In Loving Memory of Dr. Abiodun Laja
Dr. Abiodun Laja (Jan. 7, 1950- May 26, 2019)
Dr Abiodun Juliana Laja was a pioneering educator, who was a leader in transforming the private education sector in Nigeria over a period of forty years. Born on 7th January 1950 to Gabriel Oluwole Laja and Flora Durorike Reis, she grew up in Lagos and attended St. Louis Girls School in Ibadan before proceeding to the United Kingdom to further her education. After earning her Diploma in Education from the St. Nicholas Training Centre for the Montessori Method in London, she returned to Nigeria to work as a Montessori teacher, first at Adrao International School and then St. Saviour’s School. However, her indomitable entrepreneurial spirit soon led her to found her own nursery and primary school, ABC Nurseryland, remarkably becoming the youngest person to start a private school in Nigeria at the age of twenty-seven. Indeed, this was only the beginning of a string of firsts in her career as an educator – others include the use of brightly coloured lettering for the logo of the School (which led to a protracted battle with the Ministry of Education that reduced Dr Laja to tears of frustration before they would approve it), as well as the decoration of the external and internal infrastructure of all her Schools with easily recognisable cartoon characters, all in an effort to create the most exciting and conducive environment for her pupils to learn. As she said in a press interview in December 2017, “I noticed that anytime a family drove past that place, the children would point…saying that was where they wanted because of those characters and attractions.” Today, these are all standard in primary schools across the nation. From its launch in 1977, ABC Nurseryland grew to become a group of nursery and primary schools across four locations in Lagos and Ogun States and was a household name that was renowned for providing a solid foundation to children from different backgrounds and age groups. Many of her early pupils have gone on to become wonderful ambassadors of Nigeria in the wider global community.