Legacy in Progress: Charterhouse, Lagos’ Commitment to Nigeria

by John Todd

I consider myself fortunate to have been involved in international education since 1996; I actually flew out to Singapore on the same plane as the woman who would go on to become my wife, although we didn’t know it at the time! It has been an enormous privilege to have worked in six different countries and opened schools, new schools, and new buildings in several countries too. Now, with just five months to go, I find myself in Nigeria for the second time in my career, looking at something truly remarkable. Our school: Charterhouse, Lagos.

Opening a New School in Nigeria

From 2001 until 2007, I lived in Nigeria, so one of the key drivers of this project is that the leader should be able to understand Nigeria and its context. I am doing all that I can to understand the local culture so that I know how to make this project work. Having a good understanding of other experts and their operational methods here is vital; hence,  our meetings with numerous construction and logistics providers have been extensive and occasionally exhaustive. One of the nicest things is that people still remember me from the past, though I’m not sure if that’s always a good thing!

We are fortunate to have found the right local partners, and I believe that regardless of your location, having the right partners around you is crucial to the success of your international school in years to come.

Making a Difference

At Charterhouse, Lagos, we have a genuine desire to make a difference. Our current owners in Nigeria have extensive experience in educational endeavours, and together, we have identified the potential to significantly influence the landscape of international education in Nigeria. I remind myself and our partners that if we are going to do it, we should do it with a model of excellence. So, whilst our dream is carefully guided, it is very pragmatic. I am fully aware that becoming an outstanding international school takes a huge amount of effort, and that every member of staff we bring to Lagos will make a significant contribution to our own educational legacy, and one as a whole in Nigeria.  

We plan to invest significantly in scholarships with the idea being that we support a certain number of students through the school, and then at university. In the process, I am confident that our investment will convince others to do the same in the local area, and that within time, Nigerian students will look more at home when it comes to university places. 

We are going to be sponsoring the Nigerian Grassroots Football Association. Football at Charterhouse in the United Kingdom has a deep and significant pedigree, so for us, it was an easy decision to be able to do something that brings the students and their schools even closer together, and in doing so, gives even more opportunities to local Nigerians of whom football is hugely important. 

Retaining a Focus on Quality

Through our partnership agreement, we have to offer the equivalent of what Charterhouse offers in the UK. As you may be aware, Charterhouse in the UK is a very strong academic school. This fits well because we prioritise learning over teaching, emphasising that the purpose of a school is to facilitate learning. Good learning happens through highly effective teaching. As such, one of the first things we did was appoint a Director of Learning. Our incumbent has worked as a principal, so you get a clear understanding of the level of importance we are attaching to that role. I am also keen to explore the use of experts: individuals who are at the top of their game in various aspects of the school.

Embracing and Re-writing Cultural Narratives

There’s no escaping it: Nigeria is a hierarchical society, as it was during my time in China. In Nigerian society, with age and position comes respect. Whilst on the outside this may seem a normal hallmark of a society – and indeed we should be encouraging respect for our elders – age is believed to confer wisdom, so older people are granted respect. The oldest person in a group is revered and honoured. Part of my role in the years ahead will be to teach people to argue respectfully. I am the first one to admit that I do not have all the answers, and as a school, we want more from our staff than to just obey. It will be a challenge, but one I am looking forward to as we outwardly communicate that we trust in our people to do the right things.

Leaving a Legacy

We knew right from the beginning that we were going to need significant local input. One of our first hires from the community was our Director of Communications, Admissions, and Marketing. We do it in that order. In my humble experience, I often think that one of the things we do worst at schools is communication; so that will be their number one priority. It is easy to assume that an international private school might not focus on local staff, but the opportunity and quality of experiences we are going to be providing to our local community are second to none, and we will take their ongoing personal and professional development seriously so that they feel a part of our wonderful school culture just as much as our international teachers do. It gives me an enormous sense of pride to think of some of the opportunities we will be providing. At the heart of our thinking, is our ability to leave a legacy – an indelible footprint that can support the local community and its continued development. 

John Todd is the Founding Head and Director of Education at Charterhouse Lagos, Nigeria (website: https://charterhouselagos.com/)

To connect with John on LinkedIn, click here

To learn more about Charterhouse Lagos and to read ‘An Interview with John Todd’ in the LYIS Magazine, go to: https://online.fliphtml5.com/epomn/lrlj/#p=1 or scan below:

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