Dr. Odoh Onuora, an Immigration Consultant and specialist Family Physician resident in Canada, in this interview with REGINA OTOKPA, he speaks on his newly-established Oasis Canadian Schools, an offshore Canadian school in Nigeria; overhaul of Nigeria’s education system; benefits of a Canadian Offshore School, and tips on how to control immorality and loss of value among students
What informed your decision to establish the Oasis Canadian Schools?
Although I had most of my education in Nigeria, where I graduated as a medical doctor, I have been living in Canada for some time now. However, I realised that a good number of Nigerians are willing and desiring to come to Canada for their children to study in the country. Despite having the requisite qualifications and intelligence, the challenges of travel documents, international school fees and upkeep have been major barriers. As an international student your school fees are about four times that of a Canadian, even as Canada is about the third most visited country for education. Given the flexibility of the Canadian education and work system, many Nigerians have seized the opportunity of her education system to become Canadian citizens with access to almost if not all benefits. But, I noticed that some parents in Nigeria were sending their children to China which has about 80 Canadian Offshore Schools as a pathway to get them to Canada. The benefits are huge because, as a Canadian Offshore School, a student pays the domestic school fees which make it more affordable, and at the end of their programmes they will acquire the Canadian certificate. Well, I decided to yield to the calls by many Nigerians for me to explore the opportunities in Canada’s education system, which is run based on Province. Then, we talked to the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development in New Brunswick from where we began the processes involved. Through our talks, they accepted that we should establish this offshore school in Nigeria. With a Canadian Offshore School, it means that the school is accredited, supervised and the graduation certificate will be issued by the Canadian Government in New Brunswick, and signed by the Minister of Education in New Brunswick.
Managing a school of this nature will be capital intensive; don’t you think that starting with scholarship will impede the progress of the school?
Of course, it won’t. We are going to break even with time. What we are interested in right now is quality. We want to produce students, who can defend their certificates anywhere in the world. It is all about planning. We actually started as a charity organisation in Enugu State. The offshore school is not merely about academics, but it is interwoven with humanitarian services.
Apart from the endorsement from the Canadian Government, is there approval or clearance from the Federal Ministry of Education to operate the school?
Before we commenced construction Private schools not solution to education crisis – Proprietor of our facilities, we got our accreditation for both the basic and high school education; we have accreditation for the school to sit for the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) in our premises. Besides, we have passed through quality assurance and we met all the requirements and criteria.
Is the curriculum strictly Canadian?
To start with, the curriculum is a high breed because no parent wants their children to go to school without passing the WASSCE certificate. So, we are preparing our students for national examinations as well, but our primary curriculum is Canadian.
Don’t you think that the high cost of tuition will be a challenge to many Nigerian children?
Of course, we also realise that the nation’s education sector has several issues confronting it, but the problems didn’t just start today. Like I mentioned earlier that I attended schools in Nigeria, I spent an additional two years in the university before I graduated due to strike. Today, we still don’t know when this is going to stop. But, in finding a solution to the problems in our education sector, we must understand that private schools are not the answer. However, the solution is fixing our public schools since about 50 per cent of Nigerians are on low socio-economic status. And, again private schools are not for people that do not have the finances or afford it. In reality, private schools are supposed to be a second option for those looking for an extra thing or those who want to separate their child because of the class status. But, because o f the poor academic delivery and strikes in the nation’s public school system, we private schools are springing up everywhere. Though our school is private, it is a school with a difference because we want to cater for people of a certain socio-economic level; we want to cater for people that want to study out of the country or who want to acquire education with different curriculum. Now, we started with the scholarship because we are more interested in how we can make our tuition very affordable, what we are looking at is children that are intelligent. And, of course, it becomes a bit difficult to know such children, unless we assess them. Already, we have a discount on tuition fees we are planning.
You talked about the challenges facing Nigeria’s education system, but how could these be surmounted?
Recently, I was listening to a radio programme, where a parent alleged that Federal Unity Schools demand mopping sticks; tap heads, brooms and cutlasses every term or session from students, as well as religious fees and hostel fees per term, which they argued should be free. Our education system is bad and we need to urgently overhaul it. Any day that Nigerians start being accountable to ourselves and to the public, things will change. I mean any day the people realise that they will be held accountable and responsible for their deeds they will sit tight. But, the issue is that the system is so corrupt that no one takes any action. What we do is to keep a blind eye to these things and only how we can enrich ourselves from the bad system. That is the only thing that makes private schools a bit better because they are a business run by the owners who make the system and teachers accountable to their deeds. Any day our system starts being accountable and everybody sits tight because education is not run in isolation; it is all about our system. We must start being accountable to the country and instill a culture of discipline in the students. I feel so bad that things are not getting better. Parents are suffering, private schools are not cheap and civil servants are not being paid enough to enable them to afford the tuition fees because their salary is stagnant and prices of food items and services are increasing daily.
How do you intend to recruit teachers with capacity to deliver the Canadian curriculum?
Our teachers are Nigerians, who are trainable and we are providing the training on how to teach Canadian curriculum that even without Canadian background they can deliver.
They go through a series of Content Professional Development (CPD), and will be assessed physically by the Canadian authorities in eight months’ time. Even though some schools have Canadian in their name or are affiliated with individual vendors to prepare kids to get over to Canada, Nigeria has never had Canadian Offshore School, where the Canadian curriculum is taught physically. We are the only school allowed to have a physical teacher in the classroom.
What other special benefits do you have for students?
Our students are entitled to laptop/ computers for easy access to the internet and online lectures, we will pay attention to draw out each student’s weak point and strength and help build them to standard through several programmes including group and individual mentorship programmes to bring out the best in them.
How can we address the alarming trend of immorality and sexual assault in private schools?
A top priority for most parents who enroll their children in private schools is basically because of their high moral standard and not necessarily because of the academic quality.
Those in search of an extra moral orientation enroll their children in Christian schools, but with the way it is going, it has become a necessity to only engage teachers with high moral standards. However, here at Oasis Canadian Schools, we try to hire teachers that are of good faith because much as people want to have a qualitative education, they want to have their children where they can conveniently go to sleep with their eyes closed. Besides having a programme that promotes morality, we have cameras mounted at every strategic location in the school to monitor our students.
The opposites sex should not be seen going to same direction and we make sure that the washrooms are separated far from each other, all the doors in our hostels and classrooms are without padlocks because we want to come in whenever we want. The hostel masters or mistresses sleep on the same floor with the students
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