In my last article, I wrote about my experience with teachers struggling with change in our schools. I promised to conclude the article in March edition but there was a development which I would like to touch before it is too late.Coach Stephen Keshi recently led the Super Eagles to win the Africa Cup of Nations trophy held in South Africa. That was the third time the trophy would be won by Nigeria. The last time the Super Eagles won this trophy was in 1994 when Keshi incidentally was a player for the Nigerian team. The climax of the Super Eagles’ victory came with an interesting dimension; Keshi turned in his resignation the following day the cup was won and this action expectedly generated a lot of public debate. Apart from issues that had to do with finance, one key reason Keshi gave for his resignation was that there was intense pressure from Nigerian Football Federation, his employers, especially before his team beat Cote d’ivoire to qualify for the semi-finals. Keshi alleged that NFF said he should be ready to work under a foreign technical adviser.
This didn’t go well with Keshi and after proving to the whole world that ‘what Oyinbo can do, a black man can do better’ he resigned as the coach of the Super Eagles. It seemed everybody in Nigeria for the first time sided with Keshi. They derided Nigerian Football Federation for not believing in their own. The powers that be in Nigeria including the Senate intervened and Keshi had to withdraw his resignation. I reckon Keshi has been promised that he will be given a free hand to continue building the team without undue interference from any quarters.This football drama reminds one of what appears like a tradition in most high profile schools in Nigeria. Majority of the high fee paying private schools in Nigeria have foreigners as their principals or head teachers. To be qualified for the headship post, in addition to your certificates, the colour of your skin must be ‘right’. In
other words; if you had all the qualifications and trained abroad, you are not going to be considered for the headship post in these schools because your skin colour is dark. To get this job, you don’t even have to come from Canada, the US, UK or Australia. What is important to some of these schools is the colour of the skin —
Oyinbo is our principal! I once asked a school owner why his School is always going for Oyinbo principal and he confessed to me that since that is what their competitors are doing, they have to do it too to stay in business. Other school owners have different motives: They strongly believe that Oyinbo principal knows the job very well and he/she is only fit to provide the right leadership for teachers and students.Obviously Nigerian teachers are not that pleased with majority of their Oyinbo Principals. They always complain about their Oyinbo principals’ lack of experience and high-handedness. Of course they dare not express their dissatisfaction openly because of fear of losing their jobs. The conflicts could come from a number of reasons. The Oyinbo might not be an experienced administrator or it could be that the teachers are not ready for the change which the Oyinbo principal wants to introduce. Majority of the teachers think that the Oyinbo principals are not doing much to deserve their fat salaries and the praise they receive from the school owners and the parents. One teacher recently told me that he was frustrated and embarrassed by the way her school was ‘marketing’ their Oyinbo principal. Whenever they needed to put any information in the newspaper whether for
teacher recruitment or to advertise for admission, the Oyinbo principal’s photo must be there. I remember I have seen a number of advertisements like this too. But it ceased to surprise me since my contact told me that they too are just doing what their competitors are doing so that they can be in business. Some parents seem to believe more in a school headed by a foreigner and they are ready to pay such schools handsomely.When I wanted to leave my job at Olashore Internation School, Iloko as Deputy Head in charge of the School’s philanthropic project to support the Local Primary School where Olashore International School is located, the founder of the School, Late Oba Oladele Olashore wanted to employ a foreigner to fill the post I was about to vacate. I heard about his plan and I went to convince him why he didn’t need a foreigner to fill the post since we have created a system and any smart teacher would succeed on the job. Oba Olashore told me the only reason he was
planning to employ a foreigner was because of commitment. He said there would be less distraction for a foreigner and he really wanted someone to build on the success we have achieved on the project so far. I didn’t have enough courage then to ask Oba Olashore to tell me if I was distracted or not committed for the three years that I successfully worked on the project!I had an interesting experience when I was teaching in another school. My fair skinned (Oyinbo?) fellow teacher who was a foreigner (not from the US, UK, US or any of those countries known for quality education) wanted a quick loan from me. I told her that I didn’t have that kind of money but she found it difficult to believe me since we were just paid our salaries.
One discussion led to another and she got to know what my salary was. She was very surprised that there was such a gap in our salaries. She confessed that she learned on the job from me and other Nigerian teachers and she felt somehow guilty that she was earning far more than us. I reckon she had what her Nigerian colleagues didn’t have: the colour of the skin to entice parents.Coach Keshi had a chance to prove himself and he did. Remember we have had some foreign technical advisers who never got the Super Eagles qualified for any tournament. Some bold Nigerian schools have however given qualified Nigerians the opportunity to head their schools. A good number of them are achieving results and still making their money. The teachers in schools where Oyinbos are principals should accept the direction of change for now. Grumbling and complaining under the mango tree will not do anyone any good. Or don’t you know that your school is doing what the competitors are doing? Please be wise.
Akin AlamuAkin Alamu is the CEO of High Rank Curriculum Limited.
He can be reached at [email protected] or 07033850574