‘Government must find enduring education policy’

The story of Brano High School, Okhoro, Benin City, Edo State, exemplifies the I-can-do spirit of its proprietor, Mr Gabriel Okhihan, who has successfully nurtured it into becoming one of the most sought-after schools in the state capital. He tells BANJI ALUKO the story of the school. Excerpts:



I attended primary school in Ekpoma and secondary school at Western Boys High School in Benin. I attended Bendel State University (now Ambrose Alli University), where I graduated with a BSc. in Geography. I did my National Youth Service in Enugu State in 1992.



I had this vision in 1997. That was when I started lesson with another friend of mine. He also has a big school like mine today. When I came back from youth service, there were no jobs and I needed to create one for myself. I first started with coaching classes. I started extramural classes for students in government schools. I was moving from one government school to another. From that point, I was able to establish a school. I started growing the school. Today, the school has been approved by government and candidates have been writing WAEC-conducted examinations here since 2005.



It was not easy when I started; finance was a major hindrance. I was discouraged by some persons who told me that I could not afford it, and that it was expensive. I, however, had the courage to see it through. I knew that the beginning is usually tough. I refused to be distracted by their talks because the urge to see it through was strong in me. It took me some years before I got to this level. I had to buy land and land is quite expensive in Benin. It cost me about N12 million to acquire the land in 2007. I did not borrow from any bank. Hard work and dedication took me this far. From there, I started putting classrooms in place putting in mind government’s regulation.



Today, if you are talking about good schools in Benin, there is no way you will not mention my school. My students are good. They have won many awards and competitions. We have participated in the National Mathematics Olympiad. In the last West African Secondary School Certificate Examination, we recorded over 90 per cent in pass rate.



We have primary and secondary schools here. We have over 1,600 students here. We have over 50 teachers in the secondary school arm, while we have about 20 in the primary school. Different teachers take different subjects. Regularly, we get corps members who come here to serve. They also add value. Students doing their teaching practice also come in from different tertiary institutions. Right now, the University of Benin sent 16, while the Ambrose Alli University sent 10.



Discipline is the keyword here. The way we handle our students is unique. We not only teach them; but we groom them. We ensure that there is healthy competition among the students. From time to time, we give the school a facelift in terms of facilities. We have laid very good legacies and we are trying to maintain it and raise the bar. The community here in Okhoro is happy that the school is here because the school has also contributed greatly to the development of the community.


Cost of education

My special interest is to help those parents who are not particularly buoyant. I believe everybody deserves quality education. This defines the fee we charge. The truth is that the school fees are relatively cheap when compared to other schools and facilities on ground here. For me, education is the most important thing after food. We have been able to marry cost and standard together. We do not charge high fees and do not compromise standard at the same time. Money is not the driving force here.

If you want to start, you must start well. You must be honest. You will not go far defrauding people of their hard-earned money. You must be hardworking and courageous. You must start from scratch; you cannot get to the peak from day one. There is no problem bigger than inconsistent education policies. It does not help the students and the stakeholders. Government must find an enduring formula like in the advanced countries