Mrs Rukayat Adesola Osho (nee Adeojo), a banker turned school administrator is one of the children of the popular Ibadan politician, Chief Yekini Adeojo. She charts the course of the free Yekini Adeojo Group of schools, situated at Boluwaji, Ibadan. In this interview with MODUPE GEORGE, she shares the story of the school, its challenges and achievements.
T ell us about Yekini Adeojo Group of Schools?
Yekini Adeojo Group of Schools is a high school for both Muslims and Christians. The school was established some six years ago. The secondary arm of the school was approved on 21 March, 2011, while the primary arm was approved on 17 January, 2011. Actually, the schools became operational in 2012. Initially, the schools was charging tuition fees, but it was halted, when the Proprietor decided to make them free for all, while he took up every financial responsibility of the schools, such as regularly paying teacher’s salaries, even while they are on holiday, and also taking care of the schools’ facilities.
Were the schools initially established as religious-based ones?
No, the schools were established for all and sundry.
For how long had the proprietor been preparing for setting up a school?
It had been on his mind for a very long time. For instance, the schools’ main buildings have been in existence for a very long time. So, when he decided to contribute his quota to educational system, especially at the point, when public school education was nothing to write home about, he decided to make use of the facilities. Owning a group of schools is one of his greatest dreams; he is also aiming at extending the dream into establishing a university in the nearest future.
What was the situation like when the school started?
When the school started, we had few students. They were paying school fees like a normal private school and all the necessary materials needed as students were bought by the parents. Then, we had 17 teachers. We had both the primary and secondary schools in the same compound, but at a point, we had to separate them. The secondary school was called Yekini Adeojo High School, while the primary school was referred to as Yekini Adeojo Nursery and Primary School. So, they were like two different schools. Along the line, we later decided to be calling them Yekini Adeojo Group of Schools and that is what we have today. The standard for employing teachers in the school was very high and it is till date. When we took off, we had six B.Sc holders, seven NCE holders and one OND holder; making 14 teaching staffers and we still have all of them till date. Presently in the school, we have the Admin 1 and 2, a Clerk; we also have three security men.
What informed the decision to make the school free?
The decision was taken in 2014. What really happened was that the parents were not paying; we started having challenges with the payment of the school fees as at when due. Many of them came begging and pleading that they should be given more time to pay the token fees the school was charging. Most of the parents were not paying, to the extent that the summation of the money collected was not enough to pay the salaries of the staff. We had so many parents, who did not pay at all.
So, after forcing the students to pay for one and a half years, the proprietor got angry and said he was not making any money from the school, rather, he was paying the staff’s salaries from his purse. He then called and informed me of his thought of turning the school to a free one to assist the people. He said; ‘let parents buy textbooks for their wards and be financially responsible for their external examinations, while I continue to pay the staff. This was how the school became free.
What was the reaction of parents to the decision?
They were happy. Some of them even came to drop letters of appreciation. Although, some of them advised that instead of making the whole thing completely free, we could probably reduce the money from N10, 000 to N5, 000 or from N20,000 to N10,000. On the other hand, some of them went aggressive; these set of parents were angry, saying since the school is free, the teachers would no longer teach their children well. These were the set of few parents who paid regularly. But we couldn’t do anything. Since the proprietor had made up his mind, there was no going back. However, for those who were not paying, they did not care about any implication. I had to implore the paying parents at the PTA meeting that there was no need for them to withdraw their children, because the teachers would be paid as at when due and the standard would be sustained. I’m bold to tell you that at Yekini Adeojo Group of Schools today, the staff is paid regularly on every third day of each month, even during summer, while the maintenance of the schools’ facilities is also taken care of.
What was population like, then and now?
The number of the students then for secondary arm was 70 and the primary was about 35, but right now that the school is free, the population is close to 300, both the primary and secondary schools; for secondary, we have 200 and for primary it is 72.
Can we now say the strategy of free education brought in more students?
Can you share your experience as an administrator?
It has not been easy; especially when we resume for new sessions. The students\pupils are expected to come in with their text books and all that they would need for their studies, but I found out that many parents don’t really know the value and worth of education. They don’t want to buy neither textbooks nor education materials for their children. When I go round to check on the teachers, I see some of the students being sent out of the class because they don’t have textbooks. The parents would beg for their wards to be allowed in school, even when they don’t have tools to work with and when it comes to their WASSCE examination, a lot of them wouldn’t still want to pay. In fact, some had to leave because they couldn’t pay.
What effort is the PTA forum making to make the job easier for you?
The PTA has been very active and effective. The PTA chairman most of the time appeals to parents to ensure that they buy books for their children and do other necessary things expected of them; more so, to pay up their WAEC examination fees. Funny enough, some mothers were discovered to be collecting money from their husbands , not letting them know that the school is now free, some fathers only get to know when they come to the school.
Do the teachers share in this vision of free education too?
Yes, some of them have their children here too. They are enjoying the free education too. I’m sure they had their children somewhere before they came here and they must have been paying school fees there. Yes, I did not see any reason why they should not support the idea. Their salaries are paid as at when due. When we arrived at the decision, we did not send any of our teachers away. We weren’t paying their salaries from the school fees, so, I don’t see the reason they shouldn’t support perfectly.
How many of them did you have to lose?
Just two left, not for this reason, but on the basis of furtherance of education and relocation. We then employed another two.
Can you say you are satisfied with the performances of students so far, now that everything is free?
So far, I am satisfied, even the last result we got in West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) was overwhelming. But for the new in-takes, who seem to be lackadaisical, we are working on them to get them accustomed to our system.
What are the criteria for admitting students into the school?
The gate of the school is opened to all and sundry. A child can be enrolled from the crèche or primary school. You can come for the school’s admission examination for the secondary arm, and once you have passed the examination, you would be enrolled. The free school is for everybody.
What do you think gives the school an edge above others?
Our standard of teaching is very high. We also have well-furnished and equipped laboratories for Computer, Biology, Physics and Chemistry, coupled with a good school facilities. We also have qualified teachers. The students have won many awards for the school. Recently a project came into the school by the Young Volunteers for the Environment (YVE), whereby we hosted other schools and we came first. Also, we have adopted the newly introduced 2017\18 teaching curriculum in the school.
Tell us a little about yourself?
My name is Rukayat Adeshola Osho (nee Adeojo), I am graduate of Ladoke Akintola University. I have a Bsc in Agric/Economics and Extension and I served at Imo. I have worked with several banks; I resigned at the level of an account officer before I decided to work for my father as the school administrator.