By RICHARD MAMMAH
The roll call at the signing event in Lagos last week was quite impressive. Among others there was Ms. Carol Cox, representing the American Ambassador to Nigeria; Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Governor of Lagos State; Mr. Ali Saffieddine, Chairman, Board of Directors, American International School Lagos (AISL), Mr. Jim Ovia, Chairman, Jim Ovia Foundation; Prof. Konyinsola Ajayi, SAN, Managing Partner, Olaniwun Ajayi & Co; and Prof. Oyewusi Ibidapo-Obe, Member, Board of Trustees, James Hope College.
It was an activity to formally seal the acquisition deal for an American International School, Lagos property in Lagos that would mark the formal public commencement of moves to establish James Hope College, JHC in Lagos.
A pet desire of Mr. Jim Ovia and his wife, Mrs. Kay Ovia, the dream JHC came to the fore six Septembers ago when the first set of students showed up on the expansive college grounds in Agbor, Delta State that had been prepared for that purpose.
Even the location of the school at Agbor is a story in itself as James Hope College occupies the same historic site that was home to the Old Computer College, which had been instrumental in helping to expose many citizens of Agbor and its environs to the then available state-of-the-art technological equipment and processes at the time the young Jim was a growing lad in Agbor. And it can be conjectured that this could very well be the source of his equally enduring romance with the world of technology, computers and telecommunications which has helped drive Zenith Bank to occupy one of the foremost spots in relation to the deployment and use of ICT in the nation’s banking system as well as in forays like Visafone.
Back to James Hope, the school’s prospectus outlines that ‘the Founder’s rationale for starting James Hope is predicated on affordable excellence.’ It goes on to explain this some more: ‘James Hope offers world-class education for a subsidised fee because it is supported by a substantial endowment fund.’
And the results are coming
At the graduation event for the pioneer set of students that was held in the college in June 2019, it was a most excited Ovia that not only testified publicly about how proud he was that the dream had indeed matured, he also lavishly bestowed gifts and grants to members of the pioneer graduating class, with some going away with scholarships to universities within and outside the country.
A co -educational initiative that is consummated under the auspices of the Jim Ovia Foundation, the recent signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with American International School, Lagos (AISL) is expected to see to the crystallization of the next step in what is clearly turning out to be the astute banker and mercurial businessman’s expanding romance with the education sector.
Under the terms of the MoU, the foundation has acquired the American School’s Lekki Campus facility to establish James Hope College in the Lagos area.
Speaking at the event, Ovia, clearly echoing the success trajectory of the initial Agbor foray, announced that the Foundation would continue with its now established practice of offering full scholarships to 40% of all students that are admitted into the school.
To qualify for the offer, competitive entrance examinations are held annually even as emphasis is placed on cultivating and sustaining what the school terms ‘an equal opportunity model of excellence.’ Broken down this translates to achieving national spread as much as is possible, while also cutting across class barriers.
Another strength of the school is its combination of the British and Nigerian educational curricula. In this wise, James Hope College is a Cambridge Associate School, a member of the Council of British International Schools (COBIS) and Association of British Schools Overseas (AoBSO).
Further in line with its international agenda, JHC is also in partnership with Microsoft Imagine Academy and GL Education, even as it equally enjoys accreditation by Cambridge Assessment International Education (CAIE), Pearson Edexcel Examinations, and British Schools Overseas (BSO).
Prospectively, James Hope College Lagos will open its doors to students commencing September 2020.
A toast to people
Part of the success story of James Hope in a record six years is the caliber of personnel that Jim Ovia meticulously looks for and attracts to help nurture the dream.
The founding principal was the Briton, Mr. Malcolm Philips. He was assisted by two very experienced Nigerian assistants, Mr. Ola Opesan and Mr. James Oloyode.
The current principal is Mr. Abraham Swart. He is assisted by Mr. James Oloyode, Mr. Alphonsus Anaukwu and Mr. Clement Ikunyiminu.
The board is also a studded one. In addition to Mrs. Kay Ovia, Jim Ovia’s educationist wife, there is also Professor Ibidapo-Obe, the first class scholar and former Vice Chancellor of the University of Lagos.
Asked in a Business Hallmark interview conducted earlier in the year about how a vision like James Hope could be replicated on a broader level countrywide to help make the task of enhancing the overall national quality of intakes that come into the universities much easier, and thus also contribute in qualitatively advancing the nation’s skills base, Ibidapo-Obe said:
‘Yes, we can do a lot of things. What goes on for successful