By Ebele Orakpo
M r. Brown Ekanem is the Chairman, Board of Directors, You-Nik Nigeria Limited, an Information and Communication Technology firm established in 2006. The outfit is into computer training, website design/development, software and multimedia virtual tutorial development. In this chat with Vanguard, Ekanem speaks on his journey into business and the challenges. Excerpts:
According to Brown Ekanem, a Physics 0graduate from the University of Calabar, he had always wanted to be an entrepreneur. “During my university days, I was always engaged in one form of business or the other until I found my passion in Information and Communication Technology.”
Child of necessity: Necessity, they say, is the mother of invention and so it was for Ekanem. “The idea of Multimedia Virtual Tutorial (MVT), usually developed with pictorial and video animated illustrations, came to me on a particular day when I was taking some of my computer students on internet lessons in 2004.
That particular class was very exhausting so I started wondering if there was a way I could deliver my lessons to my students and other people simultaneously without stressing myself much, and behold, the idea of MVT came,” he said.
Continuing, he said with the MVT which is designed to take education beyond the four walls of the classroom, a student can take a full class or course work from the comfort of his/her home or office. “It complements school activities and ensures 95% comprehension and retention of every topic studied as people remember more of what they see than what they hear. It gives the student the opportunity to watch and listen to a particular lesson over and over again until maximum understanding is achieved.”
The Lafia, Nasarawa-based outfit which has staff strength of over 40; has two subsidiaries – You-Nik Celebration Nig. Ltd and You-Nik Academy Nursery and Primary School.
Speaking on the reason for setting up You-Nik Academy, Ekanem said, “two years ago when my daughter was born, I was worried about a suitable school for her and since my wife has passion for children and education, we decided to provide good early childhood educational services for all- round development of children through best teaching methodology. Our motto is Moulding future leaders.”
On the challenges in doing business in Nigeria, Ekanem said he had faced several challenges. “Financial constraint and lack of skill in some areas I delved into. I have fallen down severally in the course of my business and I have gotten up. Now I am not scared that I will fall or fail in my business or feel bad about what people will say because I know that no matter how many times I fall, I will rise again,” he stated.
Ekanem believes that although hard work is good, it does not on its own guarantee success. He said, “To be successful, one does not need to work hard only but intelligently hard, be honest and time-conscious and never be afraid to fail, always rise up no matter how many times you fall, learn to give back to the society, above all, be prayerful.”
On Nigeria’s educational system, Ekanem regretted that the average Nigerian youth goes to school mainly for the certificate instead of knowledge. “Some parents are not helping. These days you see them paying mercenaries and teachers to help their children pass examinations. I find that very disturbing.
“We recognise that every parent wants to see their child succeed sometimes even by all means. What we do in our school is build a good sense of value in the kids, a value that tells them they can succeed, that they are excellent children therefore they should study hard to showcase their innate abilities.
“We focus on quality in our content, combining both British and Nigerian curricula in grooming the kids; qualified and well motivated teachers and child-friendly equipment to create a good educational environment. “When these fundamentals are present in any school, the pupils get exposed and gain confidence to a point that during external exams, they will not need the help of their parents.”
He advised the Ministry of Education to ensure a more strict monitoring of schools by committed and passionate staff to be able to evaluate and correct what happens in the classroom.
“Most teachers in Nigeria don’t have confidence in the profession. Many of them are just teaching because it is the last resort. I know this because I have interviewed many in the course of our existence. A banker who earns N50,000 wears well-fitted clothes and works with a smile and contagious confidence, unlike a teacher who earns about the same amount. We need to encourage and promote this profession because the future of our nation depends largely on it.
“At You-Nik, we developed a scheme to make teachers proud of their profession. We have a free medical scheme for all our teachers which covers two of their family members. We reward the best based on set parameters. Anually, we give gifts like car, plasma TV, deep freezer, motorcycle etc.
We increase their salary every year and send them for different professional trainings to help them adopt excellent methodology in teaching. Most importantly, the relationship between the management and teachers is that which increases their confidence and love for the profession. We remind them of their importance.
The school which started with eight pupils, now boasts of a population of 170 pupils in just two years, with a teaching staff of 18.