When even as the wife of the then President and military head of State, the late Maryam Babangida decided in 1993, to open a primary school, only God knew what was on her mind. Perhaps the whole idea was borne out of the necessity of her own needs as well as the need to have a forum to express herself as a mother. This was because, the late First Lady was indeed a woman who expressed herself firmly. We can only conjecture.
The little we know today is perhaps encapsulated in her message on the school website, stating the obvious. And this is that, ‘ One of the most significant decisions of your life will be choosing the best learning environment for your wards. As a parent, your child will be spending six (6) years in either our primary or secondary school therefore making the right choice becomes pivotal. This decision is made to affect their future and where you choose will greatly influence your child.
Perhaps it was this that led her into delving into a terrain that was not essentially money-spinning but more or less humanitarian. She was the wife of a sitting military Head of State, yet she went ahead to plant the dream project that today has outlived her.
From what we could conjecture, her objective then, was to build the children into leaders with sound character, morally upright, as well as engender the much needed academic excellence. That was why she stated that, ‘The school encourages and promotes cultural values that are reflected in positive character, mental alertness, and moral uprightness. Spiritual growth is important in the school environment and this is sustained as the school has a mosque and a church. Academic excellence is at the heart of the students learning experience.
As the school grew, it became a huge success, no wonder by September 1995, the Secondary arm of the school was added to the initial primary arm. The expansion was a ‘product of direct response and natural progression from the primary arm which came two years earlier. Obviously, the ‘brimming success of the primary school within three years of its operations served as a catalyst to the starting of the secondary arm.’
The school took off without much noise and over the years it had become the place parents who value good education send their kids to. Today the school can look back at the array of awards that it has won as well as many more won by her students, but then these are no mean feat. Recall that one of the feats achieved by the school include producing one of the country’s youngest PHD holders, Dr Salihu Ibrahim Dasuki.
The environment is serene; the facilities are top grade and compare favourably with any institution anywhere in the world. More than all these are the crop of staff that handle the kids with discipline, love and diligence knowing that their immediate impact in the life of the kids would help in shaping not only the future of the kids but also that of the nation.
With an array of teachers ranging from graduates with bias in Education to Masters Degrees holders and a few PhD, the school compares to any other one with its status in the world.
In an interview recently, the Principal of the School, Mr Nkama Vincent revealed that experience and expertise are key words in recruitment. In his words, “I have over 25 years of teaching experience because I started as a classroom teacher. Here, it is mandatory on all our teachers to have certificates in Education and those with PhD can move to our university when it takes off in 2020. We have a Continuous Development Programme where we run in-house training for teachers in addition to our training institute. We encourage teachers to do online programmes and during our annual appraisals, we assess them as well as carry out classroom observation.”
With its growth, one would have expected to see an institution that is large in terms of students population but this is not so. Our investigation however revealed that this was a deliberate policy by the founder of the school.
“The founder said the students cannot exceed 300 even though the carrying capacity is for 1,500 students. The founder didn’t want rowdy classrooms but classrooms where teachers could identify individual students and know their challenges and assist them appropriately; so the teacher-student ratio is 1:8. In the words of the incumbent Principal, ‘when I came, I told the Executive Director that the school was underutilised, but he said the idea is to keep the vision of the founder alive.”
He also noted that the school is now a brand consisting of nursery, primary, secondary schools and a university.
The university is being constructed a few kilometres from the location of the present EL Amin International School would start running courses in 2020 as disclosed by the Executive Director during the 2018 Founder’s Day. The planners visited top universities in the world such as Harvard, Oxford, London School of Economics and Yale to assess their academic programmes; so in our new university, various faculties are modelled after different top ranked universities in the world.”
In a way, this follows the pattern of an exceptionally few number of higher institutions all over the world which started out as a nursery, graduated into secondary before adding a tertiary arm.
One other remarkable feature about the school is the ability to follow up on its students even after graduation. “Our policy is to keep tab on what our former students are doing, where they are and what successes they have attained and we use this to challenge those that are here. Some former students come to talk to the students and they are always excited. Some of them in the university told us they were in the first class lists and we advised them to maintain those positions. We are doing this because we want to have good leaders in this country.
Another reason for keeping in touch with our former students is to get new students because we have modern equipment. Our science laboratories are better than those used by students in many universities’ the School Principal revealed.
Highlighting this further, he stated that the school has state-of-the-art facilities in every discipline including Chemistry, Biology, Physics as well as in Basic Technology, Carpentry, Electrical, Mechanical Workshops and Visual Art Studio. The Home Economics and language labs are well equipped and the school has a typing pool where they test the typing speed of students.
“Our Food and Nutrition, students recently visited one of the best hotels in Abuja and when they returned, they admitted that they were familiar with all the equipment the hotel uses. They also interacted with the best chefs,” he said.
It is therefore not unexpected that the school has been catching the attention of those that matter in the society. During last year’s Founder’s day, the Public Lecture marking the event was given by Africa’s richest man, Alhaji Aliko Dangote who spoke glowingly of what the school meant for Nigeria. Dangote, who was the keynote speaker, thanked the family of the former Head of State, General Ibrahim Babangida (rtd) for intervening in the educational needs of the country.
He noted that foundations are very important to whatever anyone becomes in future.
Represented by Alhaji Mansir Ahmed, the businessman reminded those present that government alone cannot provide the country’s educational needs, hence the need for private interventions such as El Amin School which, since its establishment, has made indelible marks in the life of many Nigerians across various ethnic and religious divides.
As the school clocks 25, it is gladdening to note that the guiding principles of educating children from across Nigeria and promoting respect for cultural and religious values, maintaining a balanced and integrated curriculum that is delivered in the most impactful ways have continued to be the institution’s hallmark. Not forgetting that El-Amin International School also offers exclusive extracurricular activities ranging from photography, hairdressing, music and dancing apart from sporting activities like polo, soccer, tennis, taekwondo, swimming and basketball.”
As the brand expands to add its new branch, the university in a couple of months, if the founder could look back, there is no doubt that she would be happy with what she sees. Here, we refer specifically to the decision to ensure that her legacy and all it stood for were well protected through the transition in leadership which has ensured that the son, Mohammed Babangida holds sway as the Executive Director and uphold all that she stood for in her lifetime and even taken the dream to a new level.
This smooth transition, and also the fact that the institution’s present leadership shares in the vision of its founder, in no small way, has helped in sharpening and defining the focus of the institution till date.