Where many schools focus on education and the passing of exams, Light Academy schools opted for a different route: bringing up morally upright students besides giving them an education.
According to Ramazan Akkilic, the principal of the academy’s international school, their philosophy in terms of education is “delivering morally upright, social responsible and academically competent individuals to society.”
“Morally upright is in first place because it is the foundation — a core factor — because we believe that if an individual does not have the virtues, wherever he goes or whatever position he gains in society is not going to be useful for his country,” he says, adding that with these virtues the students will be considerate to other people around them.
Light Academy started as 8-4-4 system in 1998, in a small compound on Ngong Road in Nairobi, with eight students. The IGCSE system was introduced in 2001. It has now grown to accommodate 1,600 students in eight campuses, one in Malindi, two in Mombasa and five in Nairobi.
One of the unique features of Light Academy schools is the science and project Olympiad, where students take part in various competitions in different subjects such as ICT and social studies in different countries. To make the project work, they have a project coordination office that nurtures students ideas and dreams and help them submit complete projects to such competitions. In working on these projects, the students are able to figure out problems and come up with solutions for them. The school has now won more than 60 medals in these competitions.
“We believe that education should not be constrained within the four walls of classrooms or confined to the pages of books. We should let the students think outside the box,” Akkilic says.
The competitions give students the experience and are exposed to international students, improve their self confidence and helps them to be global citizens. Additionally, the certificates they receive admits them into international universities. And in this way, the students are a step ahead of their peers.
Locally, the school is organizing the Golden Climate International Environmental project Olympiad, with environment as the general theme. It has been a part of the project for a while and in the last five years, has been holding the local edition. “This year, we are inviting students from other countries to come with their project ideas and present them here. It is a way of giving a chance to students here who are unable to travel to other countries to have an international exposure.”
They will also be hosting the third edition of the World Scholar’s Cup, a team-based academic tournament that involves students from more than 40 countries. In 2014, Light Academy hosted over 350 students and this year they are hoping to get more than 400 students from both local and international schools.
Another thing that stands out with the school is the close relationship between teachers, students and parents. The school has supervisors called abi (Turkish for elder brother), who the students go to if they have any issues. “We also have home visits, where teachers come together and visit student’s homes within and around Nairobi, Kisumu, and Mombasa to see the parents. This really strengthens the bond between the school and parents,” says Akkilic, adding that it also makes the students quite special as they feel valued.
The school also gives importance to ICT as it has two computer labs, where students get to learn basic ICT skills. The classrooms are also fitted with smart and interactive boards, just as the science labs, where they are useful for dangerous experiments. The school information system is also available, allowing parents to keep track of their student’s performance, attendance and behavior points. It is also working on digitizing the library.
For the 8-4-4 system, there is a scholarship system that is based on merit and to needy students.
“Currently, 132 students are on scholarship,” says the head teacher of the 8-4-4 section, Ismail Kucuk, adding that that the scholarships are both full and partial to up to 50 per cent.
The students under scholarship are required to maintain a mean grade of A while normal-paying students a mean grade of B. For those who are not able to do so, remedial classes are available to help them with their studies.
To enhance this, the school also has a performance-based salary system, where a teacher gets over and above his salary if the students achieve set goals.
Over the years, the school has been performing very well. In 2002 it became the most improved private school and they have featured in the best private schools since 2003 and have had best students in different subjects countrywide.
In raising well-rounded students, the school also has tea-talks — a session where they have meetings with their hostel supervisors on issues affecting them. They also have barbeques, special breakfast and birthday celebrations for the students. They also take part in tours in and out of the country. “Recently form two students visited the Nairobi orphanage and contributed money they had collected. Our form threes and fours are also planning a trip to Turkey in April,” says Kucuk.
In terms of the extra-curricular activities, students at Light Academy get to take part in club days. “We have clubs for the weekdays and for weekends. On Saturdays we have football tournaments from midday. On Sunday we have club activities from 12pm to 5-6pm, where students play basketball, hockey, and swimming.”
Kucuk says these activities are there for the students not to be bored at all, and provide adequate space and equipment for them to enjoy.
According to the hostel set-up, the students get to make time for their studies. The cleaning and laundry services are available 24 hours a day. There is also a lounge and game rooms where the students can enjoy variety of games. Each room accommodates six students, giving them enough space.
As the school is keen on the environment and the carbon print it leaves, the hostels use green energy. The school also recycles its water using a bio-digester. The water is then used for irrigation.
One of the plans both International and 8-4-4 sections of Light Academy want to do is to separate from each other.
“In September this year, the schools will each be on its own compound, each with its own facilities,” adds Kucuk.
The school also plans to increase number of students on scholarships, to improve on the digitalisation of the school with more interactive ICT and to get even better results in KCSE.
Published on The Star, 05 February 2015, Thursday