How we run Elias International School—Mrs. Oluwagunna + Secret of her Leadership Style

Mrs. Oluwakemi Oluwagunna, Chief Administrator, ELIAS International School, Lagos

Last Friday, March 3, Elias International School, (College
annex) had her International Day
in Lagos—South West Nigeria. The event which took place at the
school’s premises with a parade session from the students at Ile-Epo, Oke-Odo
area of Lagos (Along Lagos-Abeokuta express Road) was not only colorful and
exciting. Guests, Parents and dignitaries from all walks of life stormed the
six hours event which started 9am prompt and ended 3pm. The event had students
from JSS 1 to SS 3 classes rendering drama, music and literary debates
depicting the culture and social custom of countries like India, Ghana, Mexico,
Germany, Colombia & Malaysia. The  whole essence of the International Day
Celebration is simply to cross-fertilize ideas for global integration. The
School Administrator Mrs. Oluwakemi Oluwagunna later spoke to
your Africa’s Number 1 Celebrity Encounter blog, Asabeafrika inside her office. She told us why the School has
maintained a culture of excellence since inception in 1989 till date.  The encounter is quite revealing and exciting.
Enjoy the excerpts.

The GDA meets Mrs. Oluwakemi Oluwagunna, Administrator, ELIAS International Schools

Can you kindly share the humble story
 Elias International School with us?

Elias International
in April, 1989. We started on a very low key and we never expected it was going
to become so big. But somehow, God made the dream bigger and today we are 28
years in business. We have graduated a good number of students over the years.

Mrs. Oluwakemi Oluwagunna with 2 old students of the institution, one is a Female Pilot with Aero Contractors Airline while the Man is an Engineer

Presently, some of them are managers and some are leaders of organizations who
graduated from this school. We have a lot of them in high places home and
abroad. That has been our culture so far. But one of the things I really
appreciate about this school, is the fact that our students sit and pass their examinations
without any malpractice.

Mrs. Oluwakemi Oluwagunna raised a trophy for the Colombia Group who won 2nd in the International Day Celebration Ceremony

How were you able to achieve quality
examination pedigree without bias for malpractices?

Mrs. Oluwakemi Oluwagunna to Asabeafrika….’Our trademark at ELIAS is excellence in hard work’

in hard work, that is our watchword. Because we believe that when a child is
well taught, the child will definitely do well. So it is not magic, it is not
rocket science. It is hard work. Our teachers are always there to ensure that
our pupils are taught the entire syllabus. And anytime we do internal
examinations, we ensure that the children do it by themselves. So it is a
culture from inception; any child coming to Elias will know that the
only thing you will do is to read and pass your examination. That is our basic

Mrs. Oluwakemi Oluwagunna….’A woman in love with educational excellence’

The waning standard of education in Nigeria
is a big problem? As a mother, wife and school administrator, what do you think
is the problem of our education system in Nigeria?

Mrs. Oluwakemi Oluwagunna….Angry with the decadent level of Nigeria’s educational system

Really, it
is a long story. It wasn’t like this when we started. But corruption from the
zenith to the lowest rung of the society is what has destroyed the fabrics of
good education in Nigeria. And when
the educational system is affected, every other aspect becomes a victim because
our educational system is the foundation of the citizen. But it is redeemable,
it is actually redeemable if we can be able to build a culture of integrity
from the top. Because it must be a comprehensive strategy from the parents to
the teachers. It will really surprise you that parents themselves now want their
children to cheat. So, when we look at it, it is not really about the children.

Mrs. Oluwakemi Oluwagunna gives a brilliant student his trophy for excellence in intellectual display

The problem of malpractice or lack of integrity is that of the parents and the
big goons at the top. But if we could get it right with our experiment and
ensure that we teach our children and put in them a culture of study with no
regard for cash-and-carry examination malpractices; allowing them to believe in hard work and discipline, I believe we would solve the larger problem and any
other malaise that may affect our children in the long run. But it takes time
anyway, because it is going to be a gradual process. It goes back to creating a
golden standard that is highly unshakable which is our hallmark at Elias.

Mrs. Oluwakemi Oluwagunna gives Ghana House a trophy for excellence in culture at the ELIAS International Day Celebration 

Who do you think is to be blamed for
the social decadence of educational malpractices and sundry vices. Is it the
Parents who are supposed to be the first teachers, the school environment or
society at large?

Mrs. Oluwagunna blames society for decadence in educational sector

I will blame
society at large. Yes, because society encompasses everybody both the parents,
the teachers and the government. So, we should blame the society because the
parents can not stand out alone. What about the teachers that are also involved
in malpractices? Or the universities that want our young ones to pay something
before they turn in? So, it is the entire society, the entire country. We need
purging, we need serious purging before it can be okay.

Mrs. Oluwagunna handing over trophy to a male student for excellence in Quiz

Elias seems to radiate a culture of excellence and credibility among pupils
and parents alike. I found out that from some parents today. What is the secret
of your acceptability in Nigeria?

Mrs. Oluwakemi Oluwagunna to Asabeafrika….’Elias raises her students with Christian values’

Number one, Elias
is a christian school and our mantra is integrity with excellence. Our core
values are discipline, humility, creativity, integrity and excellence. Apart
from that, we teach our students the ethics of respect. We believe that our
students must respect everything around them, both human beings and the
educational system that is grooming them for leadership. In fact, we don’t take
the issue of respect lightly. It is the hallmark.

Mrs. Oluwakemi Oluwagunna talks to the GDA inside her office

We believe if the educational
system is respected, they will do things right and respect the society, respect
their nation, respect themselves and respect their parent. So, respect will go
round everything and at the end of the day, their attitude will change. And you
will agree with me that attitude is almost everything. By the time you have a
good attitude, it would affect every area of your life.

Founder/Chairman, ELIAS International Schools, Dr. Elijah Dosunmu

The Girls’ child education is
something that is taking the front burner in the United Nations and several
other European Countries especially as it relates to Nigeria’s North East
crisis. What is the position of Elias
on Girl’s child education?

Mrs. Oluwakemi Oluwagunna….’A lover of the Girl’s child right’

On a
personal note, I am passionate about the girl child. I think the society at
large has taken the girl child for granted on too many fronts. Not because I am
a girl child by my position as a woman. No. I just believe that along the line,
the girl child has been so much neglected, especially in Africa. We have a stereo-type belief that the girl child is a second
class citizen. When you take a critical look at the society, the way we started
in Africa, you see that the girl
child is seen as a second class citizen. So, I have a passion for them. Here in
we don’t toy with their senses, we don’t play with their emotions. We protect
them, we enlighten them and we enhance whatever they want to project that is

Founder of Elias International School, Dr. Elijah Dosunmu & his Pretty Wife, Madam Esther Dosunmu

We do a lot of seminars to ensure that we educate them to keep themselves
and fulfill their career and destinies in life. But we are not just about the
girl child alone, even though we take special interest in grooming the girl
child. It is a mixed school, we also shape the orientation of the boy child.
But because of the sensitivity of the nature of the girl child, I think
everybody should be passionate about them so they will not be cheated in the
society. And for real, the girl child is an asset any day any time because the
girl child will surely grow to become not just the next mother but a
compassionate leader in the act of raising more lives.

Mrs. Oluwagunna gives out a trophy to the best Elias Student Group in the International Day Celebration (India)

If you are to have a chanced
discussion with President Muhammadu Buhari on standard of education in Nigeria,
what would you be telling him to change in the educational sector?

The GDA engages Mrs. Kemi Oluwagunna

That is a
good one and a tough one for Nigeria.
I mean giving my views to Mr. President on how to turn around our
educational sector in Nigeria. First
and foremost, the need to take a practical step. Secondly, there is the need
for government to establish a think-tank committee to think and strategize and
look at every aspect that is affecting the education sector right from the
skills, the curriculum down to the culture of teachers, lecturers and the entire
education gamut of the country. Even the school entry examinations like NECO, WAEC and core curricular activities. Government must do something
about the people involved with policies because if we don’t get the policies
right, we are in trouble. Education
is the basis for any nation to grow and become anything. It is the basis for a
great economy and any good thing you can think of. We must get the policies
right because we are just going up and down.

Mrs. Oluwakemi Oluwagunna to Asabeafrika….’Government must be serious about reforms’

That is what I have noticed, today
we are on 6-3-3-4, tomorrow we are on another thing and we don’t follow
through. So, we must build a strong community of educational experts with
focus. Government should raise a very good committee that will not just change
when another government comes in. And such a committee should have people who
are well educated, I mean professionals in the educational sector. Not just
doctors of philosophy or from any other discipline that is not educationally
inclined. Of course, philosophy is still a good discipline but I am talking
about something out of education. We have such square pegs in round holes in
the system and they are the ones causing a lot of problem for us today. So I
think that we should inaugurate an educational sector reforms committee with
people who are well educated in education. Professional educationist.

The GDA showing Mrs. Oluwagunna something of interest on his phone

Between diligence and intelligence,
which one do you think is the best?
Diligence and intelligence? Diligence and intelligence? That is a tough one. You mean I
should choose the best?
Yes, ma?

The GDA gets a rare handshake from the educationist, Mrs. Oluwagunna

If you are intelligent and you are not diligent, you will lose your dream. And if you are diligent and you don’t have intelligence, at the end of the day, I think you
will lose out as well. So most of the time if you are very, very diligent, you
can actually or eventually, maybe with a small progress, get intelligence.
Anyway, I think I will prefer to have the two.
Mrs. Oluwakemi Oluwagunna to Asabeafrika….’I believe we should use both the old and new culture in raising today’s kids’
You are in the business of raising
children, let me ask you this. Do you think the old traditional way of using
the rod is still the best or the new western influenced way where you must not
cane the child at all. Which one do you think is the best?
My answer
will surprise you. I suggest that we should merge the two; there should be a
synergy of the old and the new way of raising a child.
What do you mean by synergy?
When you
look at the traditional way, you will discover that we have some very, very
powerful sociologists who believe in the old tradition. Now, life is taking a
new turn, they don’t just smack again or hurt them.  They see themselves as parents, they sit them
down and talk to them because both the parent and the children are very, very
close. There is a bonding. Where the traditional people got it wrong is using
the cane…
Mrs. Oluwakemi Oluwagunna….’A woman of Great Decision’
(Cuts in) But the Bible encourage us to
use the rod?
Yes, but
sometimes they go an extra mile by using it in a way that a child will feel
hated. The child will feel that the father and the mother don’t like him or her.
I am now proposing that the two should be merged. We shouldn’t throw the cane
away completely because that could also mean throwing the bath water and the
baby away. if we look at the two, you will see that they need both. Let’s look
at the bonding that is between the parent and the child, the discipline that go
along with bonding, we take that. On the home front, the new system is not even
the cane. We could look for measures that can be used to make the child to
understand our position. Discipline is not by only using the cane; that is
where our parents actually got it wrong. 
They don’t have other measures except the cane. But these days, there
are many, many ways to raise a child than using of the cane.
But I can see a cane near your table
there. Are you now saying using of cane is old fashioned?

Mrs. Oluwagunna to Asabeafrika….’My cane is to create fear not to spank’

Yes, the
cane by my table is just to create fear. I hardly use it. We here in Elias,
we are rather working on a new system or looking for other methods of training
our pupils and giving them the right discipline. We have counselors here, we
have people we call mentors and we have other ways we use to correct a child.
For instance, denial is a good strategy to train a child. You deny the child
from participating in some things the child may like to actually participate
in. You can use denial as a correctional strategy. The cane is actually a
temporal measure. But when it comes to training, we can use other methods and
other ways of disciplining a child like denial. There are many other means to
straighten up a child’s behavior. After everything, the child will have an
understanding of the reason why he or she is being disciplined or being punished.
So, there are many ways to the heart of a child. It is because using the cane
is the easiest way for people and that is why you see them say ‘oh, let me get my cane’ but if you
could work hard on some other measures, it may be a long way but at the end,
there is always success.
How do you start your normal day as a
school administrator?

Mrs. Oluwagunna to Asabeafrika….’Prayer makes me to be highly organized’

If you are
in the education system, you must be very organized. If you are not, you cannot
succeed as a leader. Of course I start my day with prayer because that is very
important. In fact, that makes me organized. The next thing is to refresh
myself as usual and check my mails. I am not very good at eating in the
morning. Although this is wrong but that is just me. So, I skip my morning
You do deliberately?

Mrs. Oluwagunna to Asabeafrika….’I am not good at taking my breakfast’

No, I am not
just good at eating in the morning. So I am trying to change that aspect of me
because I think it is not a very good one. Morning meal is very, very important
according to scientists. Immediately I finish checking my mails and I see what
I have for the day, I go out for the running of the school. I attend the
assembly where we have morning prayers for the staff. Sometimes I stay in the
corner and listen to the morning prayers. I may not join them but I go along
with them. We run the assembly and ensure everything goes well with the school.
When we are back, we go ahead to pay attention to other details. Going through
the scripts, checking on what teachers are doing and finally calling on parents
that need to be called for one thing or the other, maybe because their wards
have done something that needs to be corrected and we need their consent. We
don’t play with parents in this school, we believe in partnership because one
hand cannot make a clap.
I want you to comment on the sad
reality of the reading culture in Nigeria. It is like the reading culture is
actually dropping as children would rather read twitter, Facebook and other
electronic platforms than reading a book. What do you think should be the

Mrs. Oluwagunna to Asabeafrika…’Government must do something to revive reading culture in Nigeria’

The reading
culture is facing a big challenge in Nigeria.
I am starting with myself. Way back when we were young, reading was just
everything.  Our own parent developed
us  with book reading. And so I am a
reader. Right from… I don’t know whether age 4 or 5. We read blooms and all the
books of that era, we were loaded with books, we were readers in our homes. So,
that is how I was brought up and till now, if you look at my shelves you see
books there. I don’t just put a book there for nothing.  I read a lot of motivational books and books
that will help you in developing yourself. I think Government need to resuscitate
the reading culture in Nigeria. Like
I said, down memory lane, my parent brought me up with books. We had a library
in our house and we borrowed books within our home. I can say we had more than
three to five hundred books in our library as at then. So, we had that sound
training and it became a culture. Today, I buy books for my children. We need
to create an opportunity for them to read. Here we ensure our pupils read. The
school can do something but when they don’t have a culture at home what can you
do? My children read like… I don’t want to use the word in my mind. When my
baby became a teenager, when she was 13, all the presents I gave to her were
books, books and they were not just ordinary books. I gave her ‘Rich Dad, Poor Dad’; I don’t know if
you have come across the book
Yes, by Robert Kiyosaki?

Mrs. Oluwagunna….A mother to all successful pupils of Elias

Books that
will make her to start thinking and using her brain. So, I think that is how to
encourage reading not when we start to buy some funny, funny things and pamper
them with frivolities. We should just make sure that our children read to lead.
Some parents buy I-Pads as birthday gifts for their children?
chocolates, there is nothing bad with buying chocolate but it would have been
better if you buy her a book. If my children pick up my I-Pad, they go to the library part because I have a lot of books on
that part and they download books and read. Funny enough I will tell you that
it should start from the home. If parents can inculcate the culture of reading
into their children, then the school will be doing little to cement that
culture and promote excellence.
What is your philosophy of life?

Mrs. Oluwagunna celebrating one of her students with a trophy during the International Day Celebration

is possible with God. With God, nothing is impossible. That is my philosophy.
What is your fashion sense like?
I am not
really a fashion freak. But I like to dress well, I like to look good. I like
to be a role model to the students I am leading. So, I ensure that whatever I
am putting on is something that will cover my body and make me look good. I
don’t go for ambiguous fashion props that are lousy or shouting. But when
people look at me, they can say ‘oh, this
lady is looking good and different’
. I believe in looking good and
different. Every other thing follows your outlook.
What is your favorite meal?
You remember
I told you that taking early meals is cumbersome for me.
Yes, what about bread and tea?
Well, I am
not a tea person. I will tell you a secret that many people don’t know.
Please, tell me, ma
Ice cream, I am aware it is not also good for
people that are old as I am but I think it is just a little addiction. So I am
trying to get over Ice cream and chocolate. I don’t why I like it maybe
because it is a soft meal but I am trying to overcome that because it is not
good for me at this age. And as a dietician, because that is what I studied in
my Masters, I have to live up to what I was taught as a dietician. I am not
supposed to be eating chocolate now.
And for real food, it is vegetable, carrot, fruits generally and vegetables.
That is what I am trying to live on now and it is really a struggle but I will
get there.
Which book did you read that changed
your life?

The GDA in a rare pose with Mrs. Oluwakemi Oluwagunna, Administrator, Elias International School

I can’t
place my mind on any, I have read several books. I read John Maxwell; I have read
several literature that added value to my life in the area of leadership and
spirituality. For spirituality, I read my Pastor, Pastor W.F. Kumuyi. I
have different authors for different aspects of my life. I read Joyce
who is my female mentor. So, I am a voracious reader. If I am not
teaching or parenting then I am reading.
What word of advice do you have for
your products/students reading this interview across the globe?

Mrs. Oluwakemi Oluwagunna in her best element

I love to
tell everyone who has passed through Elias International School that the
sky is just the beginning to your success. I believe that you are not grass
choppers you are giants, I believe you are not chickens you are eagles and I
believe in your destiny. I am glad that I have been hearing of good and great
things you are doing outside there. For those of you who were here and there,
we are hearing good things about you. Please, keep it up. God will continue to
keep you up. Like I said at the beginning, the sky is just the beginning. God
bless you.
(For Consultation & Enrollment, call Elias International School on 080-56060-263, 081-50915-271,
070-60778-308 or email or visit


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