By Seun Oyewole
Mr Oladejo Fajobi and his wife, Oluwatoyin, are passionate about children’s education out of the belief that children are the future. The passion inevitably drove them to establish The King’s Kid School, Abaranje – Ikotun, Lagos in 1996 and, about 10 years later, King’s Anchor College.
In this interview, the Fajobis speak on their passion for education and how things can get better in the sector. They share their perspectives as The King’s Kid School rolled out the drums to mark its 21st anniversary yesterday.
The King’s Kid School has become a brand having endured over two decades of academic excellence. How has the journey been?
Mrs. Fajobi: The journey has been wonderful. We had challenges but God helped us to overcome the challenges. Looking back, it is like moving from glory to glory every day.
You left your job at Lagos University Teaching Hospital to start TKK. What was the motivating factor?
Mrs. Fajobi: I have a degree in nursing and I have been teaching child growth and development at LUTH School of Nursing, but when we relocated to this environment, I looked around and I couldn’t find anything for children; so we prayed about it as Christians and God laid it in our hearts. With the support of my husband, we decided to start something that will help the people around.
Secondly, the way education is going down in Nigeria, we discovered some things were not being done as they should because we were privileged to have sound elementary education, so we know what it is supposed to be. Armed with this, I decided to quit my job and move on to starting off a school as a way of contribution our quota to the community.
What was your reaction when your wife told you about the idea of starting a school?
Mr. Fajobi: I gave her my total support because it was a divine call. This area was so local at that time and there was no school around and I know that she loves children, so it wasn’t a problem at all when she mentioned it to me.
Given the condition of this area at that time, we needed to bring in what we believed was good and what we believed could help this nation because there is need for every child to have good educational foundation and if you must provide a good foundation, it must be in a good environment, so I gave my total support. She started with a crèche and the rest is history now.
Having not trained as a teacher, what were the teething challenges you experienced?
Mrs. Fajobi: Back in those days, there was need for people who will teach nurses at the various schools of nursing in the country; so if you applied to study nursing at the university, you had to specialize in either nursing education or nursing administration. I chose nursing education and, after I graduated from the university, I did some other courses in education while I was teaching at LUTH School of Nursing.
So I have the knowledge about teaching but I never had the experience of teaching in an elementary school. To get myself well equipped for the task, I enrolled at the University of Calabar where I obtained a post graduate diploma in education and I have continued to re-train myself over the years by enrolling for courses that would further help in the growth of the school.
As the major financier of this project, how easy was it to meet the financial needs of the school?
Mr. Fajobi: I was the initial financier because she was ploughing back every profit into the school and this has helped the school to grow. At the beginning, it wasn’t very easy but she is frugal and she was also multi-tasking to do a number of things we could have employed people to do which reduced cost.
We learnt the school started with six pupils and the population increased in geometric terms within a short period. What is the secret?
Mrs. Fajobi: God is our secret coupled with being diligent and hard-working. Our students advertised us because anywhere they go, people always ask them about the school they attend and that was how parents started bringing their children. Also, we have learnt to do things well which has helped in the growth of the school.
Mr. Fajobi: My wife is very passionate about the school and she is one person who works extra hard to be the best in whatever she does. She wasn’t after profit which sometimes kills businesses that otherwise should grow because when all you care about is profit to be made in a business, you lose the passion.
What is your professional background and how have you brought your professional prowess to bear in the running of the school?
Mr. Fajobi: I am a chartered accountant and I worked in the oil industry for years during which I received training not only in my profession as an accountant but also in administration which has helped in having an efficient and proactive management in the school.
How do you feel co-founding an institution that has recorded remarkable successes over the years?
Mr. Fajobi: I am short of words to express how joyous I am that we are celebrating our 21st anniversary. When I look back, it is just like yesterday. It is really amazing because when you look at the pupils and students that have gone through you, particularly when they come around to greet you and they introduce themselves as lawyers, doctors, engineers and so on, it brings so much joy and I am thankful to God.
What structures have you put in place to ensure that every pupil and student that passes through your schools goes out as a total child who is godly and morally upright?
Mrs. Fajobi: This is a Christian school which makes a difference for us. We instil Christ-like values in our students by making sure that in our entire curriculum and in everything we do, we keep telling them that they belong to God and God created them for a purpose. We are just helpers chosen by God to direct them. We also take them one-on-one to know what they are going through because sometimes they have challenges that their parents don’t know about and, over the years, I have learnt to counsel children even though I am not a trained counsellor.
Mr. Fajobi: As a Christian school, we tolerate other non-Christians as pupils, students and staff. We do not enforce Christianity on them but, over the years, we have seen a number of them becoming Christians.
Can you recall some of the exciting moments you have experienced over the years?
Mrs. Fajobi: It is always exciting to see your children do well. Each time the national common entrance result comes out, I would go round to check at the schools chosen by my pupils which are always the top schools and my students are always among the top five. This makes me happy. When the secondary school started, our students have continued to excel in the JSS3 examination as well as in WAEC, NECO and UME.
Some years back, one of our students had the overall best result in SSCE. I also had a student who made first class in the university and she was rewarded with a car by her church; when she drove here to greet us, I couldn’t recognise her but I was very happy. We are grateful to God for being part of their lives. It is such a huge fulfilment.
What makes TKK unique?
Mrs. Fajobi: We train our students to be bold and independent. Recently, a youth corps member told me he hadn’t come across any school where they don’t help students for external examinations. We don’t do that here, we teach our students to be independent and proud of their abilities by doing things themselves.
We also teach them to apply what they have learnt into practical which is why we have science laboratories, home economics laboratory and both schools have their farms because it is not enough to learn without putting it to practise. We equally encourage them to learn by themselves through our e-learning facilities whereby they can engage themselves in extra studies with the aid of the internet. We also have reading periods during school hours for them to study what they have been taught.
Mr. Fajobi: We ensure discipline because you must be disciplined to succeed in life. You must be disciplined to know what you should be doing at various times. The teachers are also disciplined because we are always around and whenever we observe anything wrong, we correct it. We engage our students in extra-curricular activities such as swimming, music and other sporting activities.
A number of people consider private schools as a money-spinning venture which has led to a proliferation of schools in the country. What is your perception?
Mr. Fajobi: We do not operate for profit because grooming a total child is more than monetary gains. To us, the school is a ministry and we strive to be the best at all times. For those who consider having a school for monetary gains, you can never find quality resources required in such schools and that is where you will find people who resorted to teaching because they cannot find a job, so the quality is not there because they are not trained to do what they are doing.
Some parents would ignorantly say a school is a school but that is never true, you cannot compare our standards at TKK with any other school around. Before now, we used to have inspectors that come from the ministry of education who go round to close down unlicensed schools and as well shut down those who are licensed but not complying with the set standards, it is high time government brought them back to the system.
How do you engage your teachers in training and re-training programs?
Mrs. Fajobi: From time to time, we bring resource people from public and private institutions to train them, we send them on conferences and seminars and we also encourage them to take advantage of our e-learning facilities to study online.
What would you advise government to do in reviving the glory of the Nigerian education sector?
Mrs. Fajobi: Teachers need to be trained from time to time because it is what they know that they will teach the students and it will further enhance their performance in the classroom. Recruitment of teachers should also be based on merit and not politicised. Government should also ensure that from elementary to tertiary levels of education, adequate facilities that would make learning conducive are put in place.
Mr. Fajobi: I would advise government to declare a state of emergency in the education sector because the situation is so bad. I would also canvass for more universities of education like TASUED in Ogun State where those who are interested in pursuing a career in teaching would be properly trained in the rudiments of education.
It is not every professor that knows how to teach because some of them are not grounded in the methodologies of teacher education. I think government should also extend the education tax fund to primary and secondary schools, and not just the tertiary institutions alone because you cannot build a house from the roof. This should be done without excluding the private schools because we have a huge contribution to the development of the education sector.
Having gone this far, what is next?
Mrs. Fajobi: We will continue to keep growing and we hope to introduce A-Level classes in the nearest future. We are also looking at having a complete music studio to further harness the potentials in our students who have a flair for music.