Only a few things would take a busy person away from their work on a Wednesday. One of them would be the graduation of a well-loved child.
It was not surprising, therefore, that parents of the pupils of Golden Olives Academy, GOA, Abuja, made time to come and cheer their children on as some graduated and others received prizes for exceptional performances in various fields.
The school, started in Maiduguri 11 years ago, branched into Abuja two years later with resounding success.
Although the school is faith-based (Islamic), the proprietress, Fatima Zanna Gana, a medical doctor, has been loudly acclaimed from various quarters for her innovation of a hybrid education system: successfully combining Islamic education with Western education.
Mallam Habib Mohammed is a teacher.
He said GOA’s educational concept was one he had been nursing for for years until he met Dr. Zanna who shared her vision with him. He was sold and immediately bought into the idea.
Habib laments that a lot of Muslims don’t understand the Qur’an even though they can recite it. He insists it is against the Holy book for one to recite it without understanding it.
At GOA, he boasts, pupils are taught to understand the Qur’an.
On the methodology of the school, Hadiza Kareem, who heads the Early Years department, says that each class has two teachers. While one teaches a secular curriculum, the other inculcates Islamiya and only speaks to the pupils in Arabic.
Regardless of the fact that the school is faith-based, Umar Farouk, the school’s accountant, gives assurances that the school actively participates in secular activities, including the spelling bee and sports competitions.
The event, which lit up the Merit House at Maitama, Abuja – where it was held – had parents abandon other commitments for the day as they enjoyed various performances by the pupils, including drama, career talk, Islamic recitations and self-defence demos.
A parent, Mrs. Tauheeda Suleiman, whose child graduated last year, showered the school with glowing praise. She said Islamic education and the balance they create in the kids are important to her, adding that the quality of teachers and the good discipline of the kids impress her the most.
Lighting up with a big smile, Suleiman marveled that GOA feeds the kids high-quality meals (school starts at 7:30 a.m., kids are fed breakfast, lunch, snacks and fruits) considering that its charges are reasonably modest compared to other Abuja schools in its category
Proudly recalling her eldest child, Halima, who passed through the school, she shared that she won the only gold medal in her secondary school for a combination of academic excellence, good behaviour, hard-work and punctuality.
The proud mother believes Halima’s success is a direct outcome of the foundation she got from GOA.
She hopes charges won’t be increased but if they are, she will not consider leaving the school.
For Suraj Aliyu, whose three kids are in the school, he heard about GOA from a friend and decided to try it out.
He finds the school academically sound with very friendly staff.
Most importantly, it is a one-stop shop for him.
With GOA, there is no need for him to find an Islamiya school to take his kids to after conventional school so they can learn to recite the Qur’an. The school takes care of all of that at once.
For young Rabia Siraj Aliyu, a pupil, this is the only school she’s ever known. For her, it is welcoming and makes her feel special. The learning is great and she also has the opportunity to interact with other schools.
Interestingly, she likes pushups as well as arts, reading and biking.
Bashir Aminu Wali, another pupil, says GOA developed his confidence.
Before he came to the school, he couldn’t make eye contacts when speaking to others. Now he is more confident and always wants to make his mom proud.
Brilliant Mohammed Aliyu S.K., whose most exciting subjects are maths, sciences and computer, loves his school not minding that he hasn’t decided what to become when he grows up.
Staff were not left out in the award of prizes.
One could see the size of love and admiration the pupils have for their teachers as they cheered wildly when they were called up to receive prizes.
Exceptional teachers were given cash awards by the proprietress, Dr. Fatima Zanna Gana, who thanked the staff, parents and pupils profusely.
She advised the graduands to be good ambassadors of the school.
Appealing for donations for the building of the school’s permanent site from Wuye, where it is currently operating from, she assured parents that the secondary section would kick-off next year.
One big takeaway from this ceremony is the abundance of loyalty.
I could see the loyalty flowing from teachers to students, students to teachers, staff to proprietress, proprietress to staff, parents to school, school to parents and so on.
The loyalty is solid.
It would be a Herculean task for anyone to attempt to break it.