How do you pick a school for your child to attend in modern day Nigeria? On every corner you look there is a school of some sort. The simple truth is schools are lucrative- not as lucrative as church business, but you can never really be poor if you own or invest in a school.
The primary challenge with schools is trying to understand why the school was set up. As with any business set up with the primary goal of it being profit- the services are bound to be lacking as the bottomline remains the primary goal. An administrator or owner whose goal is to be impactful is less likely to view only the bottomline and actually see a bigger picture.
For your child educated in Nigeria to be globally competitive they will more than likely have to attend a private school as public schools continue to fail the populace for a host of reasons which I won’t delve into right now. From my standpoint here are a few things you should look for when taking your precious one into school (babies especially).
- Can you be given a physical tour of the facilities? If the answer to this is partial or a point blank no, then please do not even bother with them. I know of a creche in VI that would only allow parents see the “downstairs” of the facility. They do have clients though…You should be able to assess cleanliness, safety and security of any facility you wish to place your child.
- Do they have a stimulating environment for your child? In addition things such as a decent outdoor play area?
- What is the child to staff ratio? What is their capacity? Any school that tells you it is 1 to 1 – be careful they have counted in security guards and cleaners in that mix. When you visit your child’s potential room look at how many kids are in there and how many adults. The generally accepted ratio is 4 to 1, preferably 3 to 1 for children under 5. How many kids are in a room? Any room with kids under 5 shouldn’t have more than 15 kids in the room- for me this is a personal matter. You want to make sure that the staff is not overwhelmed. As for capacity – should your child go to a nursery or creche that has more than 50 kids combined? Personally I say no…its not a production factory. For primary school anything with more than 3 arms per year/ class and 20 students per room for me is not ideal.
- Can they accomodate your child if he/she has special needs? Self Explanatory.
- What are the requirements for you to enroll your child? Do they ask for immunization records, birth records, doctors contacts etc? If no – you better run.
- What is the quality of staff? Ask if you can have a conversation with the staff in charge of the room your child would be in. Do you like the person? Do they appear neat, courteous and capable? Is their command of English acceptable to you? Are they child friendly?
- Is there a school nurse and do they have an affiliated hospital? You do want to rest easy knowing that your child can receive emergency care if need be given the environment. Children will get hurt- its a part of childhood.
- Is the school licensed?
- What are the qualifications of the administrator or owner? What is their level of involvement on a daily basis? Look people open schools for different reasons – a lot of former business executives are in the education space due to mid life career changes (some of us have lightbulbs that finally come on after years of toiling in corporate environments). While it would be lovely for everyone to have education qualifications it is absolutely not necessary. I would rather an administrator with an MBA than someone who grudgingly went to teachers college because they couldn’t get into the university. You can detect interest from speaking with people for 30 minutes or less.
- Can you pop in and visit your child at anytime?
- What is the facility’s policy on discipline? Timeouts, flogging, corporal punishment? Is it in line with how you want your child disciplined?
- Will your child be respected as an individual? Or will it be one of those facilities where they force your child into conforming? For instance this is readily common for left handed children – Many Nigerian facilities try to force the right hand.
- Is the school equipped with cctv? While this is not an absolute and will likely drive up the costs, it is nice to have. Can parents access video feeds live during the school day? especially for children under 3 who aren’t speaking too well.
- This one is extremely personal – is the school professional? I do not want my children calling some random adult aunty or uncle. No school aunty – aunty Ngozi should be Miss Ngozi. This is a societal problem.
- Proximity of the facility to your home, late pick up policy etc. I wont say job because we change jobs more than we move houses so it’s important to be able to reach your child on time and in the occasional event that you can’t- you should be comfortable knowing your child is safe.
Lastly your gut instinct is the most important thing in the entire process. What is your mind telling you as a parent? Don’t dismiss your feelings.
While this list is not exhaustive- these are the things I would generally look for in a facility before I agree to enroll my kids. Please feel free to add on anything you feel I may have overlooked.
Thanks to Lounge for suggesting this topic.