Jextoban Secondary School, Ketu, Lagos recently celebrated 25 anniversary and the proprietor, Pastor Emmanuel Ojo,in an interview with The Education Report revealed how the school started, challenges encountered and successes recorded.
Could you tell us briefly about yourself?
My name is Pastor Emmanuel Adedayo Ojo, from Ekiti State. I attended Ifaki Grammar School, Ifaki Ekiti and had my first degree in Physics from the University of Ibadan in 1969 before I did my master’s degree in Computer Science at the University of London in 1970/71. I worked with Shell Petroleum as a Computer Programmer before I joined the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) as a Senior Systems Analyst in charge of systems development for the whole of West Africa. I later moved on to the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) as the pioneer Director of Computer Services until I left in December 1985. I returned to my own consultancy services outfit, Associated Business Information and Computer Services (ABICS). By 1988, I had a vision that set me thinking about how to do business without compromising my Christian belief. The vision did not clearly manifest until six years later in 1994, when God gave me the leading to start a secondary school. That was the origin of Jextoban Secondary School, which was started by my wife and I. Jextoban is an acronym for ‘Jesus Christ Our Banner’. The school opened on January 9, 1995 with nine students and nine teachers. The date, enrolment figure and staff strength were purely coincidental.
Why did you decide to start with a secondary school rather than a primary school, which is the norm?
Having had a rich experience in examination processing by virtue of working in WAEC and JAMB and seen the decadence in the nation’s educational system, I had no doubt that establishing a secondary school would be my way of contributing to the educational development in Nigeria with a view to correcting the menace in the educational system. This was a God-given vision. I did not fully comprehend the vision until after six years. Given the decadence in the educational system in which students, sometimes aided by their parents, often try to source live examination questions; given their unserious behaviour and given the general indiscipline, I became convinced that something had to be done within my own sphere of influence to correct the malaise.
Comparing then to now, would you say things have changed?
We still have examination malpractices and indiscipline, even on a larger scale because the society itself has become more permissive. The situation now is that you can only do so much within the confines of your own school to ensure that pupils are well schooled and groomed to excel on their own steam without joining the multitude to do evil.
Given your experience in education administration, what kind of curriculum do you employ in your school?
Primarily, we comply with the national curriculum for senior and junior secondary schools, that is SSS and JSS. We also incorporate aspects of British and American curricula so that our children could have the requisite certification needed for international exposure in foreign institutions. We match academics with basic rules and regulations built on Christian values because, as the Bible says, the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. When you give children the kind of moral upbringing of Christian virtues, their lives tend to be transformed, particularly when you lead by example. When children in an environment see things done right, they easily conform. But when they do things out of the norm, we deal with these on a case-by-case basis.
Starting up, what were the challenges to get Jextoban on sound footing?
From day one, my wife took charge of the running of the school, which was the first private secondary school in the whole of Ketu, Lagos. I had the vision, but she has diligently and excellently continued to run with it. She has continued to be a strong pillar of support. She supervised the physical development of the school. That is her passion. When we started, funding was our major challenge, but we were able to surmount the obstacle because Jextoban was a God-given vision. We did not have enough funds to do massive publicity; we only put up a signboard in front of the school and our children were involved in distributing the few flyers that we printed. With time, the quality of tuition and one-on-one interactions with parents enabled us to increase the school’s enrolment. Our first great moment was when we graduated our first set of 23 students in 1999. But we had a low moment in 2005 when the principal, vice principal and about six key subject teachers resigned at the same time. It was emotionally devastating but, by the grace of God, we picked up again.
25 years down the line, how has the journey been?
The journey started out on a bit of a rough note, as we had to struggle against many odds. But it has mostly been on the ascendancy. The lesson learned is that it takes consistency, resilience, focus, a commitment to playing by the rules and, importantly, the grace of God, to keep a vision on track, especially if you’re doing something for which you have the passion. That is the secret for growth. Today, 25 years after we started out from a rented apartment, Jextoban has one campus in Ketu, Lagos and its permanent site in Ibafo in Ogun State. We are especially happy that our old students have continued to excel in their diverse callings. We have produced students for world-famous Ivy league schools like Harvard University in the US and Aston University in the UK, among many others. Till date, 21 of our old students have recorded First Class grades in various universities across the world. Some have also finished or are about rounding off their PhD programmes. In the 2019 WASSCE, two of our students had seven A1 in their subjects. Performance has been good generally. We have won many awards for our efforts and for the performance of our pupils. We hope to win more.
As a school proprietor, how do you view the standard of education in the country and what advice do you have for the government?
The quotient of education that children have these days is stricter than what my generation had. They have access to the Internet and a wider scope of knowledge. The quality of performance is a function of the school and the sets of students you are dealing with. If you take the performance of the average graduate at work today, can you compare it with that of a Standard Six certificate holder in the ’50s? The problem really is that the students-to-teacher ratio now is much higher than before; facilities are also inadequate and there is the challenge of brain drain. Quality will be affected, no doubt. So, the debate on the standard of education is relative. However, I will advise the government to adequately fund education because the development of any nation depends on the quality of its human capital resource. If people are well educated, there would be progress and the economy will improve.
Who is to be blamed for the rising spate of immorality in society: parents or the school?
The Bible says train up your child in the way he should go; when he is grown, he will not depart from it. The rat race starts at home. Without proper supervision, children will be exposed to all sorts of vices. We need to return to the good values of the past. The school can only try its best.
After celebrating the Silver Jubilee, what next for Jextoban?
The Bible says whatever your hands find to do, do it very well. In other words, we shall consolidate what we have for post-primary education and ensure we leave a legacy of excellence, transparent honesty and diligence. It will be up to my successors to determine whether they want to take the dream to the next level of, maybe, setting up a university or to further consolidate our current niche.