With just N3,000 per term payable when able, young Israel Ase started a school in the slum that won all the prizes in Ajegunle schools competition recently. GBUBEMI GOD’S COVENANT SNR visited the school and reports.
Heroes Group of Schools first gained prominence at a combined schools quiz competition when its pupils won all the prizes in English, science, mathematics and Religious Knowledge in Ifelodun-Ajeromi Local Government Area of Lagos State.
Stunned parents and teachers from other schools who made haste to inquire where the school was located, were even more stunned to learn that the school was not only in Ajegunle, but was in one of the worst garbage slums of the area.
Mrs. Martha Okoye, one of many parents who later transferred her children from their highbrow schools to Heroes after the event told Daily Times the discovery of the school was the most astounding thing she ever saw in Ajegunle.
“I noticed pupils from this school at schools quiz competition and I was surprised. Their performance in all the subjects was dazzling. Three children under ten years old beat children from all other schools in Bible Quiz and made us adults who didn’t even know where to locate specific books of the Bible to become uncomfortable, but we were very excited at what we saw.”
Mrs. Okoye said she made up her mind to change her children’s school after what she saw, but when a teacher told her the fees ranged from N3000 to N7,000 per term from Nursery to College, she didn’t believe it.
“I told the teacher to be serious because I wanted to transfer my children to that school. Then she took me to the founder and principal of the school who told me the reason for the school was not to make money but to give under-privileged children the best of education, and I believed him.”
The young uncommon transformer turned out to be 46-year- old Reverend Israel Enato Ase, born 46 years ago in Otuegwe Village, Ogbia Local Government Area of Bayelsa State. Incidentally, it’s the same LGA with President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan.
During a visit to the school last week, Daily Times noted that Heroes is a school of many extremes. The school fees are ridiculously low; teaching standards curiously and demonstrably high, and the environment embarrassingly distasteful. However, the young proprietor was seen struggling to give the structure and environs a face-lift in view of the approaching rainy season.
The school was in full session when our correspondent arrived. The aura of zeal, determination and tenacity to be the best hung over the teachers and pupils. A make-shift stationery store, a “bukatera” that could pass for an eatery that sells foods as cheap as N5 to N20 to pupils was tucked right opposite a filthy canal.
In an interview in his office made of planks and comprising an old ‘headmaster’s desk and a broken chair, the principal disclosed that the school project was not about making money, but a divine vision with a mandate to give under-privileged children the most qualitative education obtainable anywhere in the world.
“The low fee was a strategy to persuade and assist parents in this slum (most of whom do not have the money) that education is possible for their children, and it worked.”
The take-off was more difficult than he had envisaged but that only made him more determined to succeed.
“Because education has been priced out of reach of these people, we started by campaigning from door to door, persuading and reasoning with parents to release their wards for this vision.”
The school started with nine children and increased to 17, all from the slum; but the advertisement that brought the windfall was the pioneer pupils of Hero’s Academy:
“Because of the high standard we maintain here, any child that spends one term with us, the family and neighbours will see a massive change in that child. The children stand out in their neighbourhood and become heroes because of their ability to read, write and speak with confidence. I was particularly encouraged because I noticed a thirst, a yearning for knowledge. Other families began to ask, “What school is your child attending?” “How are you able to afford it?” and so on.
Today, the population of Diamond Heroes, a.k.a. Heroes Academy has swelled to 500 pupils from kindergarten (KG) to SS3; that is, KG 1 to basic 3; JS1 to SS3.
Teachers’ salary per month ranges from N10,000 to N20,000 paid to 20 dedicated teachers.
Kindergarten fee is 3,000 per term (averaging N1,000 monthly) while the primary is N3,500 – N3,800 per term. The college arm of the school charges N7,500 to N8,000 per term.
Even with the low fees, the school has offered six pupils scholarships.
“I was moved to give them the scholarship because their parents could not afford even the smallest payment; they just don’t have it, and the children have shown talents that I know will flourish if given the platform to study. So, I decided to encourage them because, whether the society has provision for their parents or not, they will fit into leadership positions in the future.
Parents, students speak
“When I saw the gap between children of this school and my children at a competition two years ago, I made up my mind to change their school,” said Mrs. Catherine Omovo, a business woman. “What I am paying in their former school will pay scholarship for ten children in this school from KG to SS3, and I’m not exaggerating. And I am not a fool, so I had my children transferred to Heroes.”
How did she react to the environment?
“Even the environment did not discourage me even though we are privileged to be in a clean and healthy place. I am one who grew and struggled from a poor background and I am not about to pamper my children to become just average. What I want is qualitative, intellect-driven education, not mere posh environment with air conditioners and branded school buses.”
A student who preferred anonymity said Heroes changed his orientation. “It took me time to adjust when I came, but once I did, the competition in class work sat me up.”
Mr. Johnson Ikeguonu, a technician who resides in Olodi area of Ajegunle told Daily Times why he chose the school.
“After this school floored all students in debates, I.Q. even in Bible Quiz, I asked my children, ‘What are your teachers doing?’ And when I found out the fees, I became more curious. I asked the young principal, ‘In this Ajegunle! Where did you come from?’ And because I want my children to be as intelligent and as bright as those ones I have seen, I sent my children over here. Now, after only one school session, I am glad I didn’t hesitate. I am especially glad that I ignored the environment. This is the best thing that has happened in Ajegunle.”
Now, gearing up for the challenges of the coming rains, Israel Enato told Daily Times:
“We are doing some serious sand-filling. We are doing our level best to raise the ground by sand-filling and paving the whole compound space so rain will not disturb us too much.”
Cost of the project?
“I have spent over N400,000 for the filling and other works so far. My projection is that another N500,000 should be able to complete it. We’re not only sand-filling, we’re also flooring the ground so that it would be okay for all of us to move around come rain or shine.”