The major benefit to working in Nigeria is the welcoming people who are apparently the happiest in the world. Then there are weekends off in the huge metropolis of Lagos, the warm tropical climate and the children who are a delight to teach. So says Jeni Sayer, Principal of Day Waterman College. We caught up with her to find out more about the reality of working in Nigeria.
How do teachers benefit from taking on an international post?
Everyone knows the value of travel to one’s own education. A two week trip as a tourist cannot hope to give the depth of knowledge and understanding that living and working in another culture offers. One makes friends, learns about customs and culture and gains insight into different political and economic systems. It becomes a privilege to connect with other nationalities and see the common humanity that we all share.
What are the major plus points about living and working in Nigeria?
Quite simply the people. As you leave the airport there is a large sign stating “we are the happiest people in the world” – a statistic derived from a global poll. Movement around the school is interspersed with conversations dotted with laughter. Nigerians are open, fun loving and generally extrovert in nature. Families give their children a disciplined framework, strong moral values and encourage them to observe their religion. Education is highly valued so motivation and expectations are high. Nigerian children are a delight to teach.
Are there any negatives?
Traffic congestion, bad roads in the rainy season and generally poor infrastructure, especially with power. This is the same as in many other parts of Africa.
Please tell us a little bit about your school.
Day Waterman College is an impressive new purpose built school development incorporating student, staff and guest housing. The 100 acre site is located in the peaceful area of Abeokuta, Ogun State, Nigeria, one hour’s drive from Lagos. Visitors express amazement at the facilities and environment, which they tell us are far more impressive than those shown on the website.
The boarding only school for 11 – 18 year olds is in its third year and at full capacity will accommodate 700 students. The school is very much a community with all the teaching staff housed in comfortable apartments on site. Students follow the English National curriculum in KS3, sit the Cambridge Checkpoint examinations in Year 9, IGCSEs in Year 11 and the International Baccalaureate Diploma is planned for Years 12 – 13. The majority of the students are Nigerian coming from families residing in Nigeria, UK and USA.
Is it easy for teachers from the UK to adjust to the curriculum you teach?
Nigeria’s early education system was built upon the British system. A number of schools offer IGCSEs so teachers are generally familiar with these courses. Nigerian teachers are very open minded, keen to improve on their practice and learn quickly. I enjoy working with them.
What kind of lifestyle can they expect in Nigeria?
Life is busy in a boarding school. Boarding schools attract teachers who enjoy interacting with students outside of the classroom, developing stronger and more rewarding relationships with them. For weekends off there is the huge coastal metropolis of Lagos to enjoy, with its surprising abundance of entertainment activities. Together with the warm tropical climate and the welcoming nature of Nigerians, the attractive side of life in Lagos is a well-kept secret.
Further afield there are nature reserves, game parks, sites of cultural interest and access to the fascinating arts and cultural history of West Africa, in not only Nigeria but also neighbouring countries.
What would your advice be for someone contemplating teaching overseas and in Nigeria specifically?
Forget the sensational press reports and listen to what the recruiters tell you. Ask questions about all the issues that concern you. Most schools are honest about the conditions. Once they have successfully recruited they want staff to stay as it is difficult to replace teachers who leave shortly after arrival. Nigeria is a huge country and areas of unrest are restricted to a couple of small pockets in the east and north of the country. Each country has its own particular issues. Work out what is important to your lifestyle and ensure that the country you choose can offer that.
Is there a lot of paperwork involved for someone coming over to teach?
For a resident permit you will be asked for your professional certificates, CV and to complete a form. This takes a couple of weeks prior to your arrival and the school will guide you through the process.
As a recruiter, what do you generally look for from candidates?
Most of all flexibility, adaptability and a positive attitude. I have seen teachers experiencing exactly the same circumstances yet having very different reactions. How you choose to respond to your environment will dictate the success of your stay, not the environment itself. Remember that schools try very hard to do the very best they can for their staff within the school environment – they are their most import asset – but issues outside the school are usually not within their control.
What would you say to teachers who are considering living and working overseas?
Over the past 30 years I have worked with many teachers who have come to West Africa as their first overseas posting. After that first experience almost all of them have stayed overseas and made a rewarding career in international schools. Being open minded and adaptable, and willing to embrace and work within cultural attitudes and traditions different to your own will reap its own rewards. I urge you to explore.
Find vacancies for Day Waterman College and other African schools following this link.