Mrs Sefunmi James-Ogbe is the co-founder and Head of School at Cypress Hillside School, Lekki, Lagos. She is a passionate educationist and she is committed to the holistic development of children.
Sefunmi is a progressive individual with initiative and drive for leadership development from the early years. Cypress Hillside School is a brainchild established with her husband. Her education, training and diversified experiences are highly productive and resourceful in the educational development of every child. Sefunmi trained as an Administrator as well as an educator from Texas America University with experience cutting across Administration, Marketing, Customer Service and Education. Her passion of over three decades for children brought her into self-development in preparation for her contribution to her world through inculcating leadership skills for character development in children from a tender age. She is vast, disciplined and focused with her vision. She is happily married and blessed with children. In this interview, she speaks more on quality education, differentiated learning approach, holistic development of children and others.
Can you tell us about your childhood experience and how has it affected your choice of career?
My childhood is 100% connected to this present moment. I have always been passionate about quality child care, as caring for children was one of those dreams that kept me up at night.
As I went through my formative years, my ambitious spirit was fuelled by the times I taught and nurtured the young ones around me.
This question you’ve posed has made me nostalgic—filled with fond memories of the day I pleaded with my grandma because I needed her to cajole my mum to visit a nearby hospital. I just needed her to bring a newborn baby, as I desperately wanted a younger sibling. Someone I could relate and play with, but disappointedly, that didn’t happen, as my parents were done making more babies.
In retrospect, being the last child from a family of six created a vacuum that led to the discovery of my passion for children.
This is one out of the many memories that invigorate my passion.
What inspired you to set-up Cypress Hillside school?
I am passionate about instilling leadership qualities from early childhood, with solid Christ-based values for excellent academic standards of children of this age.
With time, I have come to understand how influential Character Education is when building effective leaders and rewarding institutions—quality education can’t function without true character.
CHS is more than an educational institution, as we have a comprehensive approach that includes robust leadership and academic curricula. In fact, it is a more challenging approach to education than focusing solely on academics because it is a wider-reaching goal, as quality education can’t function without true character. This is an approach to education with higher potential for outstanding results over time
It’s a centre for educating leading-learners and their character.
Research shows children have different learning ability and style. Could you share what your school is doing to integrate differentiated learning into your curriculum?
At Cypress Hillside School, no child is left out, as our educational programme is personalised to each child’s developing needs. This is infused with collaborative learning activities that cater to the pupils’ individual strengths—aimed to achieve the same learning objective.
We are deliberate and strategic when it comes to the differentiated learning approach. This is why our class size is tailored made to ensure positive learning experience to every child. We maintain a low pupil to teacher ratio of 8:1. Our teachers know every child in their class, their learning style and their learning ability.
It is amazing how often we come across other teachers at our school teaching interviews session, some 21st Century teachers with beautiful CV and long time experiences still carrying on with the traditional teaching as of old. At Cypress Hillside School, the ablest learner and emerging learner are brought together to a learning objective by our differentiation method that leaves no one behind or unsupported. No one is left behind from the point of planning for each lesson and all our deliverables are designed with this strong differentiation strategy.
Class activities are enquiry-driven and project-led, while our pupils are consistently encouraged in reflective practices. We aim to continuously create interactive programmes with the use of progressive resources that will empower every pupil to participate according to their different skills and capabilities.
What is Cypress Hillside School strategy in terms of teachers’ quality and academic curriculum?
Cypress Hillside School is thorough with her employment policies, ensuring that we get the best and most qualified. We are also blessed with experienced and trained teachers serving as dedicated partners—they’re committed to the advancement of our education through our “Leadership Development Programs.”
Our teachers are internationally and locally trained with over 35years of experience. They are exceptionally passionate about our vision to educate, with a holistic and robust approach.
Cypress Hillside School runs a combination of British and Nigerian Curricula, infused with leadership principles— developed solely to educating 6-11years, and the British EYFS Framework with Montessori application for 0-5years.
Cypress Hillside School offer’s the finest quality of education through her uniquely infused leadership principles to the “British/Nigerian” Curricula, with the aim of helping children become globally relevant as lifelong learners and exemplary leaders.
Cypress Hillside School is the First “Leadership-Based Christ-Centred Co-educational” Elementary School in Nigeria, for children ages 0 to 11 years, dedicated to educating leading-learners from the cradle. We offer the finest quality of education through uniquely infused leadership principles to the “British/Nigerian” Curricula, with the aim of helping children become globally relevant as lifelong learners and exemplary leaders.
Cypress Hillside School is proud of her academic excellent traditions: with a focus on positive Character Development and rigorous academic experience. We offer a balanced education founded on the word of God, as our caring and highly skilled staff balance academic instructions with pastoral care. We focus on holistic nourishing of the developmental needs of every child with the individualized attention that yields greater participation and presents every child as valuable.
We function with small class sizes and very low pupil-teacher ratio. This gives room for holistically-nourishing the developmental needs of every child.
Leadership is the bane of Nigeria development. Could you explain how your “Leadership – Based” teaching approach would help in raising global leaders
Leadership development is the future of any economy and its education—it transcends titles, age, or position. It is influence, service and outstanding character to do what is just and right. There is no doubt that Nigeria still struggles with good leadership, but we believe early intervention is key to sustaining our future. If our education progress is determined by the leaders of our country, then we must be proactive in building a solid foundation for the next generation of leaders. Education isn’t only about learning subjects like Mathematics, English, and Science again, today it is a more comprehensive and definite approach that addresses the emotions, personality, and character of an individual.
Cypress Hillside School has set a new standard for early leadership development in Nigeria, the curriculum is infused with leadership developing principles, and all lessons are taught with the principles broken down to our pupils’ level. There is a popular quote by Nelson Mandela which I stand by; “Children of today are the leaders of tomorrow and education is a very important weapon to prepare children for their future roles as leaders of the community.” I believe there are no limitations to what children can achieve when we ignite their curiosity and motivate them to become responsible, wholesome beings early.
At Cypress Hillside School today we use an intentional, proactive, and comprehensive approach to character development, alongside all intellectual developments. To support this we have a caring and supportive community that encourages pupils to develop morally, providing opportunities to grow morally within the challenging academic environment.
This approach to education incorporates values, ethics and emotional intelligence with a great sense of civics which is aimed at giving children many opportunities to develop responsibly from the cradle.
Parents and other members of the community are our greatest partners in this character-building approach. For us, leadership development can be a lifelong process.
As educators looking into the future, we teach the skills to take on leadership roles from now into the future
As a school owner, what can you say is responsible for the fall in the standards of education in Nigeria?
As far as Nigeria is concerned, our educational system has been languishing before I was born, the worst challenge of our education today is our leadership because everything falls and rises on leadership. The pitfall to Education in Nigeria is the lackadaisical approach taken by our government and also, a lack of integrated vision for the nations educational standard. Distortions and negligence of the educational system as a whole have left Nigeria decades behind. Reform from the government is expected to give a transformative and positive effect on the nation.
We are a great nation with potentials but unrefined nor tapped. Nigeria needs deliberate intervention and a new educational structure to revolutionise it. This restructuring can only be achieved with integrated policies and substantial funding that won’t be hijacked by any individual.
A decision today on this reform from our leaders is expected to give a positive effect on this nation from the next decade. Where are the Awolowo’s of our generation? Growth simulations reveal that the long-run rewards to Nigeria educational quality are large but also require a lot of patience. Our government needs to value and believe in the importance of education as a driving force in building the nation’s identity.
How would you rate the quality, training and rewards of teachers in Nigeria?
The quality, training and rewards of teachers in Nigeria are substandard. Recruiting quality teachers is a herculean task and most private schools have to thoroughly sieve through to find teachers with adequate skills. The huge gap in the system for training and empowering teachers has a negative impact on the quality and dedication of teachers.
In high-performing countries like Singapore and Hong Kong, teachers are drawn from their top 30 per cent of school leavers. In South Korea and Finland, teachers are drawn from the top 10 per cent. In these high-performing education-focused countries, Teacher Education Programs are limited with stiff competition for entry. If we want the improved standard of education in Nigeria, the rewarding thing to do is establish policies that will assist to develop and empower teachers from point of entry into our higher institutions. Continuous professional development and revamping reward system of teachers must be done now. Teachers’ factors contribute greatly to the learning outcomes of pupils.
What do you think in your own opinions, the government should do to support private investors in education like you?
The government of our time needs to learn to attract and encourage private investors positive returns. A lot of people outside the educational environment see this venture as a money-making platform, but that is not true. The government has to consider a support mechanism that allows verified private educators a certain financial incentive