This warm, self effacing woman could not have put together this place. That is the thought that would run through the mind on being faced with the educational wonder Hajia Maryam Sagir has put up in Abuja.
Nestled in the winding lanesÂ of Asokoro, this expansive property with incredible hitech facilities might have been put to better use, so why a school, so why a school?
Last month at the school premises, the school held its first ever Open Day, a colourful eventÂ well attended by the Asokoro crowd and referred to by its organizer as â€˜the making of historyâ€™. Make what you will of that; the institution that this lovely lady had dreamed and enabled is far from ordinary.
In her office, within the premises of the only school with interactive white boards in every class and a world class music theatre in the whole of Nigeria, Morenike Taire chats up Mrs Sagir about what really her dream is about for the Nigerian child, and how she plans to get thereâ€¦ Excerpts:-
What kind of children are you hoping to put out when they graduate from your school?
Children that will turn out to be the Obamas of Nigeria. Those are the kind of people we intend to bring out from here. I mean, going through the kind of system we have you find that thereâ€™s something lacking. A lot of parents donâ€™t get what they want.
But they go alongâ€¦
Either they go along with what they have or if you have that much you want to fly and take your kids out while we can provide such things here. Weâ€™re trying to give education a different look from the usual. The world is going IT so we want to bring out kids that can run with the 21st century.
You have more than average diversity.
We have people from different backgrounds, culture and even religion.
Do you have cause to discriminate for any reason?
I was told you have places for kids with learning disability. How far can you go with this?
Yes, children with special needs but not the severe ones because we donâ€™t really have facilities for those. When I say the severe ones I mean those who are also physically handicapped. For those who use wheelchairs you can see we donâ€™t have stair facilities.
How was your own education like? Can you give us a little background?
I was born in Zaria, grew up in Zaria, had my primary, secondary and University in Zaria. I had a diploma in Kaduna and I read Land Survey Engineering.
So what took you to Education?
I was a land surveyor working with SCTV. I have 5 children (some at Adesoye) and at that time I came to notice that the children we produce in this place are not up to standard compared with international ones. I have a real passion for children. I play among children like I am one of them.
But thereâ€™s only one of your school. What of children too far away, for instance in PH or Lagos?
We have boarding facilities here. In most schools they have full boarding facilities but here we have part boarding.
What is the difference between full boarding and part boarding?
If a parent is traveling and is not comfortable with househelps they can drop them with us. A banker, for instance that are too busy during the week drop them on Sunday evening, pick them Friday after school.
Just looking around, one can tell your prices will be prohibitive. Are they?
Thatâ€™s a difficult one. Some people value education and do not mind going the extra mile to give their kids the kind of education they would want them to have
What of those ones who do value education but really canâ€™t afford it? I think they are in the majority
With time they will be given scholarship. If we see kids that are really talented and we want to bring that out in them we can give them scholarships. We intend to have secondary school too and all over the country.
Letâ€™s talk about you for a bit. Apart from children, what other passions do you have?
I leave the house early, come back late. I try to be Mum too, at home. Really, itâ€™s 24 hours working.
Many parents donâ€™t like boarding house. How do you intend to deal with that?
These kids are watched all the time. Theyâ€™re not allowed to have visitors. Anytime you want to see your children you see them; you want to pick them, you pick them home.
Then the way theyâ€™re treated itâ€™s as if theyâ€™re at home. They say what you want and it is prepared for them. But the morals will be there. You wont even have your way that much. Even at home, sometimes you have to back down.
So the kids are not really going to miss home because we try our best possible to cover that end.
But what would be the advantage in that? You would have thought the essence of boarding house is to instill discipline outside the home. Sometimes you talk to your children and they donâ€™t listen to you but when the matron says â€œdo thisâ€ they do it.
But have you really noticed kids have a mind of their own? Like my son, once he makes up his mind I guess thereâ€™s nothing you can tell him that will make him change his mind from there. You have to really convince them to try it another way.
Thatâ€™s also funny, because you are setting a precedent for them to be disobedient, are you not?
Youâ€™re only telling them to look at the other option, and then compare. Just last night, I was going through my sonâ€™s homework. He said the teacher said something but he did not really get the teacher well. I had to explain and get him to reason with me and know I was saying the right thing. So kids are so respectful of their teachers.
If theyâ€™re in boarding house theyâ€™ll behave even more. If a child sees his mom heâ€™ll misbehave but in boarding heâ€™ll be well behaved.
And I think kids being far from parents will take their studies more seriously because we parents come back late. 12, 1, theyâ€™re still awake when theyâ€™re supposed to sleep by 8. When theyâ€™re in school when itâ€™s 8 itâ€™s time to go to bed and you see them going to bed at that time. Theyâ€™ll obey all rules.
You canâ€™t even compare boarding house to your home. Sometimes when youâ€™re sleeping theyâ€™re watching telly. They have a lot of things to do but in boarding they always have someone watching over them.
Was this school a sudden decision or youâ€™ve been dreaming about this for some time?
Yes, over 10, 15 years
So how do you feel now that you have fulfilled that dream?
I feel fulfilled.