For school owners, there's something in a name

THE PUNCH Newspaper- Folashade Adebayo

Facebook Nursery and Primary School, Otunba Street, Ojodu, Lagos, commands a second look from passers-by. Painted in a deep shade of cream and brown colours, the school approved by the Lagos State Ministry of Education in 2009 has a population of no fewer than 155 pupils, a factor the proprietor, Mr. Dickson Sunday, attributes to its unusual name.

The educationist, however, says the name is not for a lack of a better nomenclature. The 2009 graduate of the Lagos State University claims he has had his eyes on the name many years back.

“Many names came to my mind when I wanted to establish the school in 2010. But, I already made up my mind on the name I wanted. As God would have it, when I submitted three names during registration at the Lagos State Ministry of Education, the officials said the name was catchy and that there was no existing school with the name,’’ he says.

The young proprietor is also quick to dispel assertions that one of the popular media social platforms, Facebook, influenced the name of his school.

He adds, “The actual concept is Face your Book Nursery and Primary School. I would not want to make it that long and that was why I shortened it. It had nothing to do with Facebook as a social medium.”

Sunday, however, agrees that the ambiguous name has given the school some publicity mileage. But Facebook Nursery and Primary School, is not alone in a comity of schools with unusual names in the country.

President Barack Obama High School, Ugba, Loko Local Government Area of Benue State, Heavy Comprehensive College, Odewale-Agbado, Ogun State, and the Climax Schools, along Ogijo-Sagamu road also in Ogun State are a few examples of such institutions.

Educationists say the names of schools are as pluralised as the number of private schools in Nigeria. Observations by our correspondent show that while some proprietors are content with naming their schools after themselves or their children, others opt for abstract but distinct name with academic or creative appeal.

Yet, there are others named after the memory of departed persons. Examples in this category include the Fakunle Comprehensive High School, Osogbo, Osun State (now a government school), the Apata Memorial High School, Okota, Lagos, the Vivian Fowler Memorial College for Girls, Oregun, Lagos, among others.

According to Mr. Femi Farayola, the Chairman, Heavy Comprehensive College, Heavy Ventures International Limited, the parent company, informed the name of the school.

He says he decided to stick with the name to thwart the intimidating presence of other schools around.

“Heavy Comprehensive College is a subsidiary of Heavy Ventures International Limited. When we started the school in 2004, there were bigger schools around who thought they could ‘swallow’ smaller schools. But the name worked for us. Except you were heavier than heavy, there was no way you could swallow our school,’’ he explains.

The Head Teacher and Proprietor, Masterpiece Schools, Akera, Ogun State, Mr. Babatunde Atambala, however, says the appellation of his school was inspired by the desire to set the school and its pupils apart from the bandwagon.

He adds, “We just wanted a name that will represent what the school and our pupils stand for. Prior to the time we admitted the first set of pupils, we already had eight teachers who were trained to live by the name. The name is not only unique because you cannot find it around, it also inspires members of staff and pupils and we strive to live by it.”

On her part, the proprietoress, the Centro Escolar School, Opebi, Lagos, Mrs. Emmanuella Otiono, says the nomenclature is a reflection of her vision for the school. According to her, the Spanish name “means a centre for scholars. We wanted a school where we would bred scholars.”

But while school owners may have various reasons for choosing a particular name, educationists say the choice of a name for a school should be consciously made as it represents the vision of the school.

An educationist and Principal Partner, TBOG Consultants, Mrs. Bimbo Obasuyi, blames the lack of originality in school names on the race to ape the corporate identities of other schools by proprietors.

According to her, a school name should represent its vision and mission. The name of a school is part of its branding and you must have a quick recall attribute. It must also be inspiring in order to impact positively on the lives of its pupils and the environment.

She notes, “The challenge is that everybody is toeing the same line. It should not be difficult to come up with a name because there must be differentiation. But what you find out is that you set up a school and the next day, another school has come up, wanting to be like your school.”

Another educationist, Dr. Segun Omisore, opines that the name of a school is an important identity, which should imbibe the expectation of each stakeholder. In his words, the choice of a name can either make or mar the school.

The academic also alludes to the rancour generated when the Federal Government attempted to change the University of Lagos to the Moshood Abiola University. According to him, the agitations the action provoked during the period showed the psychological and emotional attachment to the name.

“There is something in the name of a school, just as there is a lot in the name of a human being. A school in my environment with the name New Dawn Hall always fascinates me. It means parents should expect something better than what they were used to. The name of a school is an instant advertisement.

“For instance, consider the Obafemi Awolowo University. The University of Ife as an institution had been synonymous with greatness. The late Obafemi Awolowo is also a great name. But there was resistance when the University of Lagos was about to be changed to the Moshood Abiola University. It was because Abiola was a symbol of the struggle and not the struggle. I will enjoin prospective proprietors and proprietresses to consider names that will endear everyone to their schools,’’ he posits.

However, opinions of parents differ when asked if the name of a school constituted a determining factor when choosing a school for their children.

As far as a parent, Mrs. Beatrice Alabi, is concerned, the focus of any parent should be on the worth of the teachers in the school and not on the name. She reasons that what matters is the quality of teaching and learning in the school as the appellation could be deceptive.

“You can call a school by any name, but it comes to nothing if the teachers are not qualified. While I do not think the name should be unattractive, my opinion is that proprietors are good at manipulating parents by going for beautiful names. But what happens if you have a beautiful name and your teacher cannot speak a sentence of correct English? She asks.

However, another parent, Mrs. Kikelomo Iselowo, says the name of a school is an attraction to her.

She declares, “Most of the times, you find that the proprietors strive to live up to the name because parents will hold them to ransom. The name of the school not only inspires the proprietor, it also motivates the members of staff and pupils.”

Attempts on Thursday by our correspondent to speak with the director in charge of name registration for schools at the Lagos State Ministry of Education were not successful. But according to a source in the ministry, what is most important is to ascertain if no existing school has the name.


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