The Indian Language School here, one of the few CBSE-accredited schools outside the country, has not only been a unique centre of learning in this far off West African land but also a place where one can see national integration at its best.
Established in April 1982, the school is of the Indian community, by the Indian community and for the Indian community.
It began with just 90 students in 1982, and in recent years, the strength has been over 2,000. It has classes from LKG to XII and has been holding CBSE Board Examinations for Grades X and XII, since the late 1980s.
“Students who have grown up in ILS are confident, and proud of their Indian heritage. At the same time, they grow to respect and understand Nigeria’s culture and language. They also develop a great fondness for Nigerians – a people who are, optimistic and friendly and full of humour,” says the school’s principal Elizabeth Mathew.
“Our students’ interaction with Nigerian schools, for music, sport, drama, debate and art, have helped them develop friendships and they grow to love Nigeria. In fact, at least a few hundred of our alumni, have chosen to come back to stay and work in Nigeria,” Mathew told PTI.
According to her, the presence of this Indian school in Nigeria has, to a great extent, helped strengthen bonds between the two countries – a bond that has already existed from the 1950s, when Indian businessmen and teachers came into Nigeria.
The school at Oba Nle Aro Avenue in Ilupeju comes under the umbrella of the High Commission of India to Nigeria and is managed by a Board of Trustees comprising eminent industrialists and businessmen.
“Over the years, we have had students and teachers from every part of India – from Tripura to Rajasthan, from Kashmir to Kerala…Understanding and appreciation for the myriad shades of India’s cultural diversity, broaden and enrich the outlook of our students. I personally, have learnt so much more about India, during my years in ILS, than I have ever learnt in India,” says Mathew.
Among some challenges she faced as the principal over the past three years, she says were textbooks delay, petrol shortage, unexpected closure of schools due to unrest, and once, even Ebola – 17 cases – when all schools in the country had to remain closed for over a month.
She says students passing out from the school have been pursuing a variety of careers including law, music, films, medicine, engineering, defence and fine arts and many of them are very well placed.
“A few of our alumni are even officers in the Indian Army and Air Force,” she says.