Inspirational leadership as an antidote to falling education standards
“We know the challenges our schools and parents are facing in Africa and we are trying our best to solve these without modelling any foreign organisation doing something similar. Our objective is simple, we want to make our private schools more accessible and affordable while at the same time, help our parents make informed school choices.” These are the words of Jide Aiyegbusi, founder of edusko.com. Aiyegbusi is a brand and project manager turned education consultant. In this interview he identifies the cause of Nigeria’s falling education standards and how a conference with stakeholders may be the beginning of a turn around.
Is there any personal experience that made you start looking into Education?
I have always loved quality education growing up but it was never within my reach because of my humble background. Now an adult, the words of Nelson Mandela that education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world, always chimes in my head. If we are serious about sustainable changes in all the sectors of our economy, then all hands must be on deck to facelift our education sector. I strongly believe that fixing the rot in our education sector should not be left to authorities alone. We cannot continue to complain about the system while doing nothing about it even when we have the means to impact it as individuals. This passion for contributing my own quota to impact the system led me to take a pay cut and pick up an employment in one of the leading education marketing outfits in Nigeria in 2013. The opportunity gave me a better understanding of various challenges school owners and parents face in trying to meet their stakeholders’ needs and giving their children a head-start to a great future respectively. I later founded Edusko to solve some of these problems.
How easy has it been solving these problems and what challenges have you had to overcome as an organisation?
Edusko was founded to make our private schools more accessible while also helping parents make informed school choices. We have built a reliable online platform where parents can compare schools, make informed decisions, get access to school fees discounts and enrol their wards with ease. Initially, I thought it would be a smooth sailing as the problem we were solving was huge. One of the early challenges we faced was acceptance from the schools. The penetration was very low and the “top schools” were not willing to listen to us. Funding was also a major challenge as Edusko was bootstrapped with a very lean budget and this affected our scaling speed. Interestingly, we are overcoming some of these challenges gradually. As we speak, more than 4,000 schools are currently being accessible by thousands of parents every week on Edusko. We have presence in over 30 states in Nigeria and more than 10 regions in Ghana. The company is also generating revenue to run itself.
What do you consider as the very vital factors a parent must consider when shopping for a school for a child?
The decision of placing a child in a good school is similar to making an important purchasing decision. But unlike purchasing an item no matter how expensive that item is, placing a child in a good school is far more important because our future and that of the child is involved. It is said in Yoruba that mortgaging the future of a child at the expense of acquiring assets is dangerous because such a child may dissipate the assets in the future if he had no proper education.
A good school is the product of the school’s faculty, facilities, curriculum and learning environment. Sadly, budget seems to be number one priority for many parents. We seem to have forgotten that for a school to measure up to a certain standard, a reasonable level of funding must have been injected into that school. That is why quality education is expensive but we all know ignorance is more expensive.
We did an opinion sampling of some parents in Lagos a few months back; asking them same question. Top of the list are budget/affordability, proximity to home or office, security and quality of teachers the school possesses.
From relating with school proprietors, what would you say is the biggest challenge to managing a school?
Inadequate funding is one of the biggest challenges of many school owners in Nigeria. Most of them know they need to up their game in terms of offering quality education, but how can they do that when there’s no money to hire competent and passionate teachers, invest in infrastructural facilities and expose students to best standards? Many of them don’t have access to credit facilities and a few who have managed to secure loans from the banks are battling with high interest rates and are not getting enough patronage from parents to be able to pay back their loans.
I also believe that leadership is another one of such challenges. Leading a school is not an easy task. Many school owners are passionate about quality education but are constantly battling with finding their true north in order to provide genuine and inspirational leadership to their team as well their students. These factors are partly responsible for the decline in the quality of education in Nigeria.
Does higher tuition necessarily equal quality education?
No. In as much as quality education is not cheap, it is possible for a school to be charging more and offering less. Experience also shows that quality education is not in a school’s façade which is what a lot of parents look at while making school choices.
Tell us about this conference you’re putting together? Why did you decide to and what’s its relevance to Nigeria’s current state of affairs?
It is called the business of education summit. Whether or not we live in Nigeria, all of our futures will be affected by the success or failure of education in the country. But much of what we can achieve in the education sector would largely depend on how our schools are managed as business entities. Edusko has decided to chart a new course in this direction with the business of education summit; focused on school leadership, education finance, education marketing, and stakeholders’ relationship. At the conference, experienced thought leaders will via panel discussions engage with Nigerian school leaders to discuss the importance of school leadership in improving outcomes for our schools and their students. On the 12th of October, we are expecting over a thousand top school owners, directors, administrators, education entrepreneurs, senior educators and key stakeholders in the Nigerian education sector to join us as we discuss critical issues around school leadership. This event is absolutely free for all the participants and it holds in Lagos.
What informed the choice of speakers and how are you sourcing participants?
Our school leaders are used to listening to their fellow educationists. Interestingly, being an educationist does not make one a good school leader neither does it make one a cerebral business leader. It’s high time our school leaders learned from experienced and business leaders who are passionate about how the business of education is being managed and are also willing to render practical assistance. So, we are inviting these carefully selected leaders from different spheres of life to a panel discussion.
Expected speakers and panellists at this event are: Chris Ogbechie, professor of Strategic Management, Pan Atlantic University; Raghav Lal, CEO The Transnational Academic Group;
Lanre Olusola, life coach and founder Olusola Lanre Coaching Academy and Alex Goma, managing director, PZ Cussons Nigeria. Others are: Biola Alabi, founder, Biola Alabi Media; Gbenro Adegbola, managing director/CEO First Veritas Educational Delivery; Dr. Adebodun Sanyaolu, CEO Adkyke Consulting and Darrell McGraw, senior partner, PriceWaterhouseCoopers Nigeria.
Are there other education resource organisations that Edusko is trying to model?
I really don’t think we should be modelling any foreign organisation. Many of our problems in Africa are peculiar and applying foreign principles may not work. For us at Edusko, we know the challenges our schools and parents are facing in Africa and we are trying our best to solve these without modelling any foreign organisation doing something similar.
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