By Amaka Abayomi
Mrs. Michelle Ukoh, a specialist in international training and administration, is an independent schools placement consultant and founder of First New Generation Centre. In this interview with, she talks on the importance of students having a five-year plan and the need for corporate organisations to invest in education.
First New Generation Centre is five years old. How has the journey been?
First New Generation Centre, FNG, is a unique certified testing center of learning. It is an initiative to bridge the gap between education in Nigeria and education in the United States of America. We are an ETS and Prometric-approved testing centre and provider of the highest standard of education following the American curriculum. Our core competence is to prepare students for admission and tutorials of all USA examinations such as TOEFL, SAT, GRE, GMAT, CGFNS, etc. We specialise in admission processing placement into major universities in America.
FNG has a proven track record in helping students in Nigeria obtain the highest test scores, scholarship and admissions into some of the top universities such as Harvard, Princeton, M.I.T, among others. We have successfully placed over 500 students in American schools and some of them have been fortunate enough to secure scholarships from these institutions.
FNG has been in business for five years now and we make our students understand the importance of having a five-year plan and also the need for them to come back after their studies and develop our country. We have a lot of discussion on nation building, family and the economic and social situation of the country and this helps to keep them focused.
We also organise tutorials for candidate that want to sit for IGCSE exams, because many Ivy League schools in the US have no problems accepting students who have excelled in this exams because they better understand the concepts and courses of study.
The five-year plan is about the career assessment of the students, so we normally have one-on-one discussions with them to make them understand the importance of setting targets for the next five years as it would keep them focused and not just going to America for the fun of it.
What is responsible for the increase in the quest for foreign education, especially as thousands of Nigerians go to the US, Europe and even Ghana and Benin Republic to study?
The truth is that we haven’t invested enough into overall nation-building and there are a lot more students than can be absorbed into the school system, making most of them wanting to leave the country. It is my hope that this trend changes soon because we need to go back to the way things were in the 1980s when Nigeria had quality primary, secondary and higher institutions. We need to revive that system to save our education sector because as parents, it is our responsibility to extend that legacy to our children so as to reduce the number of Nigerians seeking foreign education.
More corporate organisations are into sponsorship of entertainment reality shows to the detriment of education. What can be done to change this trend?
I have children between ages 17 and 20 and their generation is very different from mine and this is worsened with the advent of internet. Most Nigerian youths fail to realise that a good number of American entertainers that they aspire to be like are educated and have investments.
My children and I developed an education reality show that would operate just like the Nigerian Idols whereby the contestants would be put through some academic challenges and there would be eliminations and all that till we have the last man standing. The truth is that we are still doing presentations to organisations to get them interested enough to sponsor the programme but it has been very difficult because they prefer to sponsor entertainment realities.
They fail to realise that there are a lot of brilliant Nigerians who need this kind of platform that I want to offer to showcase their intelligence because an educated country is a wealthy one, but there is little or nothing we can do till we get sponsors. The bottom line is that we need to be very careful about what we expose our children to because they need to understand the importance of family and studying to be successful in life. Nigeria is a beautiful country that God has blessed with bountiful human and natural resources, and we need to celebrate our greatest resource – our children.
What can be done to improve our education curriculum and system?
I’ve always been interested in history and there is the need to add it in the curriculum at all levels because we need to go back to the process of mentoring and making it a community affair. There is the need to include all stakeholders in the process of reviving the education sector; there is the need to have mentors in place, include support programmes, have other facilities attached to the schools to make them an oasis to people in those communities that have the need to go to schools. These are the type of schools we need in the 21st Century Nigeria and we can achieve this as one people and one nation.