Mr. Akin: Thank you and it’s a great privilege for me to be with you.
Zonehouse: Our readers are waiting to know you, please can you introduce yourself?
Mr. Akin: I am Akintaro Ponmile Lekan, a passionate teacher, counsellor and administrator. I am the Executive Director of Sureq Educational Services and proprietor of Sureq Model College, both in Jos.
Zonehouse: Before we delve into educational matters, I will like to know, what really drove you into the education sector as you have mentioned in your introduction?
Mr. Akin: My parents were teachers and probably that inspired me. I remember when I was about 8/9, I would gather my mates and those younger than me together as a class and I would play the role of the teacher, using chalk on the wall. As I grew, building my values and standards for living, I disliked failure and anything below acceptable standards. I developed passion for teaching, guiding and putting people through and making them better. I got myself committed to this course and I felt the best platform to practise this in a great measure was in the education sector. That was how I came into the education sector and I love what I am doing, not for personal gains, but for the fulfilment that accompanies pursuing a worthy and desired course.
Zonehouse: I know that a section of our readers are budding entrepreneurs, in fact some of them at this very moment are where you were as a corps member before you started. And most a time the only success stories we hear about ventures like this are usually imported. So please can you share this home grown experience on how you started and sustained Sureq?
Mr. Akin: Hmmm, Sureq Idea! It was not a product of spontaneity. It was an idea brooded upon and nurtured over a period of time. It began in the mind, noticing and identifying people’s problems in education matters and assisting them for free, according to my ability.This was during my university days and it was like my apprenticeship period. I also focused on the good and the bad in the school system and was pondering on how to improve on them. So graduating from the university and coming for my NYSC in 1997, I was like an ovulating woman looking for what to fertilize the egg. Not carried away by the ‘freedom’ from parental watch and the excitement of being a corper, I saw the service year as a year of consolidating on my passion and fertilizing the ‘eggs’ in me. I engaged in practices that would practically equip me in what my dream was. I sought for institutions that were into educational activities and attached myself to them, working not for monetary gains but exposure and empowerment. I went into free community services on education both on air and live. By the time I was through with my NYSC, the whole community had become convinced that I had something to offer. So when I started Sureq, it was not difficult getting people to see the practicability and uniqueness of my vision and my ability to implement it yet with no starting capital.
Despite the magnitude and the splendour of the picture the vision, I started in a little way by establishing an extra-mural school with just all I had – three hundred naira. That was 1998. I bought an application form at the Plateau State Ministry of Education for fifty naira and printed fliers at two hundred and fifty naira, with the space for the venue left blank. The zeal for this ate deep into me that I wouldn’t quit it for any job offer from even the federal government. So I met the owner of my desired venue, who said the rent was ten thousand naira. I was optimistic that I could raise the money by engaging in private lessons. I shared my plans with one of the parents that I taught his son and when he saw my handbills and the application form I had bought, he loaned me ten thousand for the rent to return it at my convenience. The rent was paid and also ten benches and desks were made at three thousand five hundred naira. The broken door that was found in the rented building served as the signboard on which chalk was used to notify people of our services. The classes started on 3rd August, 1998 with eight students. By the end of the second month, the number of students had risen to about fifty and we kept growing till the birth of Sureq Model College on 11th September, 2006. The sustenance of this vision has been in how evident and compelling the future of the dream is such that the challenges encountered now are not strong to deter us neither are the feats hitherto attained are fascinating enough to make us complacent. In fact, I saw the end from the beginning hence, I ‘press towards the mark of the high calling.’
Zonehouse: Please sir, from your experience above can you specifically highlight common challenges that are peculiar to young people irrespective of changes in trends and systems?
Mr. Akin: The problems of young people today are numerous but I will talk on only three. First, no one is an absolute pioneer. We all build on what someone has done. That implies that we all need a mentor. The youths today are not willing to submit to people who can give them the basics on which their own dreams can be built. They go about with the illusion of what they want to become and fail to train or develop themselves into their own dream through their mentor’s own. What we see then is someone experimenting with himself, running his dream or vision on ‘trial and error’ method. The risk of such is much and if such fails, the fall will be great. This is one of the reasons why many ventures crash today.
Another one related to this is ‘eating the seed of the dream’. Many youths are waiting to have millions and billions of naira before they venture into their dreams not knowing that the five naira in their hands can be sown into their vision to yield the millions and billions they want. They don’t want to start small. Someone who wants to go into printing wants to just start in the capacity of Macmillan or Longman printing companies that have existed for years; another one wants to have a pharmaceutical shop but doesn’t want to start with a medicine store or shop. The irony of it all is that many believe that Nigeria is not good at all for their dreams so they are waiting till the day opportunity will knock on their doors to take them to US or UK. They wait for 10 – 20 – 30 years, rotting. We now see great future thrown away or buried untapped.
Finally, at the nursing stage, many people see challenges and obstacles to their dreams or vision before they start. They ponder on these challenges and seeming obstacles more than they do of the dreams or vision. What you focus on becomes more developed, realistic and obvious than any other thing. So the challenges or seeming obstacles become so real and intimidating that they choke up the dreams and make the vision impossible. Trying and failing impacts experience than not trying at all. The youths need to wake up!
Zonehouse: As a stake holder in the sector, how will you describe education in Nigeria as well as Plateau state as it is now?
Mr. Akin: I will describe the educational system here in Nigeria as one suffering ethically, politically and infrastructurally and the situation keeps worsening. To start with, what exactly do we want to achieve with education in Nigeria? Do we know it? Do teachers know it? Do education policy makers have one and if they do, to what extent does the government ensure the implementation of the policies? China was backward worldwide and suffered a great deal because of population explosion. But when the government came up with an education policy that would empower the large population with technology skills, the whole world started to feel the impact. America does not joke with her Career and Technical Education (CTE) programme. This is adequately monitored and updated to suit modern-day needs. But here, I see our educational system enhancing us just to read and write. No value added, no morals taught and no professional impacts made. Otherwise, our economists and accountants would not be broke, our administrators would manage well and our political scientists would not be comfortable seeing Nigeria suffering poor governance. The problem is: we pay lip services to all our policies, not just educational policies. The situation is worrisome. We need to be sincere with ourselves.
Zonehouse: Let’s assume that you have been appointed as a consultant to provide a policy road map for the government that is willing to apply your recommendations. How will you handle the challenges that you have highlighted above?
Mr. Akin: Our educational policies have little or no difference from that inherited from the colonial masters. Stakeholders need to sit and decide on what we want to make out of the entity called Nigeria. What type of people we want to have as citizens and the values we want to inculcate, then draw educational policies and curriculum that will enhance the achievement of such. I would suggest that every student is compulsorily made to offer a Nigerian language; the government should facilitate the use of the three major Nigerian languages as means of instructions in schools and enforce regular training and retraining of educational administrators and teachers. Some of these sound awkward but they are essential to the inculcation of national spirit and empowerment of the Nigerian child.
Zonehouse: Most people argue that proprietors are usually more concern in money making than they are about the educational well being of their students, how true is this?
Mr. Akin: The motive behind every action is usually being revealed in the attitude and manner with which that action is taken. It is very true that many people venture into school business to make money. You will know this through what they are passionate about. When a food vendor is not comfortable to feed his/her own children with the food he/she sells, then you know he/she is giving out poison. Some proprietors bring up structures, put people’s children there but their own children go to another school. It’s because they stuff the building with less than required human and material resources. They are after the fees. Nothing is added to the school, no creativity, no passion. This is one other reason why the agencies saddled with the responsibilities of monitoring these schools should be up and doing.
Zonehouse: Majority of social scientist have attributed the failure of Nigerians on issues like Values, ethics, Morals and Patriotism on the failure of the school system, what is your school doing to build these values in your pupils/Student?
Mr. Akin: If you look at my response to one of the questions, you would observe I was talking about values, ethics and morals. I always say that if education is power, then empowering or educating a man with an unrefined mind is disastrous to humanity because he will use the knowledge acquired wrongly. With this in mind, all our teachers and resource persons know that their contacts with the students are not just to teach the academic subjects. We teach values and morals along our various subjects.
Zonehouse: Outside these what, what other programmes or project is Sureq educational services and college doing to help build a abetter society, that is as your Corporate social responsibility?
Mr. Akin: Just recently, we brought all our teachers and students together to look at the old and current national anthems to draw out what Nigeria stands for and how we would ensure we keep faith with our founding fathers as represented in the anthems. We run workshops and seminars that centre on building responsible citizens, personality development, capacity building and the likes. We update our services to ascertain we are up-to-date in rendering services that will equip the people according to modern-day needs.
Zonehouse: Any final words?
Mr. Akin: Education is a responsibility of all – government, home, religious centres, schools, media houses and peer groups. Obviously, this has been left to the school alone and we all know that the children spend less time with the school than with all the other education agents. We need to collectively and jointly work as a network in order to produce children that are well-groomed for self-sustenance and for good work.
Thanks for coming to Zonehouse chat.
Mr. Akin: It’s nice being with you.