Thursday, 9 March 2017

How we run Elias International School—Mrs. Oluwagunna + Secret of her Leadership Style

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Mrs. Oluwakemi Oluwagunna, Chief Administrator, ELIAS International School, Lagos

Last Friday, March 3, Elias International School, (College annex) had her International Day Celebration in Lagos—South West Nigeria. The event which took place at the school’s premises with a parade session from the students at Ile-Epo, Oke-Odo area of Lagos (Along Lagos-Abeokuta express Road) was not only colorful and exciting. Guests, Parents and dignitaries from all walks of life stormed the six hours event which started 9am prompt and ended 3pm. The event had students from JSS 1 to SS 3 classes rendering drama, music and literary debates depicting the culture and social custom of countries like India, Ghana, Mexico, Germany, Colombia & Malaysia. The  whole essence of the International Day Celebration is simply to cross-fertilize ideas for global integration. The School Administrator Mrs. Oluwakemi Oluwagunna later spoke to your Africa’s Number 1 Celebrity Encounter blog, Asabeafrika inside her office. She told us why the School has maintained a culture of excellence since inception in 1989 till date.  The encounter is quite revealing and exciting. Enjoy the excerpts.
The GDA meets Mrs. Oluwakemi Oluwagunna, Administrator, ELIAS International Schools
Can you kindly share the humble story  Elias International School with us?
Elias International School started in April, 1989. We started on a very low key and we never expected it was going to become so big. But somehow, God made the dream bigger and today we are 28 years in business. We have graduated a good number of students over the years.
Mrs. Oluwakemi Oluwagunna with 2 old students of the institution, one is a Female Pilot with Aero Contractors Airline while the Man is an Engineer
Presently, some of them are managers and some are leaders of organizations who graduated from this school. We have a lot of them in high places home and abroad. That has been our culture so far. But one of the things I really appreciate about this school, is the fact that our students sit and pass their examinations without any malpractice.
Mrs. Oluwakemi Oluwagunna raised a trophy for the Colombia Group who won 2nd in the International Day Celebration Ceremony
How were you able to achieve quality examination pedigree without bias for malpractices?
Mrs. Oluwakemi Oluwagunna to Asabeafrika....'Our trademark at ELIAS is excellence in hard work'
Excellence in hard work, that is our watchword. Because we believe that when a child is well taught, the child will definitely do well. So it is not magic, it is not rocket science. It is hard work. Our teachers are always there to ensure that our pupils are taught the entire syllabus. And anytime we do internal examinations, we ensure that the children do it by themselves. So it is a culture from inception; any child coming to Elias will know that the only thing you will do is to read and pass your examination. That is our basic standard.
Mrs. Oluwakemi Oluwagunna....'A woman in love with educational excellence'
The waning standard of education in Nigeria is a big problem? As a mother, wife and school administrator, what do you think is the problem of our education system in Nigeria?
Mrs. Oluwakemi Oluwagunna....Angry with the decadent level of Nigeria's educational system
Really, it is a long story. It wasn’t like this when we started. But corruption from the zenith to the lowest rung of the society is what has destroyed the fabrics of good education in Nigeria. And when the educational system is affected, every other aspect becomes a victim because our educational system is the foundation of the citizen. But it is redeemable, it is actually redeemable if we can be able to build a culture of integrity from the top. Because it must be a comprehensive strategy from the parents to the teachers. It will really surprise you that parents themselves now want their children to cheat. So, when we look at it, it is not really about the children.
Mrs. Oluwakemi Oluwagunna gives a brilliant student his trophy for excellence in intellectual display
The problem of malpractice or lack of integrity is that of the parents and the big goons at the top. But if we could get it right with our experiment and ensure that we teach our children and put in them a culture of study with no regard for cash-and-carry examination malpractices; allowing them to believe in hard work and discipline, I believe we would solve the larger problem and any other malaise that may affect our children in the long run. But it takes time anyway, because it is going to be a gradual process. It goes back to creating a golden standard that is highly unshakable which is our hallmark at Elias.
Mrs. Oluwakemi Oluwagunna gives Ghana House a trophy for excellence in culture at the ELIAS International Day Celebration 
Who do you think is to be blamed for the social decadence of educational malpractices and sundry vices. Is it the Parents who are supposed to be the first teachers, the school environment or society at large?
Mrs. Oluwagunna blames society for decadence in educational sector
I will blame society at large. Yes, because society encompasses everybody both the parents, the teachers and the government. So, we should blame the society because the parents can not stand out alone. What about the teachers that are also involved in malpractices? Or the universities that want our young ones to pay something before they turn in? So, it is the entire society, the entire country. We need purging, we need serious purging before it can be okay.
Mrs. Oluwagunna handing over trophy to a male student for excellence in Quiz
Elias seems to radiate a culture of excellence and credibility among pupils and parents alike. I found out that from some parents today. What is the secret of your acceptability in Nigeria?
Mrs. Oluwakemi Oluwagunna to Asabeafrika....'Elias raises her students with Christian values'
Number one, Elias is a christian school and our mantra is integrity with excellence. Our core values are discipline, humility, creativity, integrity and excellence. Apart from that, we teach our students the ethics of respect. We believe that our students must respect everything around them, both human beings and the educational system that is grooming them for leadership. In fact, we don’t take the issue of respect lightly. It is the hallmark.
Mrs. Oluwakemi Oluwagunna talks to the GDA inside her office
We believe if the educational system is respected, they will do things right and respect the society, respect their nation, respect themselves and respect their parent. So, respect will go round everything and at the end of the day, their attitude will change. And you will agree with me that attitude is almost everything. By the time you have a good attitude, it would affect every area of your life.
Founder/Chairman, ELIAS International Schools, Dr. Elijah Dosunmu
The Girls’ child education is something that is taking the front burner in the United Nations and several other European Countries especially as it relates to Nigeria’s North East crisis. What is the position of Elias School on Girl’s child education?
Mrs. Oluwakemi Oluwagunna....'A lover of the Girl's child right'
On a personal note, I am passionate about the girl child. I think the society at large has taken the girl child for granted on too many fronts. Not because I am a girl child by my position as a woman. No. I just believe that along the line, the girl child has been so much neglected, especially in Africa. We have a stereo-type belief that the girl child is a second class citizen. When you take a critical look at the society, the way we started in Africa, you see that the girl child is seen as a second class citizen. So, I have a passion for them. Here in Elias, we don’t toy with their senses, we don’t play with their emotions. We protect them, we enlighten them and we enhance whatever they want to project that is good.
Founder of Elias International School, Dr. Elijah Dosunmu & his Pretty Wife, Madam Esther Dosunmu
We do a lot of seminars to ensure that we educate them to keep themselves and fulfill their career and destinies in life. But we are not just about the girl child alone, even though we take special interest in grooming the girl child. It is a mixed school, we also shape the orientation of the boy child. But because of the sensitivity of the nature of the girl child, I think everybody should be passionate about them so they will not be cheated in the society. And for real, the girl child is an asset any day any time because the girl child will surely grow to become not just the next mother but a compassionate leader in the act of raising more lives.
Mrs. Oluwagunna gives out a trophy to the best Elias Student Group in the International Day Celebration (India)
If you are to have a chanced discussion with President Muhammadu Buhari on standard of education in Nigeria, what would you be telling him to change in the educational sector?
The GDA engages Mrs. Kemi Oluwagunna
That is a good one and a tough one for Nigeria. I mean giving my views to Mr. President on how to turn around our educational sector in Nigeria. First and foremost, the need to take a practical step. Secondly, there is the need for government to establish a think-tank committee to think and strategize and look at every aspect that is affecting the education sector right from the skills, the curriculum down to the culture of teachers, lecturers and the entire education gamut of the country. Even the school entry examinations like NECO, WAEC and core curricular activities. Government must do something about the people involved with policies because if we don’t get the policies right, we are in trouble. Education is the basis for any nation to grow and become anything. It is the basis for a great economy and any good thing you can think of. We must get the policies right because we are just going up and down.
Mrs. Oluwakemi Oluwagunna to Asabeafrika....'Government must be serious about reforms'
That is what I have noticed, today we are on 6-3-3-4, tomorrow we are on another thing and we don’t follow through. So, we must build a strong community of educational experts with focus. Government should raise a very good committee that will not just change when another government comes in. And such a committee should have people who are well educated, I mean professionals in the educational sector. Not just doctors of philosophy or from any other discipline that is not educationally inclined. Of course, philosophy is still a good discipline but I am talking about something out of education. We have such square pegs in round holes in the system and they are the ones causing a lot of problem for us today. So I think that we should inaugurate an educational sector reforms committee with people who are well educated in education. Professional educationist.
The GDA showing Mrs. Oluwagunna something of interest on his phone
Between diligence and intelligence, which one do you think is the best?
Diligence and intelligence? Diligence and intelligence? That is a tough one. You mean I should choose the best?
Yes, ma?
The GDA gets a rare handshake from the educationist, Mrs. Oluwagunna
If you are intelligent and you are not diligent, you will lose your dream. And if you are diligent and you don’t have intelligence, at the end of the day, I think you will lose out as well. So most of the time if you are very, very diligent, you can actually or eventually, maybe with a small progress, get intelligence. Anyway, I think I will prefer to have the two.
Mrs. Oluwakemi Oluwagunna to Asabeafrika....'I believe we should use both the old and new culture in raising today's kids'
You are in the business of raising children, let me ask you this. Do you think the old traditional way of using the rod is still the best or the new western influenced way where you must not cane the child at all. Which one do you think is the best?
My answer will surprise you. I suggest that we should merge the two; there should be a synergy of the old and the new way of raising a child.
What do you mean by synergy?
When you look at the traditional way, you will discover that we have some very, very powerful sociologists who believe in the old tradition. Now, life is taking a new turn, they don’t just smack again or hurt them.  They see themselves as parents, they sit them down and talk to them because both the parent and the children are very, very close. There is a bonding. Where the traditional people got it wrong is using the cane…
Mrs. Oluwakemi Oluwagunna....'A woman of Great Decision'
(Cuts in) But the Bible encourage us to use the rod?
Yes, but sometimes they go an extra mile by using it in a way that a child will feel hated. The child will feel that the father and the mother don’t like him or her. I am now proposing that the two should be merged. We shouldn’t throw the cane away completely because that could also mean throwing the bath water and the baby away. if we look at the two, you will see that they need both. Let’s look at the bonding that is between the parent and the child, the discipline that go along with bonding, we take that. On the home front, the new system is not even the cane. We could look for measures that can be used to make the child to understand our position. Discipline is not by only using the cane; that is where our parents actually got it wrong.  They don’t have other measures except the cane. But these days, there are many, many ways to raise a child than using of the cane.
But I can see a cane near your table there. Are you now saying using of cane is old fashioned?
Mrs. Oluwagunna to Asabeafrika....'My cane is to create fear not to spank'
Yes, the cane by my table is just to create fear. I hardly use it. We here in Elias, we are rather working on a new system or looking for other methods of training our pupils and giving them the right discipline. We have counselors here, we have people we call mentors and we have other ways we use to correct a child. For instance, denial is a good strategy to train a child. You deny the child from participating in some things the child may like to actually participate in. You can use denial as a correctional strategy. The cane is actually a temporal measure. But when it comes to training, we can use other methods and other ways of disciplining a child like denial. There are many other means to straighten up a child’s behavior. After everything, the child will have an understanding of the reason why he or she is being disciplined or being punished. So, there are many ways to the heart of a child. It is because using the cane is the easiest way for people and that is why you see them say ‘oh, let me get my cane’ but if you could work hard on some other measures, it may be a long way but at the end, there is always success.
How do you start your normal day as a school administrator?
Mrs. Oluwagunna to Asabeafrika....'Prayer makes me to be highly organized'
If you are in the education system, you must be very organized. If you are not, you cannot succeed as a leader. Of course I start my day with prayer because that is very important. In fact, that makes me organized. The next thing is to refresh myself as usual and check my mails. I am not very good at eating in the morning. Although this is wrong but that is just me. So, I skip my morning meals.
You do deliberately?
Mrs. Oluwagunna to Asabeafrika....'I am not good at taking my breakfast'
No, I am not just good at eating in the morning. So I am trying to change that aspect of me because I think it is not a very good one. Morning meal is very, very important according to scientists. Immediately I finish checking my mails and I see what I have for the day, I go out for the running of the school. I attend the assembly where we have morning prayers for the staff. Sometimes I stay in the corner and listen to the morning prayers. I may not join them but I go along with them. We run the assembly and ensure everything goes well with the school. When we are back, we go ahead to pay attention to other details. Going through the scripts, checking on what teachers are doing and finally calling on parents that need to be called for one thing or the other, maybe because their wards have done something that needs to be corrected and we need their consent. We don’t play with parents in this school, we believe in partnership because one hand cannot make a clap.
I want you to comment on the sad reality of the reading culture in Nigeria. It is like the reading culture is actually dropping as children would rather read twitter, Facebook and other electronic platforms than reading a book. What do you think should be the panacea?
Mrs. Oluwagunna to Asabeafrika...'Government must do something to revive reading culture in Nigeria'

The reading culture is facing a big challenge in Nigeria. I am starting with myself. Way back when we were young, reading was just everything.  Our own parent developed us  with book reading. And so I am a reader. Right from… I don’t know whether age 4 or 5. We read blooms and all the books of that era, we were loaded with books, we were readers in our homes. So, that is how I was brought up and till now, if you look at my shelves you see books there. I don’t just put a book there for nothing.  I read a lot of motivational books and books that will help you in developing yourself. I think Government need to resuscitate the reading culture in Nigeria. Like I said, down memory lane, my parent brought me up with books. We had a library in our house and we borrowed books within our home. I can say we had more than three to five hundred books in our library as at then. So, we had that sound training and it became a culture. Today, I buy books for my children. We need to create an opportunity for them to read. Here we ensure our pupils read. The school can do something but when they don’t have a culture at home what can you do? My children read like… I don’t want to use the word in my mind. When my baby became a teenager, when she was 13, all the presents I gave to her were books, books and they were not just ordinary books. I gave her ‘Rich Dad, Poor Dad’; I don’t know if you have come across the book
Yes, by Robert Kiyosaki?
Mrs. Oluwagunna....A mother to all successful pupils of Elias
Books that will make her to start thinking and using her brain. So, I think that is how to encourage reading not when we start to buy some funny, funny things and pamper them with frivolities. We should just make sure that our children read to lead.
Some parents buy I-Pads as birthday gifts for their children?
Even chocolates, there is nothing bad with buying chocolate but it would have been better if you buy her a book. If my children pick up my I-Pad, they go to the library part because I have a lot of books on that part and they download books and read. Funny enough I will tell you that it should start from the home. If parents can inculcate the culture of reading into their children, then the school will be doing little to cement that culture and promote excellence.
What is your philosophy of life?
Mrs. Oluwagunna celebrating one of her students with a trophy during the International Day Celebration
Everything is possible with God. With God, nothing is impossible. That is my philosophy.
What is your fashion sense like?
I am not really a fashion freak. But I like to dress well, I like to look good. I like to be a role model to the students I am leading. So, I ensure that whatever I am putting on is something that will cover my body and make me look good. I don’t go for ambiguous fashion props that are lousy or shouting. But when people look at me, they can say ‘oh, this lady is looking good and different’. I believe in looking good and different. Every other thing follows your outlook.
What is your favorite meal?
You remember I told you that taking early meals is cumbersome for me.
Yes, what about bread and tea?
Well, I am not a tea person. I will tell you a secret that many people don’t know.
Please, tell me, ma
Ice cream, I am aware it is not also good for people that are old as I am but I think it is just a little addiction. So I am trying to get over Ice cream and chocolate. I don’t why I like it maybe because it is a soft meal but I am trying to overcome that because it is not good for me at this age. And as a dietician, because that is what I studied in my Masters, I have to live up to what I was taught as a dietician. I am not supposed to be eating chocolate now. And for real food, it is vegetable, carrot, fruits generally and vegetables. That is what I am trying to live on now and it is really a struggle but I will get there.
Which book did you read that changed your life?
The GDA in a rare pose with Mrs. Oluwakemi Oluwagunna, Administrator, Elias International School
I can’t place my mind on any, I have read several books. I read John Maxwell; I have read several literature that added value to my life in the area of leadership and spirituality. For spirituality, I read my Pastor, Pastor W.F. Kumuyi. I have different authors for different aspects of my life. I read Joyce Mayer who is my female mentor. So, I am a voracious reader. If I am not teaching or parenting then I am reading.
What word of advice do you have for your products/students reading this interview across the globe?
Mrs. Oluwakemi Oluwagunna in her best element
I love to tell everyone who has passed through Elias International School that the sky is just the beginning to your success. I believe that you are not grass choppers you are giants, I believe you are not chickens you are eagles and I believe in your destiny. I am glad that I have been hearing of good and great things you are doing outside there. For those of you who were here and there, we are hearing good things about you. Please, keep it up. God will continue to keep you up. Like I said at the beginning, the sky is just the beginning. God bless you.
(For Consultation & Enrollment, call Elias International School on 080-56060-263, 081-50915-271, 070-60778-308 or email or visit

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  1. I knew Kemi Oluwagunna will uphold the established standards when she resigned her appointment as a lecturer to take up leadership role in Elis

  2. She is an epitome of Godly living and the students and staff of Elias are blessed by this exemplary lifestyle. God will continue to uphold you ma.

  3. She is an epitome of Godly living and the students and staff of Elias are blessed by this exemplary lifestyle. God will continue to uphold you ma.