imparted on the student?
I am the father of Computer Education in Nigeria. I have written 3 approved Textbooks on Computer Studies and I am still in the process of publishing more textbooks to ensure minimal standard is maintained. It was therefore to be expected that I will take definite interest in ensuring no one passes through Premier College, Ijebu-Ode without a work-level skill in Computer Education. Part of ensuring this work-level skill is obtained by each of our children is making available to each of them, a personal laptop that is available for their studies and inquisition at all times. Computer Studies is our own entrepreneurial subject.

What are your immediate goals for the School?

Our school is a member of the SchoolOnline project of the British Council.  We have partnership agreement with a number of schools worldwide, it is partly for this reason that about 10 of our students will be visiting London this summer. This travel experience will give them ample opportunity to see and learn firsthand the culture, heritage and way of life of the average Englishman. Those are things you can never teach correctly in a classroom no matter how hard you try.  Fine-tuning our curricula to compare favourably with any school curriculum anywhere in the World is a continuous exercise. We are mindful of our JSS 3 graduates who have done very very well in the state-conducted examination. These students will be part of our new internship project and we look forward to ensuring that the next 3 years enable them to gain tremendous edge.  Our school is like no other and I look forward to see that position justified in the roles our graduates will play in the life of our nation in the next few years. Building global leaders is no mean task but we are totally focused and committed to this goal. It is my life-long ambition and I am doing everything possible, leaving no stone unturned to deliver on this promise to the society as my contribution to rebuilding our great society and nation.

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