You are currently viewing We must bring children back into the classrooms through the deployment of technology  – Mrs. Folasade Adefisayo, CEO, Leading Learning Limited
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What are the challenges you have had to surmount in your career?

Mrs. Folasade Adefisayo is the CEO and Principal Consultant of Leading Learning Nigeria Limited. She is the Immediate Past Commissioner for Education in Lagos State (May 2019 – May 2023). Her academic and professional qualifications include B.Sc. Hons. (Ibadan), MBA (Lagos), IPGCE (Nottingham), MA. Edu. (Nottingham).

Before her appointment by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, she had been an active player in the education sector in Nigeria. As the Commissioner for Education, Mrs. Adefisayo supported the vision of Governor Sanwo-Olu in revolutionising education in many uncommon ways. Before her appointment to the Cabinet of Lagos State, she was the Principal Consultant/CEO of Leading Learning Ltd, an educational consultancy firm incorporated in 2014. Since she started her consulting practice, she has consulted for public and private schools, state governments, NGOs, and development partners. Her areas of professional focus include teachers’ training, leadership training, school set-up, and school transformation.

Mrs. Adefisayo has nearly 40 years of working experience spanning banking operations, organisational restructuring, human resources management, international trade, and education. She retired from Corona Schools’ Trust Council in 2010 after serving as the Executive Director and CEO for eight years. She voluntarily served as the Director of Corona Secondary School, Agbara from 2010 to 2014.

Mrs. Adefisayo is an education activist with a passion for student learning, school transformation, and teacher training. She is deeply concerned about the learning crisis in Nigerian schools and has volunteered to work with the Federal Government, Lagos State Government, and Oyo State Government. She is also dedicated to improving other people’s lives, and has served as a volunteer with several NGOs – Federal Nigeria Society for the Blind, Volunteer Corps, Junior Achievement, Fate Foundation, Yedi, Teach for Nigeria, Oando Foundation, SWORTE Talks, among others.

 She is a Merit Award winner of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (??) and a Scholar of the University of Ibadan, Nigeria.  In 2011, she decided to get certified as a professional educator and embarked on an online post-graduate course at the University of Nottingham, the United Kingdom. She graduated with distinctions at both the diploma and master’s levels. She is widely travelled, and has attended several courses and conferences in Europe and Africa. She spoke with Ademola Akinbola about the state of Education in Nigeria, the challenges, her tenure as Lagos State Commissioner for Education, and her accomplishments.


Well, challenges will always include things like the sheer enormity and the volume of the task at hand. There is so much to be done and little time, coupled with the paucity of funds. Funding can never be enough. Again, there is the challenge of human capacity to deliver.

Do you think you’ve received adequate support from stakeholders, government agencies, school owners, principals, and parents; have you received the right level of support from them?


I think so and if I haven’t, I would say that’s because I didn’t reach out sufficiently to them. After all, I know that when you tell people things when you communicate well, they tend to understand what you are trying to do. So, I think it went well.

How will you assess the state of education in Nigeria? How can we deploy education as an agent of change, in terms of the socio-economic development of this country?


The state of education in Nigeria is too large a concept for me to review. Nevertheless, I would certainly admit that education is in dire straits. It’s in a difficult state and all hands need to be on deck, at the Federal, State, and Local Government level to improve it.

Zeroing in on Lagos State, what plans does the government have to take education to the desired level? I know you’ve done quite a lot but there’s so much to be done, looking ahead, what will you talk about plans to reposition the education sector?

Don’t forget that I am no longer the Commissioner for Education. So, I really cannot speak for the government and I would not want to. It’s up to the new Commissioner.

As a Consultant with several decades of experience, if you were to be the Minister of Education, what would be your priorities?


Well, there are always low-hanging fruits, things that you can do immediately, and there are things we can do in the long term. One of the earliest things we will have to do is to bring children back into the classrooms. There are too many out-of-school children and the best way to do that is through the deployment of technology to even the remotest neighbourhoods. Deploying technology will also save us the cost of building classrooms. The number of schools that we have to build is over 100 thousand in the next few years. We cannot build 100 thousand classrooms, that’s quite a lot, and the financial implication is staggering. Why don’t we take advantage of existing buildings, marginally utilized buildings, and use technology to complement them?

Also, I will look at the quality of teaching and learning because that’s one of the major problems that we have, which is the most important thing in Education. What are the learning outcomes? I will always address improved learning outcomes; this is a serious low-hanging fruit in working with the teachers, in working with the children, and in working with their parents to deliberately improve it. I will always consider these low-hanging fruits and I don’t talk about tertiary levels because I don’t know much about it. So, for primary and secondary education, I will address learning outcomes and work to reduce the number of children out of school.


Teacher development is an area that is of concern to many stakeholders; do you think we have the right quality of teachers in Nigeria? If not, how do we get them to the desired level?

The challenge of teachers’ development is one of the reasons why we don’t have enough teachers or we don’t have teachers who can operate sufficiently in the classroom. We are very rigid in saying NCE or B. Ed. I have gone to other countries, studied their systems, and I realised that there are multiple pathways to teaching. If you accept multiple pathways to teaching, such as, in the UK where they have schools, that usually train teachers, you go there and apply to be an Assistant teacher and you grow through the ranks. The school does the training and so on. They are affiliated maybe to a university but you have to go to the university. Well, in Nigeria, the NTI is helping but we have to accept the fact that we still have a lot to do. We need to look at the curriculum for teachers’ training, I think it’s too heavy on content and not detailed enough.

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Teaching is like a vocation, it’s something you practise, and it’s a skill that you practise. There’s the passion side of it of course, but it’s a skill. That you built the skill does not mean teaching theory. Building skills requires you to also practise that skill. That’s a major one for me, to look into our curriculum for teachers’ training and development.

 What about reward, remuneration, training, and all of that? Those areas also need attention.


Reward, yes. I think in the public service, teachers are not necessarily poorly paid than other professions. If you go to the States, if you are on Level 8, you are on Level 8 whether you are in the Ministry of Justice or Ministry of Education. I think it’s most private schools, especially the low-cost private schools, that pay so poorly. However, we must remember that they cannot pay more than a certain amount because their school fees are also very low, and they only pay from their school fees. So, unless the Federal Government is ready to give grants, and right at the moment, I know that the Federal Government can’t afford to give grants because they can’t even afford to look after their schools properly yet talk less of giving grants.

 It’s a chicken and egg situation. You charge low fees and pay low salaries. You can’t even increase it because the current economic situation is already tough on parents. So, when we talk of remuneration, we have to put it in context. Continuous training of teachers is also essential.


 When you say people that are admitted to Colleges of Education have the lowest score, how do you want to increase it? You can’t force people to read education. Affluent parents would not want their children to read Education at all, they won’t have it. That’s why most new universities do not have Faculties of Education. Nobody would pay 1 or 2 million naira for their child to study education.

Let’s talk about funding. We have been grappling with the challenges of funding education in Nigeria, especially public sector education, is there a model that has worked elsewhere that you know about that you would like to recommend for Nigeria? How do we fund education on a sustainable basis?

Funding has to do with the quantity of money that you have. If you are a man earning N20, 000 that’s the extent to which you can fund the education of your children. If you are a man earning N1m, that’s how far you can go to fund the education of your children. I think it’s a societal problem, an economic problem that requires us to make the pot bigger so that we can allocate more to education. But even apart from that, we can fund education by way of, it’s mostly, you see when people say it should be free, somebody is paying for it; it has to come from taxes. So, it’s way beyond education, it’s a whole societal economic problem.

 I would like to disagree with you slightly on the fact that you fund education based on what you have. Don’t you think there’s a case of misplaced priority for a nation like Nigeria? We spend money on things that are not as important as education. What percentage of our budget goes to education, for instance? So, with the little that we have, I believe if we rearrange, if we re-prioritise, we will be able to fund education better. What do you think?


 There may be misplaced priorities, I agree at times. But, I think we are making a simplistic argument because if you look at Lagos State and if you say 96% of our budget should go into education, don’t forget we have serious environmental issues, we have transportation issues, we have social issues where we have to look after widows, children with learning difficulties, yeah, we have to keep on funding the judiciary, the civil service. So, when you work in government, you start to see that the competition for the little money that you have is very serious indeed. So, you can’t say it has to be 25%, it’s what you do with the little money that you have that matters.

I agree that there are cases of misplaced priorities. We tend to look at infrastructure alone. Infrastructure is important as well because children should be in a good environment, but I think the bulk of our efforts should go into the classroom, improving teaching and learning; how can teachers teach better, how learners can learn better and that doesn’t always need a lot of money.

Let’s talk about the Japa Syndrome. Some people have said it’s not a bad thing if only we can harness it if only we can turn it around. What do you think, is it a good or bad omen for Nigeria? If it is a bad omen, how can we mitigate it because we cannot stop it, we can only reduce it.

I don’t think any society can be successful when its young ones, especially the well-educated ones, are leaving the country, I don’t think so. So, from that perspective, I don’t think it’s good. I think it’s good that they go there, they learn new skills, acquire good experience, and come back, but you and I know that most of them don’t come back. Therefore, it’s a massive loss for the country. We have to address the reasons they are leaving. We have to solve the problem, the reason they are leaving.

 They are leaving because life is so hard and harsh for them; they can hardly secure good jobs. The young men are not getting married; the young ladies are not getting married or raising families. It’s a huge problem. We just have to identify the root cause of this problem and solve it, and it is the economy, the fact that they don’t feel comfortable, they are not happy that there are few good prospects here, that’s what we have got to address as a country.

 I want you to review your tenure as the Education Commissioner for Lagos State. What are the milestone successes you want to talk about and what are the areas that you felt that you didn’t achieve your goals?

For me as an Educationist, the most important thing, I am an educationist, so for me, teaching and learning are critical. At the primary school level, we had the Eko Learning Programme, where teaching and learning were highlighted, where we wanted our teachers to change their classroom practices and the children to learn more engagingly. We succeeded at it because the learning curve went up, and we could track and access what was coming out from the learning outcomes.

At senior secondary level, we did the same thing. We improved learning, I am always proud of the WAEC results that went from 39% to 79%, again because a lot of work was done to improve teaching. We implemented more than 25 strategies to improve teaching in the classroom because that’s where you improve learning outcomes, it’s in the classroom. So, a lot of effort was put into supporting whatever the teachers were doing in the vicinity of their classrooms. I think that for me would be number one.

 Another thing that I am happy that we succeeded in doing to a significant extent is the integration of technology. Even though it is still at the level of minimal use, and not as much as I want it to be, there’s a shift in the thinking of what technology can and should do in the classroom, which includes giving teachers tablets, helping them and making them more tech-savvy, so that they will refer to themselves as 20th-century teachers.

There’s nothing you can do if you don’t have the political will even as a commissioner. I was very lucky, the governor was focused on education; he understood that high-level and sustained support for education was critical. He was always supportive, hence we were able to improve education infrastructure across the state. Three and a half years are not enough really, so we weren’t able to do much, but we have instituted a new culture of infrastructure maintenance and continuous improvement. If you look at the comprehensive schools, I am proud of the way they look now because public and private sector collaboration worked a lot, the private sector supported in various ways, we never asked for money outright but some brought building tools themselves, supplying furniture, helping with curriculum, training teachers, supplying resources in the classroom, upgrading some of our equipment. That for me was great, and I hope this will continue.

I have always believed that teaching is the best profession. I am the daughter of two teachers. So, we did a lot of work building the self-esteem of teachers, encouraging them to believe more in themselves, and insisting on performance and meritocracy, not mediocrity. That you are on Grade Level 17 doesn’t mean that you’ll automatically become a principal. You should have developed yourself well enough to qualify to be a principal.  

The things I wished I had more focus on include learning challenges. I felt that we didn’t do enough with that. Some things were done but I felt we could have done more. We could have built a second facility and supported the students in such schools with more equipment and resources; we could have trained more teachers. We were able to recruit teachers, and when you talk about teachers, we were able to recruit about 7,000 teachers, which we have not done in many years, nearly 10,000 because we were replacing those that were retiring. So, these are the highlights of what we did. I wish I could include our guidelines on private education, but you can’t finish it, somebody else will take things forward.

Of course, Government is a continuum. Your successor should be building on what you did. Let’s talk about Leading Learning Limited, your educational consultancy firm. What areas are you focusing on, what are your success stories and what exactly are your plans going forward?

Don’t forget that during the time that I was the Commissioner, I couldn’t focus on Leading Learning. I didn’t do anything. I had to resign from the company. We started it before I became a Commissioner when I retired from Corona. There are three major things that we do; one was observation in the classroom, supporting schools to get better by working with their teachers and improving classroom practices so that results can be positively affected; the second is entering into a relationship with Finland and taking people to Finland because that’s an example of a great education system. We can’t copy what they are doing, but we can emulate their can-do spirit and their determination that they will build something that supersedes their peculiar circumstances.

By the way, I forgot to mention the other time, one of the best things I did in government was the curriculum review. We reviewed our skilled work and integrated 21st-century skills. We enjoyed the support of Finland, the British Council, and so on. My relationship with Finland started at Leading Learning Limited where we believe in instructional leadership and continuous quest into how schools are managed.

Who is Mrs. Adefisayo? Which words best describe your personality? There are so many sides of you that people see; we need to bring them together.

I am just a simple person who wants to do her best.

What’s your philosophy of life? What drives you? What motivates you?

I just want to do my best. I just feel I am very fortunate in a lot of ways; I mean I might not have been fortunate financially as such (laughs) but God gave me a lot of gifts and I did my duty to give back. That’s what has always pushed me.

Would you say you are fulfilled? Looking back, are there things that you did that you thought you shouldn’t have done and are there things that you would have wanted to do but you couldn’t do, both in the public and private sectors?

You cannot reach my age and not know that you have made some mistakes. So, I would say that yes, there are some things I wish I had done differently. There are some things I wished I did earlier and there are some things I wished I could do and I am yet to do. I mean, so long that I am here, there are still many things bubbling within me that I want to do and I am working on.

Absolutely. So, what general counsel do you want to offer our youths?

Well, I am not of the school that believes that the youths of today are different or that they are bad. I would rather tell them, look you are living in great and interesting times, just be part of it, don’t let it pass you by, and don’t sit in a place and say nothing is happening to me. If you talk to people like me, of course, I have had difficult times, terrible times, and almost depressing times but keep on that spirit that I can get out of this and I will get out of this and take advantage of the fantastic times we are living in. There is so much happening, I wish I were a youth now, and I will get into things like Artificial Intelligence and so on. Live the moment, seize the moment; that is the way.

Let me quickly take you back to the issue of curriculum, you spoke in part about curriculum. Is our curriculum fit for purpose in Nigeria? Is it ok the way it is?

It could be improved. There’s no perfect curriculum. I think what would have been best is to keep on updating our curriculum, and keep on working at it, which is what we tried to do in Lagos State by incorporating 21st-century work and life skills. That includes Digitalis which talks about objectives in the classroom. We can do a lot of work on our Curriculum to make it fit for purpose. It is possible and we need to hold this conversation at a public gathering involving all stakeholders. Are we graduating people fit for the workplace? We are not at the moment, and what we need to do is not rocket science. It exists. There is no need to reinvent the wheel, so it requires a lot of political will and that is what is currently lacking.

Closely linked to that, I will like to talk about vocational education in Nigeria. We used to get it right in the days of technical colleges, but gradually all of that has been phased out. Now, we are struggling to bring it back, what is the way forward? How do we empower our young people with the right vocational skills that would make them become entrepreneurs, and successful employers of labour, so that the dependent on public sector jobs will reduce?

I am of a different school of thought honestly. I don’t believe that we ever got it right in the past because we were doing it for people who were not educated. A few schools here and there, there were not enough of them, they were not many, and they were not turning out top-level technical graduates.  It’s even worse now in that we just have these few technical colleges, most of them are moribund. I think we should scale up by ensuring that our secondary education has a comprehensive vocational element in it. Every child’s secondary education should lead to the acquisition of at least one vocational skill so that by the time they leave school, they will have skills that will make them self-reliant to some extent. We need to stop training people to have a mindset of I’m going into paid employment.

There are no positions now for typists, stenographers, etc. So, you have to learn a skill that is relevant in the workplace. This is where we need to scale up by ensuring that at every level of education – primary, secondary, and tertiary, we do not just have a few low-level special schools that train 50 people, but that we have well-equipped and well-funded vocational schools that can produce millions of well-trained and rounded graduates.

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Absolutely. What legacy would you want to be remembered for when you finally retire?

First, I am never going to retire unless I cannot work again and that will be because of the loss of my cognitive senses. Even if I am physically impaired which I hope and pray doesn’t happen, as long as I still have the full use of my faculty, I don’t have any plans to retire. I have said it earlier; I just try to do my best.

Finally, given the busy nature of your schedule, how do you achieve work-life balance? How do you relax?

I don’t go out much. I don’t like attending social events. I sit in my house and read. I have a fantastic relationship with my family, for me, which is enough. So, my downtime means that I am with the people I love most, and that’s it.

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