SchoolTips&More met with Dr Mary Iyayi, the Managing Director and founder of Cayley College, Ikeja, Lagos; she shares insights on the past, present and future trends in education.
What comes to your mind when you think about your primary education?
What comes to my mind really is the importance of primary education in the life of a child because the primary school you go to is the background for what you do later. In the primary school, you are dealing with children that are very impressionable so whatever you say to them is accepted as the gospel truth. So if you are involved with primary education, you must be conscious of that. At that age, you hear the children tell even their parents, “That’s not what my teacher said.”
Looking at my primary school, I see that whatever I turned out to be, I can still trace it to some of the things I got from that school.
How was growing up generally?
I thank God I grew up in a home. A home is different from a house. A house is a structure; a home is a place where the father is responsible, where issues are sorted out in love, where God is made to take His rightful place in decision making. My parents helped me by being together through thick and thin. Quite a lot of things I do today, I trace to them; values especially
So you wanted to be an educationist?
No, I didn’t- at least, up to the point of my A’ Levels. I look back now and I must say it could have only being divinely arranged. I will explain it to you. The year I did my A’ levels, our results came out very late but thankfully, I made my three papers. The problem was that by then, many schools had completed their admissions. When I got to the University of Ibadan, because it was their 25th year anniversary, they increased their admissions offered. If it was the regular one, I would have missed it.
I remember clearly that I got to Ibadan on a Wednesday and that was the last week of admissions. When they saw my three A ‘level papers, they felt very sorry because I filled in a course in science and their admission panel for science was meeting on the very day I arrived so my forms couldn’t be presented there. You wouldn’t believe it but through the stacks of admission forms, they were able to fish out mine and that I should change it to education which would be meeting on Thursday. If education didn’t take me, Agric. would consider me on Friday. I didn’t even have much time to think it through. They brought out the forms and I filled it there and then. I give God glory because the following day, by 12 noon, education had offered me admission. I found my education courses effortless; this helped me to make a 2-1 but I didn’t do as well in my science courses so I found that that was really me.
Is running the Cayley College different from running the tutorial you started with?
It is totally different. The tutorial college eventually gave way to Cayley College because what they were expecting us to offer at the tutorial college, I didn’t want to do it. They expect you to be involved in one form of malpractice or the other. That is why we don’t register external students. We only register our students, who have been exposed to good teaching in the fear of God, who know from the beginning that there is no space for exam malpractice. You see, if a child is not able to handle exams at the secondary school level, when that child gets into the university, if she is a girl, she will use her body; that will happen. Education as life. If you see education as life, you will know that for a child that comes to your school, God has given you the privilege to affect that life and you must handle it with every sense of responsibility. That’s the way I see it. Yes, I want to make money in the process but I don’t want to destroy children so that I can say we got a hundred per cent and people will flock in here. I know I am accountable to God.
In our increasingly pluralistic society, how will schools with firm religious values cope?
I’m not talking about a sect but a child must be taught from the beginning that there is a superior being. That being can have different forms to different people but once a child is aware that there is a Maker, he can start his day by talking to this being. That is basic. There must be tolerance; there must be a way for people to come and still flow with what you are doing but what every school should offer should be at least, the basic. It is abnormal for any parent to say I don’t want my child to learn the basics.
Does schooling in Nigeria grant any advantage?
If you can cope in Nigeria, you can cope anywhere. What we go through in this country prepares us for any terrain. When you see people who studied in Nigeria and later go abroad, most of them do very well because we’ve been taught to be rugged and though. We believe so much in certificates so the child knows from primary level that she’s got to struggle. Get to WAEC, it’s a struggle. You wake up at 5:00am to go to school and even at the tertiary level where we still hope for an overhaul, it is a struggle still. You are in an overcrowded lecture hall but you know you still have got to listen.
So, the Nigerian child can compete anywhere. Check CNN, when people are interviewed outside the shores of this nation, you see the name, you hear the accent and you know- that’s a Nigerian! Nigerians, we are a special breed. Nigeria prepares you to cope anywhere expect you decide otherwise 10-20 years from now, what trends will be at the centre stage of education?
Education is not static so as society advances, education will be affected. This is the time of increased knowledge. There are things secondary school students do now and we are like ‘wow’ but primary school students will do them at that time. The stage we are in now, a lot is happening and coming out in the release of and exposure to knowledge. Education 20 years from now is a case of get ready, don’t think as it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be. Be prepared for changes. Don’t stand still, else you will be left behind and you can’t afford to because education is life.