ON Saturday, July 14, 2012, all roads will lead to Seven Stars Event Centre, Akilo Road, Ikeja, Lagos, where Lagooz Schools, will be staging their 10th anniversary and graduation ceremonies in a very big way. The event is expected to attract dignitaries from all walks of life. ENCOMIUM Weekly visited the proprietor, Otunba Yomi Otubela in his Omotoye Lane, Orile Agege, Lagos office on Thursday, July 4, 2012, where he spoke on the preparation for the event and other issues concerning the school.
Let’s start by congratulating you for the 10th anniversary of Lagooz Schools.
Thank you very much.
How does it feel clocking 10 in the business?
It feels great, I am so happy. We give all glory to God for being there for us all this while. We also appreciate His protection over us and all the members of staff, students and of course, our parents who are our customers. It has been celebration galore from January till now, we are going for the grand finale of the anniversary celebrations come Saturday, July 14, 2012. It’s holding at Seven Stars Event Centre, Akilo Road, Ikeja, Lagos.
Since then till date, how would you describe the experience?
It has been a journey full of trials and challenges, but all the obstacles built us and showed us how better we can do business, take care of our customers and ensure that the students, which of course, are our targets come out in flying colours both academically and morally.
What are the challenges so far?
There were challenges from inception till date. I can remember when we wanted to get the property where we have our building, it was like a war that will never come to an end. But one way or the other, God surprised us. We were able to raise funds through providence and good planning. Even when it came to the stage of erecting the facility itself, it was another surprise for us. It has all been miracles from God and in terms of manpower too, God has been so wonderful to us. We have been able, through His grace, to keep over 80 per cent of our staff since the beginning till date. And of course, with regular training which have made them the best you can see in this environment and beyond. That shows in the products we’re churning out. Our students cut across different universities, we have seen many of them performing exceedingly well in their various academic endeavours. We have also seen some of them already in different offices, different sectors of the economy, contributing their own quota to the development of the nation. All these, of course, make us feel good and happy that the vision of the school is already coming to limelight. We have seen our efforts manifesting in raising new leaders of tomorrow, equipping younger ones for national development. So, we are happy and we will continue to give thanks to God.
What level do you intend taking Lagooz to in 10 years?
We are looking at a comprehensive school that will have the members of staff as the envy of their contemporaries, even in the other sectors of the economy. We have in our plan a staff quarters in our proposed permanent site. We are also expecting that our boarding facilities will be ranked among the modern ones. Also, in less than 10 years, the products of Lagooz will be among the best when it comes to external examinations. Also when it comes to a new brand of younger generations that will take the country to the next level, we are praying God should make the dream a reality just like He has been doing to us. We are also at a situation whereby teaching will be made a very attractive profession. So, that they can take their job more seriously than it has ever been recorded in this country. We want to make sure all the basic needs of life are provided in the staff quarters. This will make students benefit a lot and the end beneficiary of such a laudable plan is our nation. The whole country will be at peace when we turn out students with quality and enviable academic and moral background.
What were the things you couldn’t do well when you started out that you have perfected now?
I remember when we started out, we’re unable to pay our staff a living wage. But with the encouragement we had and the belief in our vision that we shall get there, those who were able to endure like our Deputy Principal, other 14 members of management staff are our pioneer staffers. It’s because they were able to endure with us that they are enjoying more than a living wage now. Apart from that, we discovered that our facilities were not the type that we prayed for. We started without any capital. We just made use of what we had to get what we wanted. For instance, when the first segment of the school was established which was called Lagos Academy Extra Moral Classes, we never had any money to rent or lease an apartment, let alone build a structure. We had to speak to a colleague to make use of their premises after school hours, so that we can begin to train children. We never believed the essence of establishing it was for profit making. That spurred to tirelessly render our services. Students were often asked to come for free lectures. We didn’t collect money from children, it was later that parents began to appreciate what we’re doing that they began to pay for our services. I remember even as a proprietor, I used to take more than necessary number of subjects to ensure that these students were not left idle at all time, especially whenever we’re short of teachers. We also had issues of perfecting our registration with the Ministry of Education, it was as if it won’t come to pass but with conviction and doggedness, the faith we had we’re able to achieve what we are seeing today.
What informed name change to Lagooz when you actually started with Lagos Academy in 2002?
We started with the inspiration that we wanted to capture the whole of Lagos State and impact on the youth. That actually informed the name, Lagos Academy. But during the course of registration with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), and the Ministry of Education, there were lots of bottlenecks we had to pass through to get the word Lagos registered. So, we had to look for a similar name so that we won’t drop the identity entirely. We had to settle for Lagooz which is an offshoot of Lagos.
Some people will still not believe it that a project of this magnitude could be executed without being indebted, what is your reaction to this?
Obviously, those that might have thought in that direction have guessed right but the truth is that I want people to know, especially the upcoming entrepreneurs that in Nigeria, banks are not ready to fund a new idea. They can only fund businesses that already exist for the purpose of expansion. When we started, just like I told you, it was without a capital. We only had the idea and we believed in our vision. We also had that passion for children, the passion that we would develop the best hands for the country. We desired to sell good morals to the children and parents, correct the impression that nothing good can come out of our education sector. It was when parents realized what we’re doing that they began to pay for the services we’re rendering. They believed and knew quite alright that we’re getting it right. They were happy to support the cause. It was when we gathered the little we could make from our efforts and put a little thing together that the banks saw that there was a need for expansion. True, we’re indebted to banks to expand this business to this level but we’re not running into shortfall in paying back our loans. And as a matter of fact, we’re still expecting that in the nearest future, we want to get to our larger apartments on acres of land. We would still have to go back to the banks for financial assistance because it’s a very massive and viable project. It’s a project that’s going to touch the whole community, it’s a lifetime project that we alone can’t fund.
Do you intend establishing a university in future?
It’s part of our hope that we get to that level but it’s not in our plan for now.
Let’s talk about the grand finale of the 10th anniversary of Lagooz, we learnt it’s going to take place outside the school premises, what informed the idea?
Actually, we had celebrated our graduating students outside this school premises before. I can recall vividly the one we had at NYSC parade ground in Iyana Ipaja sometime ago. Majority of our graduation ceremonies have been done here in our premises but this year’s celebration is a very special one. It’s special because 10 is a special number and when we look back and see all the hurdles we had crossed, we have no reason than to give thanks to God in our own little way. We were at the Redeemed Christian Church of God last Sunday for a thanksgiving service. Our Muslim parents and students gathered here at the school premises on Friday, July 6, 2012, also to celebrate and give thanks to God. Then, we are having the grand finale at a big event centre, Seven Stars on Akilo road, Ikeja. This was settled for by the management. We’re planning to give back to the society for the sake of the schools called Lagooz. We’re planning to give full scholarship to 11 students this year. And in doing that, we have invited all the parents of our students and by our calculation, we’re expecting about 1,500 guests, excluding the graduating students and others. By the time we put everything together, it’s going to be about 2,000 guests that we’re catering for that day. So, we need a befitting and bigger place that can accommodate a lot of people. Besides, we’re inviting the media, well wishers, our friends from NECO, WAEC, JAMB, Ministry of Education, the entertainers and many others. We can’t but settle for a higher taste.
So also, we’re rolling out appreciation gifts to all our parents that same day, that’s Saturday, July 14, 2012. Some of our parents will be going home with gifts called discounted school fee vouchers. All parents that come that day will get one gift or the other, just to tell them that we appreciate their support so far and we will continue to see them as pillars of our success.
- TADE ASIFAT