Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Washington DC Nigeria and other debtor countries have been warned by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) of risk associated with debt repayment following growing global debt levels. This is even as the IMF has warned that voters’ disillusionment raises the threat of political developments that could destabilize a range of economic policies in…
Jet Stanley Madu
Mrs. Yinka Ogunde, chief executive officer, Edumark Consult, had built a high-flying career in marketing and advertising before veering into the education sector, where she is currently a change agent. For over a decade, she has been contributing significantly towards tackling the myriad of problems confronting Nigeria’s education sector.
Her organisation, Edumark Consult, works with educational institutions in various parts of the country with a view to enhancing the sector.
In a recent encounter, Ogunde explained to Daily Sun what drives her in the quest to improve Nigeria’s education system, especially in the early years of learning.
How broad is your focus in your work with educational institutions?
I see education in its totality. So, I wouldn’t say I work with nursery, primary or tertiary schools; I work with the industry in general. Our service is directed towards supporting various educational institutions in what they do. One of the projects, which we run annually, is called the Total School Support Seminar and Exhibition (TOSSE). It is a platform where educators from different parts of the country, even from outside the country, are acquainted with the best innovative products and services within the education sector. The next exhibition is scheduled for June. It comes up once a year. So, our services cut across the whole industry. This is because, there, you find university lecturers, nursery teachers and secondary school teachers all coming to see what is new in the sector. That is just one of the things we do.
Our organisation provides educational services as well as organises world-class, high-tech programmes. Another of our initiatives is aimed at boosting the nations’ ailing education sector. Tagged WATFON (We’re the Future of Our Nation), it is a gathering of youths from various parts of the country and it is directed more at students at the secondary level, though we have people from the universities and other tertiary institutions in attendance. The programme’s three core objectives include inspiring patriotism, promoting unity and celebrating role models.
This further goes to explain why I said that we look at the education sector in its totality. We try to identify the problems and we try to proffer solutions.
What inspired you to veer from marketing and advertising to education?
One of the things that inspired me was because I saw the importance of the sector in the development of a nation. It is not a sector we can afford to ignore. I see my role more as an advocacy role, drawing attention of all, especially the authorities, to the issues that need to be addressed and to things I believe we cannot afford to ignore.
TOSEE is a project that helps to address teachers’ development. The issue of training teachers is a major one. We look at how we can encourage and assist them to become better and continue to improve.
At TOSSE, we give them almost two dozens of seminars free of charge. We bring seasoned teachers from various places to come in and talk to them. And, each year, since the inception of the programme, every teacher begins to long for it as a place to belong and to grow. At EDUMARK, We have realised that even with the much-talked-about growth and development in the education sector, if we do not improve the quality of our teachers, we have not yet started. Therefore, we look at so many problems within the sector and we ask ourselves: how can we best solve these problems?
How far-reaching has this advocacy been, especially in attracting government attention?
I always look at it this way: you can only try your best, you are not the one making the final decision. All you can continue to do is to continue to bring to the attention of the authorities what you are doing. I believe that, substantially, we have been doing that. There are very few programmes that we do that we do not send invitations to various states’ ministries of education. Sometimes, they send their personnel to the training.
Most of these programmes, like TOSEE, come free of charge for them. We support organisations that wish to train teachers, even without the government asking us for anything. In our own little way, we bring all these challenges to the attention of the proper authorities. So, it is left for them to say, “Okay, we will do this, we will do that.” I have no control over that. One of the things I know is that it is important that, within the public sector, we get our act right, because the public sector still controls majority of our children, which we cannot afford to ignore. For me, it is not a case of when the government has money or not. I am very much aware that there are so many people who are ready to give back to the sector even without the government paying them. I have seen so many people who are ready to train teachers free of charge. I have seen so many people who are ready to develop students even without being paid a dime for doing so. So, all we need to do is ensure that we provide the right platform for players in the sector to properly harness and harmonise all these. When you look at the number of students in private schools and compare it to those in public schools, the ratio is phenomenal. We have much more in the public system. So we must not ignore them. And that is why I never fail to invite government schools to anything that we do. Whether they turn up or not is totally up to them.
It has been observed that the inability to get foundational education right is one of the problems of the education system. How true is this?
I would say that it is a case of garbage in, garbage out. If we do not train the teachers who handle early-years education, we are probably not going to get it right. You find out that, sometimes, the quality of teachers who take the early-years pupils is often very questionable. Sometimes, they are untrained. Sometimes, they are just people who, maybe, have run around, tried their hands at one or two things, and discovered it was not quite working out, then they see an opportunity in teaching and they get into the sector. It becomes difficult for them to give value and the right thing to children at that level.
Early-years education connotes the formative years. It is what you put in the children in the early years that is actually built upon. Once the foundation is not as strong as it should be, every other thing that you lay on it amounts to building on something that is not solid. That is why we must not ignore the quality of teachers who handle early child education.
I remember that, in years gone by, the teachers who handled early years education were specialised teachers. Year in, year out, they’re the ones there, very experienced in that area. And, over the years, they have become proficient at handling pupils; they know exactly what they kids need. Nowadays, the quality of early child teachers sort of explains the reason we are where we are today.
How has your family background played a role in your involvement in the education sector?
I come from a family that is passionate about education. My father served in the civil service for many years. My mother, a retired teacher, was an early years teacher who taught for 35 years. She still teaches me. Even now in her 80s, she still corrects my grammar, my tenses and my bad handwriting. So, I come from a family with very strong educational leaning.
I had my early years education in Lagos and I have been in Lagos the better part of my life. I attended Our Lady of Apostles Secondary School. My first degree was in English Language from the University of Lagos, where I also had my master’s in Communication. I am a certified speaker and coach with the John Maxwell team, which is the leading leadership forum in the world. I am certified to teach John Maxwell materials on leadership and personal growth anywhere in the world.