By Olubusuyi Adenipekun
One of the new strategies being employed by the Federal Government to widen access of children to education is the provision of opportunity for special needs learners. Not many public and private schools in Nigeria today are taking steps to make special arrangement with these slow learners who cannot learn atÂ the same pace as their classmates. As such, the slow learners in these schools often find themselves neglected and abandoned, and eventually drop out.
However, a private day and boarding school in Ayobo,Â Lagos known as Abbot Dayspring Schools, has for long embraced this innovation by carring out a special class for learners whose knowledge falls far below their classmates.
According to the proprietress of the school, Mrs Ayansiji Bamidele Oyeladun, any pupil who is joining her school from another school is subjected toÂ thorough screening, and if found deficient, will be referred to the special class for special teaching after which he or she will be taken back to the normal class.
In this interview, Ayansiji talks more on this arrangement, the strategy for prevention of examination malpractice in her school, parentsâ€™ attitude to the schoolâ€™s zero tolerance for exams cheating as well as the unique orientation of teachers and students along high moral rectitude.
What are the major curricular and extra-curricular activities of this school?
Since 1996 when the school came into existence, we have been teaching children in line withÂ government approved school curriculum. The primary arm of this school was approved by the Lagos State government in year 2000 and we started the secondary school arm the following year which was actually approved in 2006 for the presentation of students for Junior School Certificate Examination, WAEC, NECO and other external examinations.
Since you started presenting the students for these external examinations, how have they been performing?
The results have been really encouraging. This is the only school in this area where cheating is not allowed. Our students are prepared for WAEC and NECO exams through our special programme of preparing them for the exams. In fact, from January every year, SS3 students are in school by 7 a.m. when we started teaching them.Â They are allowed to rest in the afternoon and thereafter, we continue the teaching till 7p.m when day students are allowed to go home.
In between, they have some periods for compulsory reading because we are aware that they may not have electricity light to read at home. Teachers are also organised to teach these final year students on Saturdays and they also engage them in group discussions and things like that. So, they are really groomed before the examinations. And once exams start, they are left on their own to face the exams.
But this practice of not assisting the students during exams poses a challenge to the school because many people say since students are not going to be helped during exams in Abbot, it is better not to go and register students there. But we thank God that there are people who are bringing their students because we donâ€™t condone cheating in exams. These people are happy with the excellent results of our students in NECO and WAEC despite that we do not assist during examinations.
For instance, in this yearâ€™s WASSCE, our senior perfect for 2008/2009 session, Michael Ayansiji has A1 in Mathematics, C5 in English Language, B3 in Economics, Geography B3, Yoruba Language B3, Agricultural Science B2, Biology C4, Chemistry C4 and Physics B3. Another student, Ogbo Mercy Oluwaseun has C4 in Economics, Geography B3, English Language C6, YorubaÂ Language C6, Mathematics C6, Agricultural Science B2, Biology C5, Chemistry C6 and Physics C5. Again, Oluwabukola Ajishebiyawo has B3 in Economics, Government C5, Literature In English B3, English Language B3, Yoruba Language B3, Mathematics C4, Agricultural Science B2, Biology C6 and Christian Religious Knowledge D7.
There are so many other students who performed well among the students who have brought their results, which they downloaded on the net, to us as we are yet to receive the master list of the result from WAEC. We have an impressive record of our former students who are in higher institutions, and who are performing brilliantly well. There is a particular boy who was admitted to Obafemi Awolowo University.
One of our former students is also at OAU, Ile-Ife, reading law. There is another girl who finished at Abbot Dayspring College last year, Ojobo Dorcas who is going to read Medicine at DeltaÂ State University, Abraka. All these students wrote their exams on their own. We donâ€™t prepare our students only for WAEC or NECO. We also prepare them for UME and post-UME examinationsÂ as well as undergraduate studies.
But how do you prevent your students from indulging in malpractice while in examination hall?
By the grace of God, the Director of thisÂ school is a pastor in Deeper Life Bible Church. Every morning, he takes the school children through some moral lessons. Apart from that, we have time for fellowship with the children and then we have moral talk with them too. Beyond that, we have special time we talk to teachers who teach here because teachers that are coming from schools where they cheat need new orientation in order to get those corrupt ideas off their minds.
So our teachers have been cooperating in this regard over the years. We have made them to understand that we have a peculiar philosophy and a peculiar plan for the children. We work towards making the children to concentrate on their studies. We organise seminars for the children on the virtue of hardwork and we encourage them and build confidence in the children.
How do you handle the cases of special needs learners?
In the primary section of the school, we have what we call special class. We have discovered over the years that some pupilsâ€™ coming from another school cannot read and write and neither can they spell words correctly; and they claim they are in primary five. And we cannot take them back to kindergarten class where pupils learn how to write ABC. You canâ€™t say go and repeat because they cannot read. Hence we carve out a special class manned by a teacher.
This special class is for children that need special attention. These children may be 12 years old or 16 years old being taught two letter words, three letter words, four letter words. When they eventually pick up, they are taken to their normal classes. It is like a transit class for the children to catch up with the knowledge level of their class mates.
Consideration for the special needs learners is an integral part of the 9-Year Basic Education Curriculum. To what extent is this school conforming with this new curriculum?
The school is already implementing the new curriculum and we have the curriculum for each subject as developed by the Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council. Our teachers are being guided by the new schemes of the new curriculum.