Teresa Oniru is the managing director and chief executive officer of WhiteOak School Lagos. In this interview with IFEOMA OKEKE, she speaks about some of the innovations the school has taken up and some stringent measures it is taking to ensure children are safe and do not contact COVID-19.
Can you tell us about Whiteoak School Lagos?
Whiteoak School was founded in September 2009. We started as a day-care centre focusing on building the core skills needed in early childhood before expanding our facilities for key stage one and two.
What are some of the virtues/values that differentiate Whiteoak School Lagos from other private schools in Lagos?
The pastoral care at Whiteoak School is second to none. We place great emphasis on getting to know individual children, assessing their needs educationally and emotionally. We make it our mission to ensure every child succeeds. In Whiteoak, no child is a failure; every child matters.
With the re-opening of schools in Lagos, what are some of the things the school have put in place to limit the spread of germs, whilst ensuring the school is safe at all times?
After going through rigorous training with the Ministry of Education, the school premises were de-contaminated. We have a no mask, no entry policy in the first instance. We have hand washing facilities at the entrance. Children are kept in bubbles to limit interaction with large groups; we also monitor the children’s temperatures at regular intervals throughout the day.
What plans does the school have in place to ensure to cover up for classes missed during the lockdown as a result of COVID-19?
During the lockdown, the children took part in online classes. When we returned to school, the children were assessed to identify gaps in learning; this allowed teachers to differentiate instruction for children where necessary.
As learning can also be passed on digitally, is Whiteoak School in any way investing in technological learning to broaden student scope of learning?
As educators, it is essential to be aware that we are on the cusp of a new era, I am excited to be witnessing the dawn of Education 4.0, the fourth industrial revolution. The pandemic brought with it a silver lining; the world is ever advancing technologically. Therefore it is incumbent on us as educators to keep children up to speed. Whiteoak school continues to prepare children for a future where technology and artificial intelligence impact day to day life. The school integrates ICT in teaching and learning; we teach ICT as a subject to enable students to be digital citizens. Children come to school with their devices and utilise them to improve the classroom experience.
What are some of the things you have put in place to ensure students are comfortable in the classroom at the same time are motivated to learn?
Our classrooms are air-conditioned, comfortable and have a serene ambience. However, the 21st-century classroom goes beyond this, each child must feel valued; they must know they have a voice, and their contribution is worthwhile, it gives them a sense of belonging.
In addition to giving students elementary education, does the school teach skill empowerment as well?
In addition to giving elementary education, we have a vast number of extracurricular activities that promote skill empowerment.
If so, can you please mention some of your skill empowerment programmes you have?
Some of the skill empowerment programs we offer are Baking classes, sewing, music, S.T.E.A.M (Science, Technology,Engineering, Arts & Maths)
Can you mention some of the success stories the school has recorded since its commencement?
We successfully guided our first set of children through their standard entrance exams, the children gained admissions to their desired secondary schools with a few of them being offered scholarships in their chosen schools. We have taken part in and won several inter school spelling bees competitions.
What policies do you think the government can put in place to improve the elementary educational system in Nigeria?
The government must realise that the teachers are an asset in education. Developed countries encourage constant re-skilling and upskilling. The government must invest in colleges of education, giving the teachers the skills they need as we prepare students that are ready to take on the future.