Revealing what makes Avail International Consults the go-to study abroad educational consult, the CEO, Mrs. Bola Agunbiade, in this interview with Ajayi Olalekan says the company’s unparalleled experience in the industry positioned it to offer unique services to clients and well-grounded tutorials to ensure our students are at a vantage position to be successful at the first attempt. Mrs. Agunbiade also fields questions on knotty issues affecting the educational sector and the company’s new Tutorial centre. EXCERPTS:
Please share with us what Avail Tutorials Ltd is all about?
Avail Tutorials Ltd is a subsidiary extension of Avail International Consults Limited. We decided to start the tutorial section because we realized that students have needs for a tutorial centre because many of the universities abroad ask for international English Test Certificates such as TOELF, IEALT, GRE SAT or the like. So we decided to set up the tutorial centre to address the needs of the students in this direction and even beyond our students. We have clients who want to relocate abroad, and they will help in this regard.
How much value would you say Avail Tutorials Centre has been adding and continue to add, to the performance level of the students?
One of the advantages is that in other centres, we cannot tell them what to do but here, we can control what goes on in our own organization. We do practicals for students from time to time to gauge their performances and capabilities and ascertain their improvement level. We are sure that they are comprehending all that they are being taught. That is why eventually when the exams come up, they come up with top grades and this have been happening because a large percentage of the students excel their exams.
What is the teaching style of the Tutorial Centre like, is it virtual or physical mainstream methods of teaching?
We do face-to-face physical teaching, of course during the pandemic we were doing virtual because of the lockdown and students could not come to the office to take tutorials. I personally prefer the face-to-face style because I feel it is more effective. However we are constrained to do virtual when our students are not physically available.
Avail International Consult has been in operation for around 11 years, at what point did the tutorial centre start before this eventual unveiling as a registered subsidiary?
That was around five years ago.
So, the difference is about six years? Within that period how did you deal with that gap without a tutorial centre?
We have always had tutors. Though we were not doing it from the beginning, but we have always had tutors. We have always had students come to the office and always tried to assist them. We give them practical lessons, buy textbooks for them, give them CDs – soft copy materials to aid their learning. But fully, we started the tutorial centre about six years ago though unregistered.
From your statement you said you discovered a lot of the students were failing some of the exams hence the need to bridge the gap, from your experience why did you think this is so and what were the factors that were and still responsible for this?
Part of the problem is poor educational background. I have seen the various English tests myself, I have gone through the syllabus, I know what is expected of the students and I have an idea of what students are supposed to know. So I realized that, it is not as if the tests are difficult, it is just that it’s different from what we are used to. For instance in ISTS there are sections of reading and listening and writing, but we are not use to that. Of course we are used to comprehension passages questions and all of that. In our days we were not writing exams with the computers but all of these exams are computer based, and now I know that even with JAMB and some of our universities conduct exams with the use of computers.
But the vast majority of the people are still not comfortable writing exams on the computer, so we let them realize that they are going to write their final exams on the computer and everything they are doing is with the computer – the practicals and all.
Of course, the tutors can be done on their note, but the major exam is done on the computer. These are some things people need to get their selves familiarized with. It is not that we don’t know English or mathematics, but the mode of the exams is what we are not familiar with, and we are trying to get our students familiarize themselves with it.
Some do ask: Don’t I know the questions? Can’t I speak correct English? Why do I need ISTS? I can speak English na? Yes we can speak English and read English and communicate well but, can you confidently take a computer and write an exam and pass it? As against taking a paper that you are comfortable or familiar with and passing it. That is on one hand, on the other hand, the mode of the exam is different from what majority of the students are familiar with. These are all the things that we let them know and teach them ahead of their exams so at that time they become quite comfortable.
Because you talked about the things we are familiar with, what will you say is the most challenging aspect of tutoring students that you have encountered?
Some of the students don’t have good foundation especially in English. A lot of them don’t understand the basics. This may sound unbelievable, but that is the truth. An average Nigerian students can speak good English and can’t even write good English but when it comes to the basics of English some people don’t know all of these things especially the things that form the foundation for English to be well written and well-spoken. We speak it, we write, but we don’t know some of the basics.
These are some of the challenges we have and some of them are not taught in schools. Maybe now, things are changing but some of the students we taught in the past had no idea of what we are talking about. So we have to start from the scratch perhaps as if we are teaching secondary school students – maybe a Junior Secondary School one (JSS-1) which should have formed the foundation of their English, but they don’t know or perhaps not aware. Some schools abroad will call me and say your students don’t know the basics of English, and how can they cope with the real thing? So we have to start from the scratch to know and ascertain what we are building is solid enough.
What are your expectation from the government in terms of reforming the Nigeria educational system?
I believe the government already knows what to do, It’s just for them to do it. A good number of our leaders have been abroad, and so they know a lot of the good quality education obtainable there- they know what is appropriate and what facilities are expected to be in place, but they are not just doing it, it is not ignorant, so I don’t think it is about telling them what to do, but about convincing them that they need to develop Nigeria’s educational system.
How do you propose to use your firm to help the government advance the educational system?
Coincidentally, I was speaking to one of the tutors recently, and I was asking him what we can do to help students either in secondary school or those who are about to write their WAEC or JAMB or people who are about to write their post-Jamb exams, and he said why don’t we extend our tutorials to involve these people, even though they are going to study in Nigeria or even though our focus is on students who want to study abroad.
We are looking at ways to help students who want to study in Nigeria too and looking at extending the tutorials to them, and we are not going to charge much but just something to encourage the students, and we would invite as many as can come.
What would you say is the main focus and objective of the Tutorials?
Developing and teaching people whether they want to study in Nigeria or beyond. Our centre is focus majorly on those who want to study abroad and again for the people who may not want to study abroad, it may mean that our focus will be to help them pass their Jamb or WAEC very well.
There are organisations who talk about passing all subjects in one sitting, especially in the WAEC, NECO and Jamb examinations, how do you think this is achievable especially when some of these people have sat for the exams more than once?
If they have sat for it already there is nothing we can do for them except in the next one they are going to sit for. But we can further assist them if they want to re-sit for it.
We hear about centres and their claims of tutoring students to get straight As, is there something close to that in Avail Tutorial Centre?
The examples you sighted is for WAEC and the likes. First, we don’t have a test centre yet, and I know there are people who make such promises and I don’t know how they do it but for us, we ensure that our students are tutored to be victorious in their exams. What I tell people is, if you put your mind in what you are doing, you will pass and pass very well. For us, we don’t do ” special arrangement” maybe like other centres do, but we will teach the students to perfection. We do this by going to any extent just to ensure our students are well taught and are learning what they are supposed to learn. And like I said from the beginning anything you put your mind to you will achieve it and besides the questions are not difficult. It’s just that we are not used to them.
How do you draw the line where in an examination some people will do so well and some other people will perform very poorly. In your view is it a case of some people knowing more than some people especially when they are exposed to in the same tutorial work?
I don’t think so, I feel the problem may be with the students. This is because among the same students are people who did very well and are doing the centre proud. Except in the case where everybody may fail the exams then one may begin to call to question a lot of things. Either the students are not well taught or the students are not assimilating what is being taught them enough. In an exam where 5 people have (As) or did very well from the lot especially where they did it on a neutral ground, the ones who did not do well may have the problems and not the centre because of the ones who did well from that same institution and passed well.
Do you offer materials to aid teaching?
We do. We use projectors, we have computers, we have internet which students can use as long as they are here. Like I said everything we do is computer based and it’s what they will use for their exams and the ones for WAEC too when we start that, almost immediately we will also introduce them to computers because we know that is where the world is going to.
How affordable are your tutorial services?
Very affordable. In fact sometimes we engage our students free of cost just to encourage those who cannot afford it. Some people want to learn, but they just can’t afford the resources and in that case we look at their results and find a way to encourage them. It is not in all situation we are bent on money. But again, we also have criterial that we use to know those who can’t afford it.
Any advice for Nigerian students who are willing to study abroad?
We will say that consider first the local opportunity and if they feel going abroad to study is their desire, we are here to assist them, but they should consider the financial capacity involved and be ready to do Nigeria proud. We don’t want students who will go abroad and tarnish the country’s image instead we want those who will do us proud abroad.
We want students to come and learn at Avail Tutorials Ltd. At Avail Tutorials, we have a bigger space, and it is because of this we moved to our present location so come to our centre to learn. Thing is even without an office we can still do admission but because of the need for tutorial centre we have the current place we are using which can accommodate as many people as possible.