Ma, please tell us a little about your childhood. Which schools did you attend?
As a child, I had a fulfilling upbringing that laid the foundation for my future in education. I attended Queens School Ibadan, where I finished with Distinction. I completed my undergraduate degree at the University of Ibadan as a University Scholar and a recipient of the National Merit Award. My formative years greatly influenced my passion for learning and set me on the path to contribute to the field of education.
I believe your late father also held a public office. Was it ever your plan to follow in his footsteps?
My late father was the Commissioner for Economic Development and later Commissioner for Education in the Western Region in the mid seventies. His commitment to service influenced my perspective. While I admired his work, my passion led me towards a career in education. I believed then, as I do now, that education is a powerful force for positive change and development.
Considering the high cost of living, which includes the high cost of transport now, would you support a hybrid educational system where students only do two days in school and three days learning virtually at home? If yes, will the current infrastructure adequately support it?
Simultaneously, it is imperative that we thoroughly assess the associated risks. The school environment extends beyond academics; it allows children to grow alongside their peers and be exposed to diverse experiences. School can also be a physically and emotionally safe haven for vulnerable children. Could this ethos be maintained within a hybrid system, or do we risk children growing up tethered to screens? It is indeed a thought-provoking idea that warrants thorough examination. We must scrutinise the fundamental purpose of the educational system and whether a hybrid model aligns with its multifaceted objectives.
Teachers, especially those in primary schools have complained of excess workloads due to a shortage of qualified teachers, lack of breathing space even during holidays, poor infrastructural facilities in schools, inadequate funds to meet day-to-day running costs, etc. How do you think governments across Nigeria and Africa should respond to these similar challenges?
I am acutely aware of the challenges teachers face, particularly in primary schools, and primary schools hold immense importance in my view of education. We addressed some of these concerns during my tenure as the Commissioner. The Lagos State Government initiated the EXOEXCEL program to bolster teachers’ efforts in enhancing pupils’ numeracy and literacy skills. Equally noteworthy was the substantial increase in running costs allocated to primary school head teachers. Recognising the significance of collaboration, LASUBEB, in partnership with the private sector, introduced The Project Zero Programme. Through this initiative, kits containing school uniforms, shoes, and essential classroom resources were distributed. Based on these experiences, I would say tackling these challenges requires different holistic approaches and a collaborative effort between governments, educational institutions, and communities.
Has EKOEXCEL helped to improve the quality of primary education in Lagos State? If yes, how?
EKOEXCEL has been instrumental in enhancing the quality of primary education in Lagos State. Through this initiative, we have trained teachers, provided modern teaching materials, and improved learning environments. The program’s impact is evident in improved learning outcomes. Most primary school students in Lagos State can read and speak better than their peers and this can only improve.
How is the school feeding programme important to students and their education?
It serves not only as a means to address the crucial issue of nutrition but also as a catalyst for increased school enrollment and attendance. By ensuring that children receive nutritious meals, we contribute to their overall development and well-being, creating a positive impact on their educational journey.
Nigeria has for some years recorded the highest number of out-of-school children in the world. How do you think state governments across Nigeria can help resolve this lingering problem?
The issue of out-of-school children deeply concerns me, and it was among the final initiatives undertaken before my tenure as Commissioner concluded. We initiated a statewide survey to estimate the number of out-of-school children in Lagos State. Understanding the true extent of this challenge is paramount in formulating effective solutions. I hold the view that the emergence of technological innovations in education could be a transformative factor. Technology, coupled with stakeholder collaboration, are pivotal instruments in tackling the issue of out-of-school children. By harnessing a deep understanding of these challenges and leveraging the collective expertise and resources of stakeholders, state governments can formulate meticulously crafted strategic initiatives to effectively address this pressing concern.
The COVID pandemic lockdown, which saw almost all schools globally close shop for months on end, came when you had been in office for only a few months. Talk about being thrown in at the deep end. This must have been one of the most trying periods you faced in office? How did you overcome all the challenges?
It was indeed the deep end because the COVID-19 pandemic presented unprecedented global educational challenges. Despite the difficulties, the remarkable collaboration among stakeholders was pivotal in our swift adaptation.
To mitigate the risk of learning loss, the Ministry proactively engaged with private sector organisations, receiving valuable assistance in kind. We leveraged technology for remote learning. Novel approaches were introduced, such as broadcasting video-recorded classroom lessons on TV and Radio through dedicated stations. In a bid to bridge the digital divide, we distributed 28,000 mobile devices pre-loaded with audio notes of classroom content to students, ensuring that learning remained accessible. Our teachers on their own initiative were a formidable resource. They taught on all available social media including WhatsApp and Telegram as well as Youtube and were determined that their children would keep learning. While the challenges were formidable, we navigated through them with a resolute focus on ensuring the continuity of learning. The unwavering support and guidance from Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu played a pivotal role in our ability to surmount these challenges and maintain our commitment to education excellence.
After spending a few years in the public sector as Commissioner, how would you suggest Nigeria and Africa go about developing an EdTech strategy?
A comprehensive framework, cultivated through a collaborative partnership between the government and pertinent stakeholders, is imperative. It will lead to a profound understanding of educational technology and its impact on the educational landscape.
Moreover, facilitating a symbiotic relationship between educational technology providers and industry experts is crucial. This synergy enables the exchange of insights, resulting in the development of tools rooted in a deep understanding of the sector’s intricacies, thereby addressing real challenges effectively. Collaboration with technology firms and other stakeholders can be a catalyst for pioneering innovations in education.
Additionally, it is of utmost importance to give precedence to digital literacy and teacher training initiatives. Investment in programs that empower educators with the requisite skills to adeptly incorporate technology into their teaching methodologies is pivotal.
Do you believe university is for everybody? Is a university degree a must for someone to live a meaningful and fulfilling life these days?
While a university education can provide valuable skills and knowledge, it’s essential to recognise that higher education is not the only path to a meaningful and fulfilling life.
Vocational training, apprenticeships, and skill development programs are equally valid routes to success. Our educational system should embrace diversity and offer multiple pathways for individuals to achieve their goals and contribute meaningfully to society.
How do you view the imminent use of AI by students in Nigeria, following the trend of their counterparts abroad? Do you view AI as a friend or foe?
The emergence of AI in education is a significant development with vast potential. I view AI as a tool capable of augmenting the educational journey and delivering tailor-made learning experiences. It is evident that we, collectively, are still comprehending the full scope of AI’s capabilities; this applies not only to users but to its developers and the AI itself, which continuously learns and evolves.
While there may exist instances of misuse or undue reliance, these isolated cases do not overshadow the potential inherent in AI. The emphasis should rest on responsible utilisation and seamless integration into the educational framework.
Not long ago, the whole country was shocked to learn about a girl who faked her JAMB result, claiming to have scored the highest in the country. What do you take away from this incident? Exams are not for everybody. Can there be an alternative mode of assessing knowledge?
The incident underscores the importance of integrity in education and the need for a holistic approach to assessment. While exams are a standard evaluation tool, they may only capture part of the spectrum of a student’s abilities. Alternative modes of assessment, such as project-based evaluations, practical demonstrations, and portfolios, can provide a more comprehensive view of a student’s knowledge and skills.
What are your post-public office plans, ma?
As I transition from my role as Commissioner for Education, my commitment to education remains unwavering. I plan to continue advocating for educational excellence and innovation. Whether through academic collaborations, consultancy work, or active involvement with NGOs and initiatives aimed at improving education,
I am dedicated to contributing to the advancement of learning in Nigeria. My goal is to ensure that every student has access to quality education and the opportunity to thrive in a rapidly changing world.
Thank you for these thoughtful questions, which allow me to reflect on my journey and my vision for the future of education in Lagos State and beyond.
Mrs Folasade Adefisayo served as the Honourable Commissioner for Education in Lagos State, Nigeria, during the first term of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu’s administration. With a wealth of experience in the education sector, she made significant contributions to transforming education in Lagos State. During her tenure, Mrs Folasade Adefisayo led key initiatives that led to notable improvements in learning outcomes, educational technology and stakeholder
management. Under her leadership, Lagos State’s WAEC pass rate surged from 39% to 80%, a 100% increase. Her achievements gained global recognition, earning her invitations to speak at prestigious conferences in the UK, USA, Finland, and South Africa, including esteemed institutions like theBritish Council and TheBrookings Institute. Before her appointment to the Lagos State Cabinet, Mrs Adefisayo was the Principal Consultant/CEO of Leading Learning Limited, an educational consulting firm in Nigeria. She worked with several public and private schools, state
governments, NGOs, and development partners. She provided advice, guidance and implemented strategies to
facilitate teacher training, foster leadership development, establish schools, and drive school transformations. Throughout her extensive career, spanning nearly 40 years, Mrs Adefisayo has gained diverse experience in
organisational restructuring, banking operations, human resources management, international trade, and education.
She retired from her role as the Executive Director and CEO of Corona Schools’ Trust Council in 2010, having served in that capacity for eight years. From 2010 to 2014, she voluntarily served as the Director of Corona Secondary School, Agbara. In 2011, Mrs Folasade Adefisayo demonstrated her commitment to Education and professional development by completing a postgraduate degree in Education at the University of Nottingham, where she achieved distinctions at the diploma and master’s levels.
Mrs Folasade Adefisayo is an education activist and a passionate advocate for student learning, school transformation,
and teacher training. She is deeply concerned about the learning crisis in Nigerian schools. She has volunteered her expertise to collaborate with the Federal Government, Lagos, Oyo and Osun State Governments. She has dedicated her time to improving the lives of others, engaging as a volunteer with various NGOs, including the Federal Nigeria Society for the Blind, Volunteer Corps, Junior Achievement, Teach for Nigeria, Fate Foundation, Yedi, Oando