By Josephine Agbonkhese
In Nigerian society, being a teacher isn’t typically ranked as a prestigious career to have. But Chika Okorafor Aneke is re-defining what it means to be a teacher. With over 23 years of teaching and 17 years of leadership experience under her belt, Aneke, who is Nigerian-British, is an all-round education expert who has impacted the lives of thousands during the course of her career.
She holds a BSc in applied physiology from Sunderland University in the U.K; a Post-Graduate Certificate of Education in Secondary Science, and the UK National Professional Qualification for Headship, NPQH, which is one of the highest qualifications in the world for Head Teachers.
For Aneke, teaching is not merely a career; it is a genuine passion and calling. As a result, she has dedicated her life to promoting the love of learning both in and out of the classroom. For over two decades and counting, she has been working with children from age 0-18 years, as well as their families.
She is the CEO of Learnomic, an education consultancy company that helps train school personnel, and establishes sustainable systems to foster more efficient administration and systems that encourage better learning. In this interview, Aneke says the coronavirus pandemic is a global wake-up call for a technology-compliant education sector. Enjoy!
How do you feel about education being threatened globally with schools now on shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic?
First, I am not convinced that this is a ‘threat’ to education. I always focus on the positives. It is a lesson or a wake-up call.
Education is a right for all regardless of age, status, gender or religion. Respect for this profession has been lost.
We have been shown, almost overnight, just how vital it is.
We have also been shown that certain aspects of education should not be ignored and the value of life skills, change management, flexibility, technology, growth mindset, and mindfulness are our biggest assets at this said time. Education will change after this historic event for the better forever, I hope.
I see this as something reinforcing class differences because children from well-to-do homes still enjoy online lessons; how can the gap be bridged for their low-income counterparts?
I would say that in general, our education system must be improved. Learning remotely now that everyone is home has been a challenge for many, regardless of social class.
Imagine how much preparation, effort, and discipline it takes to make children sit in front of computers or physical books, and have them dressed in school uniform, and encourage them to learn as though they are still in school! Whether you are “wealthy” or “less wealthy,” this is something a lot of parents must face.
What our current situation shows us is how technology can be used to reach all youth regardless of status and means.
E-learning tools don’t have to be fancy or expensive. Even with a bit of internet data, parents can have some access to online learning tools currently.
We definitely need more state schools of a standard that compete with the private sector.
A lot of parents greatly desire to continue teaching their children but are confused about how to, what tip can you give? First, home is not school. Do what you can, and do not put yourself under too much pressure.
You can start by focusing on something you wish you had time to teach your child. And now that you have some more free time, start by teaching them all you know about a certain thing.
This is actually a great time to educate your child about those important life skills needed, that may not necessarily be taught in schools.
It could be cooking, sewing, cleaning, laundry, financial literacy and so on. Our children would benefit from some good old-fashioned home training, as my grandmother would call it!
In your opinion, does this crisis expose any flaw in our education?
Not flaws per se. More like areas for mass improvements and modernisation. The Darwin Theory of Evolution also has a theory on technology. Basically, it is the theory that we need to grow as technology grows—not stay the same.
It is so ironic that it is only due to the current situation in the world that many school administrators are realising just how important technology is to the education sector.
You look elegant; don’t you think you would have made a great entrepreneur or MD/CEO of a corporate firm?
Thanks for the compliment. I am happy to be regarded as a female role model for thousands of adult females and males.
I believe that schools actually produce all professions. Schools are “the company of all companies,” as no company would exist without schools. Schools are one of the most complex businesses and social communities. I am trained to be a school leader/CEO/MD.
As a professional education practitioner with both international and local experience, I am proud to say that I have been instrumental in making schools I have worked with very profitable, and have often got paid six figures to do so.
Currently, my education consultancy company, Learnomic, provides a wide range of services to children and adults. We drive innovation and creativity, and also plan events for children and adults.
I am an entrepreneur, a mindfulness teacher for children, and a life coach for adults. I have used my God-given talents to also build performing arts companies.
In addition, I have worked in so many fields to broaden my horizons and to gain new knowledge. I am an aromatherapist and a practitioner in some of the most widely respected psychotherapies in use today. I build visions and dreams.
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Take us through your journey into education and work experience to date…
I started teacher training after university while working in London and seeing Princess Diana daily. One day she told me I’d make a wonderful teacher (I had just told Harry and William to stop play fighting), and coincidentally, I had actually just seen an article for Science teachers. I saw it as fate and signed up. The rest is history.
I worked in London for 10 years at an acclaimed award-winning inner-city school, Fulham Cross School.
A year after my father’s death, I was asked to help set up a grassroots international standard boarding school, Brookstone School Secondary School.
This project was an AMSCO initiative with the United Nations Development Project, UNDP, the IFC, World Bank, Stitching Foundation and the African Development Bank also involved. I had diplomatic status and we won AMSCO project of 2006.
It was then time for me to get married and have my children; so, a career break was taken. I then worked for Pinefields School and College, The Learning Place, Ikoyi Nursery and consulted for popular international schools.
Take us briefly through your childhood…
My childhood was happy and busy. I didn’t have a traditional upbringing.
I come from a large mixed family. In total, I have four sisters, three brothers, two-step mums, and a lot of uncles, aunties, and cousins from the UK and Nigeria. I have lived in big cities and country towns in the UK.
My love for the beach comes from family traditions and living a stone throw away from beaches in a seaside town when I was young.
I have had the luxury of travel and knew both my inherited cultures (British and Nigerian) while growing up. My father was also a traditional ruler; so, holidays were spent in Nigeria in the village.