Chidinma Othuke-Okpokoro is a wife, mother, and a Montessorian. Her love for kids and the family unit moved her to open an early years foundation centre – Olly’s Hive Montessori, located in the heart of Port-Harcourt, Nigeria. Her values are geared towards helping kids discover their full potential and abilities through work using the Montessori curriculum.
A graduate of the University of Port Harcourt, she also holds a Diploma in Early Years Foundation stage with Modern Montessori International (MMI) London, UK. A chat with Chidinma about her startup gives us a deeper insight into the world of early years business education.
How did you get into the education industry?
I love children very much and enjoy their company. I have a very good relationship with kids and they are comfortable around me even if I have just met them. Then I had friends who would drop their kids with me and go about their daily routines and they urged me to look into turning it into a business venture.
After I got married and lost my job, I had my son and I really wanted to be close to him and watch him grow. I have very strong family values and I desire a close knit one. I wanted a job that will give me this satisfaction so, opening a preschool was it for me. Finally, I set up one in September 2013.
Did you decide to only focus on preschool? Why?
When I started, I decided to run just the preschool for a while and be grounded in it. The early years period, also known as the sensitive period, is very crucial in the life of a child. We must take advantage of this period to aid them to reach their full potential.
From 0-5 years, the child should be exposed to a prepared environment. The sensitive periods are blocks of time in the life of a child when he or she is absorbed with one characteristic of his environment to the exclusion of others.
Education today is said to be expensive in Nigeria – why do you think that is?
Yes, education is expensive and this is because of the resources (Montessori materials) that need to be put in place to aid the child in his development. These resources are incorporated into the fees. Montessori materials are the very best to use to help a child. A lot of funds must be made available to make this work.
Does it mean schools that aren’t expensive lack basic educational tools for the child?
Well, yes! Montessori schools need a lot of resources in place to help a child develop. Materials are usually sourced abroad. You have to be trained and constantly improve your personal skills to ensure you are up to date in line with the requirements.
Getting teachers who are qualified to teach the Montessori method is a challenge because not everyone is exposed to it. You have to train these teachers to fully assist the child in their care. Not so many people are familiar with the Montessori method of education in Port Harcourt or Nigeria.
A lot of people are used to the traditional method of teaching which is stressful and difficult for children to grasp. Traditional schools lack the tools needed to help the child develop and fit in properly into the environment they live in.
Would you say we have a lot of young women like you in the education sector today?
My answer to this would be yes. I know and have friends who are working so hard and succeeding in this area. These women have inspired me and keep pushing me to work hard. I see how passionate they are, how much time they spend giving of their energy to help kids and ensure they get the education they need to thrive in the society.Children are the leaders of tomorrow and what better way to be a part if this than impacting the life of child? Click To Tweet
What key things should we know about investing in a child?
We all will reap the rewards of well-behaved children in the society. Raising good children means better societies, free from danger and crime. If we focus our energies on children, understand them, we should be able to provide for an educational system that will help solve problems faced by the world instead of going to wars.
Is there a difference between schooling and educating? Please enlighten us.
Yes, there is a big difference. Schooling is done in school. Education can happen anywhere. Education to me means something of high standard and schooling is whatever quality a school offers.
Schooling is the teaching of students and hoping that they retain the knowledge and later learn to apply it in life. That’s where education comes in.To have an education is proof that not only have we learned what knowledge was offered to us Click To Tweet
Where there start-up challenges? Please kindly share them.
Oh yes, as with every business, there were challenges. There were days I would come in to work and cry for so many hours praying to God to help me. I didn’t have the number of kids I dreamt of when I started and this was because of the location of the school. I set it up in an area where the market wasn’t favourable. Lesson learnt.
It was difficult to get qualified teachers and pay them the fees that would make them stay. The ones I got didn’t really have my vision and I was constantly frustrated. There was the need for a school bus and I initially used my personal car to do school runs. This really pushed me to continue no matter what.
Would you say that the education business is a profitable venture? Why?
All businesses are profitable, I bet no one would venture into any or continue running one if it isn’t. For you to succeed, you must be passionate about what you do. You must love your job, you must know the business. No one can give you what you want except you.
If an educator, trains herself in these areas and much more, her business will be profitable and she will succeed.
How can a young woman who is interested in starting what you have successfully done, do the same?
She needs to sit and think it through thoroughly. She must have a lot of patience. Taking care of children can take a toll on anyone. She must make a lot of sacrifices to succeed.
She must be a good listener and have a good coach/mentor, someone she can go to. Above all, she needs to develop herself personally and get the right skills needed to run the business effectively and competently.
What impact would you say personal development has in running a successful business?
Personal development is a process of self-education aimed at enhancing professional skills, employability, quality of life, self-discipline, talent, and potential. Personal development has a great impact if you want to run a successful business. For anyone hoping or aspiring to climb the career ladder or increase his or her social capital, personal development is invaluable.
We all seek for ways to improve ourselves each day, a conscientious personal development plan is key to accelerating that growth because personal development allows you to push yourself further and faster. Training courses are very effective to develop personal skills. This is because they provide a wealth of resources and the structure you need to excel and be different from the other man next door.
No matter what sector you work in or what level you have attained in life, cultivating strong personal development skills will propel you to newer heights both personally and professionally.
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