Rukky Esharegharan: I am redefining education in Nigeria

Rukky Esharegharan is an early childhood education expert and founder of The Teachers Hub and South Pacific Teachers Academy. This is an initiative she founded to help deal with the lack of skilled teachers in the Nigerian education sector.

In less than two years since founding The Teachers hub, Rukky has grown its membership from 1 to 7500 members. She talks to us about her journey building the Nigerian education sector. 


How did your journey as an educator begin?

I first began my journey 16 years ago as a nursery teaching assistant while I awaited my university admission. Initially, I wanted to be a doctor and later a writer. For my degree, I studied English and later published a series of short stories, wrote a novel and started a blog.

Teaching was just something I did during the holidays to pass time. Our society does not promote teaching as a lucrative profession for high achievers, so even though I was great at teaching, I never thought of it as a prospective career.

Two things changed me.

Firstly, my quest to play an active role in my children’s lives led me to study more about early childhood care and education. Secondly, my teaching experience in a government secondary school in Warri, Delta State, opened my eyes to the decay in our education sector.

When I met the children, something stirred up within me. Each day I would go home upset and worried about how unmotivated the senior secondary students were.

I wanted to help these children but a 40-minute English lesson three times a week was not enough. Therefore, I decided to fully immerse myself in education.

I am redefining education in Nigeria, one teacher, one school owner, one parent at a time - Rukky Esharegharan Click To Tweet

Tell us about The Teachers Hub and the impact it is making

I started ‘The Teachers’ Hub in December 2016 with a singular vision ”to equip parents and educators with 21st-century teaching skills.” Though we have schools for education, we lack skilled teachers.

The Teacher’s Hub community was founded with the aim to network with, and helping other educators. In the past 8 months, I have trained over 350 educators (teachers, parents, school owners and consultants).

The many testimonials have inspired me to keep going. A parent from one of my courses called me to say she had decided to become a full-time teacher after the training with me and I cried with joy. I am redefining education in Nigeria: one teacher, one school owner, one parent at a time.

How has social media enabled you to grow The Teachers Hub brand and what makes it stand out?

The Teachers’ Hub started as a Facebook group a while back, and we’ll be hosting our first of many Early Childhood Education Conference in April and May across 4 states (Abuja, Lagos, Port Harcourt, and Delta).

Without social media, I won’t have come this far. I have people contact me from different parts of the world and that’s because of the power of social media.

What makes The Teachers’ Hub stand out is that I give of myself so freely. When I first started, I had a dear friend call me to say ” Why are you sharing so much for free in your group?” She could not understand when I tried to tell her that I just wanted to help other educators find their way.

Without social media, I won't have come this far - Rukky Esharegharan Click To Tweet

What advice can you give aspiring teacher being held back by the poor remuneration in Nigeria’s education sector?

I like to say that ”teaching is a work of the heart.” Do it, not for the money, but for the love of our children, the love and future of our country. Only quality education can liberate us from the mess we face in our country. Make that sacrifice today so that our children will get a better future.

Money is important because we all have needs. However, money is often the after effect of hard work, passion, dedication, personal development. Be the best teacher you possibly can be and the money will come.

What difference did working with UNICEF make in your journey as an educationist?

My current work with UNICEF has opened my eyes even more to the realities of the Nigerian education sector. When one is a teacher or even a school owner or consultant, they don’t fully grasp the decay or damage in the system, unless you have someone show you a bigger picture.

UNICEF helped me look beyond the symptoms of our dysfunctional educational system to the root cause. And our team’s solution will address the root cause and not just the symptoms. It’s a very big project that would have a national impact.

What lessons have you garnered from your entrepreneurial journey?

I have learned that to be a successful entrepreneur, one must be passionate, committed, focused, hardworking, highly self-motivated and be a lifelong learner.

Don’t be too quick to say I have arrived, no matter how good you are, because there is always something more to add, to learn, to be.

There is this saying that a teacher’s reward is in heaven, what is your take on that?

Yes, I believe the saying to be partly true because great teachers are like mothers: our love and commitment to the children can never be adequately compensated with material gains.

While I will say yes we have a very big reward waiting for us in heaven, we can and should experience wealth in financial terms, also good health, peace, and satisfaction here on earth. All we need to do is work consistently on being the best versions of ourselves.

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5 Innovative Initiatives Transforming Education in Africa

We live in exciting times where our daily lives are dominated by innovation. The education landscape is also gradually changing as new inventions and new ways of teaching become the norm.

It’s worth noting that innovation does not only mean technology, but it encompasses any creative, new way of doing things.

If it improves learning, processes, and systems, or solves a real problem, then it is innovation.

We want to highlight some of the ways in which creativity has been applied to solve some of these plaguing educational issues, across the African continent. They include:

  • High and unaffordable fees.
  • Lack of access to learning material for pupils.

Maths Meets Hip-Hop

One of the biggest flaws in the education system is the assumption that all children learn in the same way. A single, age-old learning method of sitting behind a desk and absorbing facts and numbers is still used across the world.

While this technique works for some learners, it does a disservice to others, who are left feeling academically inadequate.

A maths teacher in Cape Town is turning the traditional teaching method on its head.  He is using rap music to help learners remember their multiplication tables.

Kurt Minnaar, a former hip-hop dancer, and choreographer has creatively come up with a system of turning maths concepts and numbers into hip-hop lyrics – a language that his grade 8 learners understand very well.

“There are four types of learning methodologies – kinaesthetic, visual, audible and the traditional reading and writing.

Kinaesthetic learning is when pupils learn through movement; visual through sight; audible through what they hear and the traditional reading and writing method is when pupils are more independent and able to learn in the traditional sense,” the Cape Town teacher explains.

“When you fuse creativity into lessons, you cater to more pupils, and more will understand because now you’re speaking their language.

Whereas if I just ‘chalk and talk’ and stand there in front of a class, it predominantly only caters to one type of pupil, who is also in the minority.”

Minnaar used to struggle with maths in school. At the time, he thought he was incapable of grasping the complexities of the subject but later realized he needed a different way of learning.

He says his students are incessantly in a cheerful mood as they come to class eager to break it down into his rhymes. The pupils’ marks have also improved, says Minnaar.

 

Mobile Schools

In some parts of Africa, the tradition of nomadic pastoralism is still alive. People move from one location to another in search of grazing lands for their livestock.

For children who grow up in such families, the on-the-go lifestyle proves to be a barrier to education as they struggle to attend school regularly.

Fortunately, for some nomadic school children in Kenya, access to education has become easier as they can now move around with their school!

In 2010, the Kenyan government joined forces with UNICEF to launch mobile schools which brought education to learners whose families had to relocate frequently in order to survive. As part of the initiative, teachers now live and travel with the nomadic groups, setting up tents and temporary schools.

The mobile schools normally plan their calendar around rainfall patterns. Most of the learning takes place during the rainy seasons when children do not have a lot of household chores.

Crowdfunding Fees with Feenix

The #FeesMustFall protests in South Africa shone a glaring spotlight on the issue of the rising costs of education.  Many students are struggling to pay for their tertiary education.

In an effort to help students, who cannot afford high university fees, crowdfunding initiatives have mushroomed.

Feenix.org is an online platform which allows donors to donate money to students registered on the site. 1068 Live student profiles have been uploaded onto the platform which features their biographies and fees statements.

Once a profile has been verified it, and the fees needed, becomes visible to anyone who visits the site. With the minimum donation set at R100 (USD $7.5) anyone is welcome to make a donation.  85 Students have been fully funded since this initiative started.

Up to date, R4.3 million has been raised by 744 funders (of which consists both individual and business funding).  Donors are also required to upload their information and go through a verification process.

E-learning is Growing 

Technology is transforming education in Africa at an unprecedented rate. With the rapid growth of mobile learning, the e-learning market is set to be worth well over US $530 million by 2018.

E-learning is not only helping students learn better, but it is also giving underprivileged learners inexpensive access to educational content.

In Kenya, adoption of e-learning is happening at an impressive rate.  Schools in low-income areas are using technology to boost their learning. In Nairobi’s Kawangware area, students are using eLimu, an app for primary school learners to learn and revise for their exams.

The platform contains educational content in the form of locally produced and culturally relevant videos, animations, songs, music, games, and quizzes to improve learning.

One of the other successful e-learning platforms in Kenya is Kytabu, a textbook subscription platform that provides low-cost digitalized books to millions of students.

Kytabu allows users to rent textbooks, chapters, and pages on a low-cost Android app and pay with M-Pesa, the successful East African mobile money transfer service.

Learning Through Robotics 

Ghanaian company, Metro Institute of Innovation and Technology (MIT), offers school children training in robotics and mobile app development.  Their aim is to promote science and entrepreneurship in this way.

The company applies innovative ways to introduce technology to learners and help enhance their learning.

Offering lessons to children of all ages, MIT established the National Robotics Summer School.  Attending this school, learners can take their science skills to the next level by programming robots and designing games.

“We’re trying to use robotics as a tool to inspire the study of science and maths, to relate classroom theories using robots so that if we’re talking about a scientific principle, they [the learners] shouldn’t just memorize the facts,” explains Ben Nortey, Founder, and CEO of MIT.