Mrs. Meg Nwobia is the Director of Hallmark School, Lagos. In this chat with Vanguard in her office, the graduate of Education from the College of Education Abraka and Metropolitan University in London, speaks on her business and the challenges and says standard of education in Nigeria has not fallen. Excerpts:
After obtaining her National Certificate in Education from College of Education Abraka, Mrs. Meg Nwobia proceeded to Metropolitan University in London where she got her Bachelor of Education degree. Upon her return, she did her national youth service at Air Force Primary School, Kaduna before getting married and relocating to Ibadan.
“When I got married, we moved to Ibadan and I taught at Loyola College. From there, we moved to Lagos and I taught at Stadium High School until 1989 when I went to England,” she said.
While in England, Mrs. Nwobia taught in various schools and returned to Nigeria in 1996 to establish a nursery school called Megdyke Nursery School in Lagos.
She said: “After a few years, the school metamorphosed into Hallmark School because the parents were so happy with what we were doing that they actually encouraged me to open a primary school because all the children who passed out from Megdyke, when they go to other schools, it was like a repetition of what they had done and they were all excelling and the parents had to put pressure on me to open a primary school. That pressure gave birth to Hallmark School which was opened on October 2, 2002. We will be celebrating our 10th anniversary on October 2 this year.”
Speaking on the journey so far, Mrs. Nwobia said: “Like any other business, even though this one has to do with human relationship/children, it is really challenging, rough sometimes, enjoyable; all the things you expect from a business, but most importantly, the joy of working with children and seeing them come out and go to secondary school, and come back to you each time.
You see them grow, you see how happy they are, that is the reward you get. When they leave here for secondary school, you find out that all their mid-term breaks, they want to come back to Hallmark School to see their friends, teachers and all that, and we discovered that they are doing extremely well in their various schools. Some of them are on scholarships in their different secondary schools,” she enthused.
Mrs. Nwobia who noted that she has always been a teacher as she has not done anything work-wise apart from teaching, said she does not believe that the standard of education in Nigeria is falling, rather, it is parents and government that have failed the sector.
“People keep talking about falling education standard but I don’t believe standard of education in Nigeria has fallen because the children are so wise academically, they are doing well. What some children are doing in Year Five today, when I was in Form Three in secondary school, I did not know them.”
On the mass failures recorded in external exams, she said: “You see, most of those failures may be from the public schools but you still see that in internal competitions, the public schools also excel. The only thing that people can say is that there has been a kind of neglect in infrastructure and in monitoring what is happening in schools but not that the education standard has fallen, I don’t think so.
Look at the way the children talk, the kind of answers they give you when you ask them questions. It doesn’t show that they are lacking in education. When children from Nigeria go abroad, they excel. “Last year, I was in England when there was a report on countries that have students in England; they were looking at educational standards.
Nigeria ranked very high, if not about the best. So what is going on here is lack of infrastructure. Again, we like paper qualification so parents are helping their children to obtain these things by unfair means. That is the problem. If the children are taught well, they will excel.
It is just that parents are not doing what they are supposed to do. If anything, I will say what has fallen is parental control over the academics of their children because some parents don’t even look at what their children are doing at all. This did not happen in our time.
Our parents looked at our work, even those who were not educated, somehow, they ensured that the children did their work but now, you give children homework and they bring it back to you. This goes on through the week and month and you call the parents and they tell you they are too busy to even look at their children’s work.
So, as far as I am concerned, the problem is parents’ lackadaisical attitude towards their children’s education and the failure of the state to look after schools. Some parents can pay high school fees but pay no attention to monitoring the children’s work.”
Asked whether she intends to open a secondary school in future, Mrs. Nwobia said: “There has been pressure too like they pressured me in nursery school. Even the children themselves want to continue in Hallmark but I have not actually thought about it as such because I feel that the way education is going in Nigeria is not the way education should go.
The background I have is not that you open a nursery, primary, secondary and university. It doesn’t work that way. Hardly do you see such in England. Private schools are very few and the students are so few because it is private and parents pay heavily so you do not see many children going there when there are a lot of state schools all over the place and actually, I have not seen much of private primary schools.
What I have seen are private secondary schools and they are very few. For instance, in the whole of Ikeja, you can have just one. But if it is outside London, sometimes they have some private schools like Catholic schools so it is not something that is very common so that background is still what is keeping me because the proliferation of schools is not doing well to our education system where a school will have pre-crèche, nursery, primary, secondary and university.
It’s like making a mockery of education. So I have not put my mind to it and if I am going to run a secondary school, I cannot run it in the same place where I have my primary school; it should be in a different setting so that the children will move from where they are to another place.”
Mrs. Nwobia said she will like to see Hallmark School reach its peak in the next five to ten years. “I’m hoping that Hallmark will be the watchword that when they talk about schools in the vicinity where I am, Hallmark School should rank first.”
Asked how she came about the name Hallmark, she said: “When I was thinking of a name for the school, I was thinking of a name that will ring a bell. The name of a school should give it carriage. So I was going out one day and I saw one very big billboard belonging to Hallmark Bank.
The caption was what inspired me. It went something like this: ‘If you are as good as we are, we can offer something that looks like you; or if you are as good as you are, you have to live up to that name,’ something like that. I told my husband I was going to call the school Hallmark. What Hallmark depicts is that you are there already and you must try and maintain that position.”