School Where Housewives, Mothers Are Pupils
MRS. Subuola Iyabode Akanni, a Lagos school principal was in her office when a case was brought before her. It was about one of her students who had been driven out of her matrimonial home alongside her children by her husband. Her offence? She was trying to get a secondary school education in order to advance her potentials in life.
The lady had been deprived of secondary education some years ago and she thirsted for it. She soon found an opportunity, which was created by a school known as Alternative High School for Girls in Lagos. Mrs. Akanni, the school principal, quickly sprang into action to give succour to the lady, who at the time was taking refuge in the home of a member of her church. It was clear from the determination she showed that nothing was going to stop her from achieving her ambition.
As such, in spite of her travails, the lady still attended school regularly.
Not long ago, Mrs. Akanni encountered another case amongst her students. It was about a 19 years old lady who was rejected by her father. Her father had denied being responsible for the pregnancy that brought her to life.
After her birth, the lady went through various ups and downs, but lost the chance of getting secondary school education. She learnt hair dressing and in the pathetic situation became the one who has been taking care of her mother. She also longed for education and she has become one of the responsibilities of Mrs. Akanni and other staff members at the Alternative High School for Girls in Lagos.
The school is located at Agboju area of Lagos. It has a population of about 250 women seeking a second chance to get quality education. Some of them have bizarre stories to tell.
Yet they are mature women whose ages range from 15 to 56 years and they have found a sanctuary for educational advancement, receiving high school education in a formal setting. Many of the women are married, while a number are single.
In this strange school, it is not unusual to see babies clutching unto the arms of their mothers as they (mothers) receive lectures.
When The Guardian visited the school, the babies of some of the students were seen in class being cuddled by their mothers, while other were at a crèche set up on the first floor of the school.
ALTERNATIVE High School for Girls is an unconventional school. Yet highly structured and formalised like any high school where teenagers receive education anywhere in the world. Students are taught English, Mathematics, Commercial, Arts and science subjects.
Apart from the uniqueness of the traits, characteristics and circumstances that brought the students together, one of the interesting realities of the school is the course content. The curriculum is different from any other one in the country and perhaps harder to find anywhere in the world. The curriculum blends the courses that an adult, who didn’t go to primary school at all could have missed in primary school and what the adult student expects to learn in secondary school. The courses are taught in special pre JS Class.
Who is the brain behind the strange school and when was it founded? The school was founded by Senator Oluremi Tinubu, wife of former Lagos State Governor, Bola Tinubu in March 2007 through the New Era Foundation, her non-governmental organisation.
Today, Alternative High School for Girls has made giant strides and given the supports of Lagos State Ministry of Education, which has taken it as a model for supporting women’s educational advancement and societal development.
The school has also attracted the attention and support of the World Bank through the EKO Project, which equipped a room with teaching equipment. Corporate institutions such as MTN Telecommunication, NGOs, and husbands of women, who had benefitted from the assistance given by the Mrs. Akanni, the Principal, and Mrs. Anofi Omolara, the Vice Principal, have been supporting the school.
An elated husband once donated a small electricity generator to help the school while another Naval officer came to express his happiness about the educational advancement of his wife. However, not all husbands of the women who are seeking a second chance to get educated are happy about their wives’ new student status. This is the case of the wife that was driven out of her home.
Some husbands are unhappy that their hitherto ignorant wives can now read their documents, chequebooks, transactions and telephone messages. New Era Foundation had established the school to help women who had lost high school education through early marriage, early pregnancy or broken homes.
The main objective of the school is to give women a second chance in life. It’s like any other post primary school with highly qualified teachers. The students are also exposed to vocational skills to help them cope with economic problems and challenges.
As Mrs. Akanni told The Guardian, “this is also a school where the staff take care of the students (mothers) and their babies. The staff also goes the extra mile with their own funds to help the students with very serious problems.
“Mrs. Eyikogbe Bamidele Opemipo is the school counselor and she helps the women deal with their marital, psychological and some educational challenges.
“The students tell us their minds when they are totally down. I am happy with the type of teachers we have in the school. We are their parents, friends and everything,” she said.
Mrs. Akanni has been in the teaching profession for over 31 years. She said that other states and even countries should emulate the type of educational being given in Alternative High.
Administering this unique school has rubbed off on Mrs. Akanni who is also seen as a peculiar person in educational circles. People wonder how she has been coping with very strange sets of students. She has been given all kinds of epithets such as; “Grandmother,” “Iya Alternative” etc.
She admitted that some people look at her as a principal who probably came from the blues. By 2013, the school will be presenting its first set of students for the West African Examination Council (WAEC). The process is long and the school has written to the Lagos State Ministry of Education to give it approval. It is expected that some of these students will in future proceed to the universities, polytechnics and colleges of education to have their degrees.
“Mrs. (Oluremi) Tinubu has always given the school immense support. Even Mrs. Abimbola Fashola, wife of the current Governor once visited the school and interacted with everyone she encountered. Mrs. Fashola also gave gifts such as; gas cookers and toys to the school,” she said.