By Jemi EKUNKUNBOR
Our path first crossed a few years ago when she started Miss Tourism Nigeria.Â A project that produced three queens before it was rested. Tourism she confessed is a passion she developed. Before tourism is her profession, Law. The 2001 graduate of the University of Lagos, was called to the Nigerian Bar in 2003. She further enhanced her qualification with a Masters in International law and diplomacy. But beyond her passion and her profession is her occupation, education which she drives with great passion.
Her furore into the educational system began in 1997. In 2007, she set up Silversands Hall School, Ikota lekki. Again driven by passion to do things right, she took off for the UKÂ to properly qualify as an educationist. From the Institute, she bagged a diploma in Special needs education and another diploma in Montessori education from Modern Montessori International in London. In view is a post graduate certificate in education from the University of Nottingham.
Armed with these degrees, it became obvious to Barrister Nike Agunbiade that if children must do well in school, then the teaching methods in our schools must be radically improved upon or even changed as all children do not learn the same way. This is her current passion to help children especially those with special needs to learn the fun way and with ease. In this encounter at her Ikoyi home, the very reserved former model not only talks about this new way of learning, she also opened up on her sense of style.
How did you shift from law to education?
I wouldnâ€™t really call it a shift. I am multi-sided by nature. I found out thatÂ I could do three things at the same time.
What is it like working with children?
Itâ€™s very fun to be with children. They are not judgmental and they are very open minded. You know when they are happy . You know when they are not so happy.Â There is no pretence with them. Though I donâ€™t teach in the classroom, they come to my office to chat with me. Most of the children who usually come to me are those with special needs.
What was the gap you saw that made you decide to set up a school?
When I got into education, I wasnâ€™t even an educationist. It was after I started running the school in 1997 that I decided to go back to study education. It was then that I realised that there were gaps in our educational system.
I Found out that in our schools in Nigeria, the teachers are not equipped to teach children with special needs. So I went abroad again to train on special needs.Â You have children with autism, a broad spectrum disorder where a child is not able to do a lot of things due to the abnormal formation at the embryonic stage. Such children have some strange behavioural patterns such as hitting their head on the wall, rolling their body anyhow, screaming, not wanting to look at people in the face and not wanting to socialize. They have problems with imagination and so on. You also have children with Dyslexia. Although such children are intelligent, but for what ever reason, anything that is written or spoken,Â they are not able to handle them. You have to think out a way to teach them to be able to read like regular students because the way they interpret written language is different. A dyslexic child will seeÂ cat and it will look like park. They see things almost up side down so you have to know how to teach them. You also have Down syndrome and others with learning disability.
About 20% of children all over the world have learning disability. You know they have skills in other areas but when it comes to school work, you find them failing English and maths.Â Many children are having learning disability not because they are not intelligent, but because they find it difficult to process information in the classroom. Some may be able to read but may not understand what they have read. Some children have problems with numeric skills so anything mathematics is very difficult for them. And to tell the truth, many Nigerian children have that problem even when they donâ€™t have core special needs like physical disabilities or sensory disability. So, they need remedial studies for them to be able to cope with regular school work. And teachers in Nigeria need extra training to be able to carry along all the children in their classrooms so that the ones who are struggling are carried along because knowledge has gone beyond knowing English and maths. It is inclusive of other areas. You could be musically talented. You could be talented kinaesthetically. You can be talented visually. There is what is known as multiple intelligence and a teacher needs to know that.
So what did you come back with after your studies abroad?
Well, I got a franchise called, Helen Doron International Organization franchise to help children between 0-18 years in their remedial studies in English and mathematics. What is special about Helen Doron is that unlike other remedial programmes, it incorporates different learning styles.Â It is one of the best enhancement programmes for children all over the world. You can check the internet to confirm. This is the first time it is coming to Africa and the beauty of it is that anybody interested in running the franchise can reach me so that they can help children both in primary and secondary school to learn English and maths the easy way, the fun way and the innovative way. For special need for example, teachers need to learn how to teach children with different learning styles and ability and we have that programme for teachers called optimum performance plus.
What is this pack about?
It is about how the children can learn English like the native speaker.
Are you saying we donâ€™t speak English well?
We do speak English well in Nigeria but as a Nigerian, if you go to England for instance, a British person will probably strain his ears to hear you and you may also have to strain your ears to hear him. But there is what is called standardized English where you both can understand each other. So each learning set comes with a CD that the child can listen to at home. There is what is called peripheral hearing which means you hear it but you donâ€™t really pay too much attention but your subconscious mind does. It is just like the way you hear an advert on TV, you donâ€™t pay too much attention but over time, you find yourself reciting the advert and you donâ€™t know how it got there.
So children from 0-6 years are able to learn different things in their environment, they are able to develop their movement, their language, their social skills, their attention to details and then sense of order. So, this period is very important for children to learn anything. They can even learn like 10 languages at that age. By the time they are getting to 18, they are already set in their ways. So its easy to get that English right early.
Then the maths aspect of it, affords every child the opportunity to learn maths the easy way. Maths has its own language, if you donâ€™t understand the language, you canâ€™t understand maths. People talk about children having difficulties with numerical skills, when you use MathsRiders, whatever difficulty you have is solved because it makes use of songs, music, games, puzzles and all kinds of activities to make learning fun, give confidence, self reliance, logical thinking and problem solving skills. You concentrate on the childâ€™s interest to teach the child and you are able to track his progress. When he makes a mistake, you donâ€™t say youâ€™ve made a mistake, you just look at it and say for instance, â€œare we on the right tract?â€ Then you retrace your steps so theÂ child becomes more comfortable with figures because he is not threatened by it.Â So you can see that it is different in the area of methodology. Teachers who are interested can contact us.
What message would you have for teachers?
Iâ€™d say that teachers need to be aware that children have different learning styles. Every child is a winner and can learn if the right methodology is used. If you understand the childâ€™s strength and weaknesses, you could help the child to work on the strengths and even the weaknesses so that you can still get some measure of strength. But when you teach every child in the same way, itâ€™s only those who have the propensity to learn easily that will be able to learn. The school syllabus and methodology makes it a bit difficult for some children to learn because the teacher will not wait for you as he has the syllabus to cover. With our personalized methodology, you wait for the child, go according to his pace and the child is not learning under any pressure. So he has the joy of learning and he wants to go to school.
How can people get this kit?
They can contact us
What would you say youâ€™ve gained from working with children?
Tolerance and patience. To teach children you need patience. You also learn empathy. You have to put yourself in their shoes to be able to understand what they are going through. The same way if you are teaching children with special needs. If you are teaching an 18 year old child who has the intelligence of a five year old, you have to be able to put yourself in that childâ€™s shoes. For you to teach a blind child for instance, try to blindfold yourself and see how difficult it is to move around. Until you are able to empathize with such children, you cannot teach them. So empathy, tolerance, patience and the joy of just being human is something that I have gained working with children and as you know, children are very real.
You once ran a boutique, what really interests you in fashion?
I would say my fashion has evolved but I am very open to fashion. When I was younger, I was very interested in being tomboyish. So my fashion then was all kinds of crazy jeans, t- shirts, jackets and canvass. By the time I left the university, I was into modeling and so I was very much interested in the fashion in vogue. But right now, comfort and simplicity defines my fashion, because when you wear something simple and elegant, then it brings out the best in you.
What is your impression about Nigerians and fashion?
Fashion is very serious around here and very inspiring. We are very fashionable in Nigeria. Few people over do it though. I prefer our fashion to American fashion. Americans are just jeans and t shirt people. They donâ€™t really dress up. The FrenchÂ people dress up a lot especially to dinners.Â Iâ€™d say that we are competing with them. And our women spend a lot of money to look good and that is beautiful.
How much would you spend to look good?
I wouldnâ€™t want to quantify it. If I like something whether it is cheap or expensive, if I can afford it, I would buy. It has to be something that I can afford. I wouldnâ€™t break the bank just to buy a dress. I wonâ€™t do it.
What designers do you like?
Valentino makes very glamorous dresses. He makes women beautiful. YSL is good also. In Nigeria, I like Nikki Khiran, Ade Bakare, Folake Coker. Frank Osodi is very good with womenâ€™s evening wear just like Valentino.Â Nobel is another good designer and of course there is a younger designer, Micran Anslem who worked with me on Miss Tourism. He is also very good.
Talking of Miss Tourism, are you likely to revive it?
I will definitely revive it. My studies abroad was very intense that I couldnâ€™t combine it with anything else. Now that all that is over, I will find time for that passion again.
Where is your favourite tourist destination?
I love Arizona for the grand Canyon. I like the Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe and Las Vegas for the night life and beautiful attractions. I love going to France over and over again and then of course, I love Obudu cattle ranch.
Do you have interest in cars like men?
I love cars but not obsessed with it.
Do you have a dream car?
Yes, a Lambogini. But I love the brand I currently drive.
What wonâ€™t you do in the name of fashion?
I wouldnâ€™t wear anything that would show my boobs. I would like to be properly covered. Also, I wouldnâ€™t wear something that is too tight that I wonâ€™t be able to breath.
Does being a mum change your fashion?
Of course, as a young person you wore all kinds of things but as you grow older, you dress your age. But you can be older and still be a sharp mum.
What gives you joy?
The fact that God has helped me to achieve what I have achieved and I thank God for giving me the kind of hsband and children that I have. All these gives me joy.