The Director of Platform Schools, Lagos, Mr Bola Obe, in this interview tells GRACE EDEMA factors parents should consider when choosing boarding schools for their children in the midst of rising insecurity in the country
How will you describe a boarding house system of schooling?
A boarding house is a facility provided by a school where the students reside. It is for students whose parents probably don’t have time. They go to work early and come back late. They prefer their children to be in the hostel where they’ll get professional care and classroom learning.
At what age should a child be accepted into a boarding school?
From age 8 or 9, pupils can come into a boarding house. Most schools provide boarding facilities from upper primary schools, when they can bathe and take care of themselves. With this assured, it shows they are ready to come to a boarding facility then.
What are the benefits of attending a boarding house?
Pupils tend to benefit from a lot of things in the boarding school. Most hostels are the next building to the school. You can imagine the pupils having adequate time to rest very well. These pupils can leave the facility at 7am to resume school, whereas day pupils would have to go home and come back the following day as early as 6am.
Not only that, those pupils living in a hostel normally have good care. A boarding school allows pupils to rest and also be free from vices in the community. It prevents them from being exposed to societal vices because they are under the watch of the staff.
With all these benefits, some parents are still scared of putting their children in a boarding school? What are their reasons based on your experience and feedback?
I think one is about orientation. Some parents have experienced the bad sides of hostels. You know, there are schools and there are schools. From the point of meals, some give the pupils poor meals such as garri.
The environment in some cases is nothing to write home about. The staff members are not taken care of in some others. Some parents are scared of all of these and they use them to assess other facilities. If you go to some standard schools and you go to their boarding facilities, you will wish your children were there, but there are others where the children are not well monitored and neither are they well taken care of. When children know they are properly monitored, they try to well behaved.
What are those vices that are prevalent in boarding houses?
The first is academic performance. Some pupils’ academic performance drops sharply because there is no adequate monitoring. Another vice is moral decadence. Some pupils tend to learn bad character from other pupils because of the contact they’ve had with the poorly trained children from home. Before you know it, they are already exhibiting what they were not taught at home.
Another one is malnutrition. Many people have the notion that when they’re going to hostels, they’re going to suffer. Another vice is bullying. It’s rampant in hostels; the issue of seniors beating the juniors.
Poor hygiene is also part of it. Some pupils feel that going to hostels is like putting them in a prison. The hostels don’t allow them to express themselves. School owners should learn to create a balance.
With the rising cost of living in Nigeria, is it profitable to run a boarding house?
Running a boarding house is not that profitable, I must tell you. It’s like running a shop. When you consider the cost of living, you would be collecting high fees from the parents. If you want to collect a moderate fee, I don’t think it’s that profitable. If you have a passion for the business, you will keep it going. But if you’re looking at profitability, I don’t think it is that profitable. But it’s good for a school to have boarding facilities because of parents who don’t have time to take care of their children because of the nature of their jobs or businesses. For instance, they are in Abuja today or in Kaduna tomorrow. For you to have a standard school, you need dedication and passion. But if you ask me, it’s not that profitable.
How can you compare a public school boarding house and a private one?
I wouldn’t want to compare public and private schools. If you want to compare you have to look at the individual basis. There are many private schools that are far better than public schools. If you agree with me, if you have money, you won’t take your child to a public school. However, some public schools are far better than some private schools. Go to Lagos, you will see hostels in three-bedroom flats; not properly built. Some public schools are still better. Some public schools are far better than some private schools.
What are the things parents should look out for when choosing a boarding house?
Parents need to be wise when choosing schools. One, they should look at the security. What security arrangements do the schools have? What facilities do they have to ensure children’s safety?
There should be security in terms of feeding; security in terms of lives and property. They should also look at supervision in terms of hygiene; how they are monitored. Are the boys having access to the girls’ hostels? If they have access to each other anything can happen. Are they well separated to ensure that they do not have access to each other? What’s the quality of the meal? Another thing is work-life balance. You also need to watch out for the social life in the school. Health is also important.
Parents should evaluate the resources that schools have to care for the children right away. Before enrolling your child in the hostel, I believe those are the key factors to consider: their academic performance, moral character, and overall health and hygiene.