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Bisi Akin-Alabi, relentlessly promoting quality education in Nigeria

Bisi Akin-Alabi (PhD), is the immediate past Special Adviser to the former Governor of Oyo State on Education, Science and Technology and has over 20 years’ post qualification experience as an educator, administrator and education consultant. She is passionate about creating a sustainable learning culture and access to equitable and qualitative education for all in Nigeria She is the Director Of Operations, Ola Up Foundation.

Akin-Alabi, whose journey to success and recognition started as a troubled girl-child and one who suffered abuse as a young girl, is the founder of SchoolRun Consult, an education and training consultancy firm focused on achieving excellence in education and training through the development of quality provisions and opportunities for the nation’s teeming youths.

Bisi, a graduate of the University of Lagos, South Bank University Business School, London where she obtained her Masters’ in Business Administration (MBA) in 1994 and a PGCE (Post Graduate Certificate in Education) from the Roehampton Institute, University of Surrey, London has significant knowledge and experience of the teaching profession and was recognised at 10 Downing Street, London in March 2001, by the then British Prime Minister, Rt Hon Tony Blair and his wife Cherie Blair, QC in recognition of her contribution to Excellence in Education and Childcare in the United Kingdom.

In addition to teaching Mathematics and Science in mainstream schools throughout the United Kingdom for over 20 years, Bisi also founded and managed 5 Child Care Centres in London, England.

In pursuit of her passion for excellence in education and to ensure a wholesome offering to reposition education in Oyo State, she conceived and implemented the much-acclaimed Oyo State Model Education System Interventions (OYOMESI initiative), with a vision to raise competent civil citizens.

The OYOMESI approach in its general sense is to use short term interventional strategies and principles to find solutions for a better education system that influences the teachers, pupils, parent’s attitude, focus and beliefs for the pursuits of a wholesome education offering.

She has a PhD in Child Development and Humanities from London Graduate School, UK and another one in-view in Global Health from Kings College London, inspired by COVID-19. She is a member of the United Kingdom Strategic Society and a Fellow of the Windsor Fellowship UK, Fellow of the International Chartered Management Consultant, Fellow of Chartered Institute of Commerce of Nigeria (FCICN). She is an avid reader, golfer and is married with grown children.

Childhood memories

I had a troubled childhood as I was a boisterous child, and my guardian found looking after me challenging. This led to being sent out at age 12 after offending her.

This was one of the toughest times of my life as a girl child as I lived on the street for 6 months. Begging, hitch-hiking, sleeping rough, with rags and being nearly raped several times on the street of Lagos.

I was only lucky to be academically sound as upon finally being reunited with my family, and taken back to school, I managed to continue the secondary school studies without losing a year, completed my secondary school leaving certificate in 1983 aged 16.

I was born in Igbo-ora, Oyo State during the civil war to a Nigerian Father and a Mother from Porto-Novo in the Republic of Benin.

My paternal forefathers hailed from Delesolu compound in Oje in Ibadan North East Local Government.

My Father was a paramedic stationed at the Rural Health Centre, Igboora.

Being the last of 4 siblings, I started my primary education in Eruwa and completed it in Ibadan as the family moved to Ibadan while she turned 9.

I did my secondary school in Ibadan and later on attended the Fed School of Arts and Science, Victoria Island Lagos.

Creating SchoolRun Consult and impact so far.
Schoolrun.com.ng is a one stop shop for all knowledge seekers, parents, Teachers, proprietors and all stake holders in the education sector.

At SchoolRun Academy, we offer you the opportunity of maximizing your potentials and fulfilling your dreams

SchoolRun Academy is packed with information, video, interactive and educational training sections all created to meet diverse Educational needs and efficiency.

We provide direct link to all resources from educational support program to character building and employability. You can also access our learning program via all our social media platforms, live chats, fact file and beyond the classroom which enriches and empowers your dream and potential toward actualisation.

We feature articles, educative and inspiring videos and run integrative live sessions on Instagram and lots more.

Recently, we launched a “Back to School Series” which includes: Best tools for effective teaching and learning, Parental tips on choosing the best schools for their children, creating a stimulating learning environment, setting the mood for learning, creating ethos of achievements, bad diets for school children and many more.

SchoolRun Magazine

SchoolRun Magazine is the first indigenous educational quarterly for parents, education practitioners and those aspiring to build a career in the education and learning sector.

It all started in England after my MBA in 1994 and my first son a toddler then was finding it difficult recognizing me as his mum. As my job was demanding as a train driver on the London Underground and later a Business Development Manager with Computer Knowledge in Kent, I realized I did not have time for my young family and was spending a huge percentage of my salary on childcare. So, when I was expecting my second child, I started supporting my friends by looking after their children. One of my friends then offered to pay me for my assistance. That was when I considered re-training to become a teacher and a certified early years practitioner.

Being recognised at 10 Downing Street, London in March 2001 by the then British Prime Minister

I am an Aluma of the University of Lagos, London South Bank University Business School, University of Surrey and Kings College London.

As a committee member of the Harrow Local Education Authority Early Years and Child Development Partnership (an organisation similar to the State Universal Education Board in Nigeria), where responsibilities for school safety, staff recruitment, funding and benchmarking for all schools in the London Borough of Harrow were shared with other committee members and I.

I was also involved in developing and running different intervention workshops in Mathematics and Science, an Out of School learning initiative for young children aged 5 to 18, and a facilitator for the Windsor Fellowship, an organisation targeting higher attainments for Black minority children in the United Kingdom.

When I was expecting my second child, I started supporting my friends to look after their children. One of my friends then offered to pay me for my assistance. That was when I considered re-training to become a teacher and a certified early years practitioner.

Prior to this, I was a member of my church’s crèche team and was helping to look after children aged 0 to 5years. This experience helped to prepare me for my fulfilling career in education and learning.

I completed the PGCE together with NNEB and was reported in the media as a superwoman having combined this with running a childcare business and also working as a cleaner twice daily, early morning and evenings.

After qualifying, I started teaching 11 to 18 years old Maths and science and used the NNEB qualifications to secure the registration for the Childcare business.

In addition to teaching in mainstream schools in the United Kingdom, I went on to establish and manage 5 Child Care Centres in London, England. Namely CGAPS; 2 of which was situated in London Borough of Harrow, 2 in London Borough of Ealing, and 1 in LB of Brent.

This is what I was doing that earned the invitation by Prime Minister Tony Blair.

I was invited to 10 Downing Street, London in March 2001 by the then British Prime Minister, Rt Hon Tony Blair and his wife Cherie Blair, QC in recognition of the contribution to Excellence in Education and Childcare in the United Kingdom.

Shortly after this, I established the 6th centre in London Borrow of Barking and Dagenham, before taking a career break to relocate my young children to Nigeria in order to ensure they imbibe the African values while schooling in Nigeria.

Being SA to former Governor of Oyo State on Education, Science and Technology

It was a very exciting experience for me. I am ever grateful to my late boss Gov. Abiola Ajimobi for affording me the opportunity to serve my people. The opportunities given were not taken lightly. I ensured that I led the education advisory team and provided hands-on practical upskilling experiences for the Governor’s advisory team; made sure we were visible by personally conducting spot checks in schools to monitor the OYOMESI project.

I recruited over 15 field workers and kitted them up with uniforms, I.D cards and ensured they were well trained and had all the tools needed for their assignments. All available online.

It was a very rewarding experience for me. I was taking classes in science and mathematics as well as training the teachers directly during the CPD sessions.

We supported the stakeholders through holding regular stakeholders’ fora in all the education zones of the state. I went to all the nooks and crannies of the state and responded to more than 70% of all enquiries and attended 90% of all invitations sent to the Governor by stakeholders.

Teaching Mathematics and Science in mainstream schools throughout the UK for over 20 years

This was a very rewarding experience for me as I was opportune to mentor, coach and interact with lots of young people. It was exciting and challenging at the same time.

There were times I would be asked to teach groups of challenging pupils because of the skills displayed in that area. These are special needs students with low academic attainments.

Usually disruptive, so they were isolated from the rest of the year group, so that they can be taught separately. Sometimes in lab, I would have a minimum of 7 pupils and maximum of about 14 pupils.

I was able to give the needed attention and support with the help of teaching assistants and lab technicians. I also enjoyed teaching mathematics using props, instruments and 3D models.

I have missed the classroom. I volunteer to take up opportunities to teach anytime I see one. I used to volunteer in my children’s school in G.R.A Ikeja when they were in secondary school, and taught physics, mathematics and chemistry.

As a member of the Oyo State cabinet, I used to teach the WAEC boot camp sessions in Physics, Mathematics and Chemistry.

Managing 5 Child Care Centres in London, England

I managed 5 child care centres in England and a restaurant in NW10, London.

I started the first Cgaps centre in 1998 at the Hall of the church of Ascension, The Avenue, Wembley and within two years, I was asked to start a similar provision in Harrow, Kenmore Park school.

These were the first two before I expanded to South Harrow, Greenford and Northolt. The sixth centre was established in Dagenham in 2003. I would wake up at 5 am to get my children ready and we would leave for the Breakfast Club at Greenford by 6.30 am. I would leave them there for my employees to take them and the other children attending the club to school at 7.15 am. They would have their breakfast there and be taken to school at 7.15 am. I would then proceed to school where I was a teacher of Mathematics and science for ages 11 to 18years.

I ensured I completed all my responsibilities and marking of students’ homework by 4 pm in the school so I could attend the 5 centres between 4.15 pm and 6 pm. Usually, I would spend about 20 to 50mins at each centre and would attend based on urgency of their needs. I would leave the last centre at 6.15 pm with my children whom I would drop at home with my mum and then go to my Restaurant in Harlesden, NW10, where I would be till 11 pm. That was my day Monday day to Friday. I would then spend Saturdays shopping for Cgaps and Pepperless (my restaurant at 47 Station Road, NW10). Sunday would be spent fully in church as I was a volunteer worker in the crèche. It was an intense period in my life where I was working, raising a family and running businesses. I used to also do short-lets for the Nigerian elites visiting the UK and would arrange for them to have Nigerian meals from my restaurant.

The OYOMESI initiative

In 2016, I became a member of the Executive Council of Oyo State, (Nigeria), as the Special Adviser on Education, Science and Technology by the late former Governor of Oyo State, Senator Abiola Ajimobi.

I was committed to dedicating my time towards repositioning and effecting excellence in Oyo State’s education system. In pursuit of this, I conceived and implemented the much-acclaimed OYOMESI initiative which is an acronym for Oyo State Model Education System Interventions with a vision to raise competent civil citizens.

The OYOMESI approach was led by me until our administration’s tenure ended in May 2019. The initiative was aimed at using short term interventional strategies and principles to find solutions for a better education system that influences the teachers, pupils, parents’ attitudes, focus, beliefs for the pursuits of a wholesome education offering in the state. One of such interventional strategies was the launch of the first ever OYOMESI Festival of Learning, which took place in Ibadan and offered interactive and varied activities and workshops for different target audiences, thereby reinforcing the concept of lifelong learning in the State. The activities of the festival of learning earned the state the UNESCO Learning City Award presented in Columbia in June 2019 to the current Governor, Engr. Seyi Makinde.

Finally, we were conducting Continuing Professional Development (CPD) with training programmes every week. Impact included access of over 2000 teachers and about 500 support staff in some sort of training, and we also started the Microsoft imagine academy. The Microsoft programme did not take off properly before the end of our tenure though. This would have been helpful in preparing for the COVID-19 crisis situation. As Oyo state teachers would have had considerable knowledge of e-learning tools that could have been used during the lockdown.

If you had the opportunity, what will you change about the educational system in Nigeria?

A lot. I would implement nationwide intervention programmes targeted at raising academic attainments through building teachers’ capacities and reigniting the passion for effective teaching and learning, including CPD of educators and proper performance-linked incentives; curriculum enrichment with localised education content, so that we can have a fit for purpose educational system. This would ensure the products of our educational system are employable, job-ready and can solve our immediate problems. This would add real value to our society.

Brain drain in Nigeria, what are your concerns?

We need to stop the brain drain as a matter of urgency. I am worried about people leaving without returning. There is nothing wrong in leaving if one has the right objectives of gaining the appropriate exposures and coming back to add real value like I did and I am still doing.

I embarked on a Public Health postgraduate study inspired by COVID-19, so I can be useful to the Nigerian society in helping to fight future pandemic. I did the full training in education: early years, secondary and post-secondary, so that I could be well versed in that field, which has helped me tremendously as in the UK, education degree does not fit it all.

If you are focused on embarking on a career in primary or early years, you would do the relevant degree and a different one for secondary and tertiary. I did them all and this made me very versatile and relevant as the Special Adviser in education, science and technology to the immediate past government in Oyo state.

Surviving Abuse

Maintaining my sanity is a daily struggle and I find myself dropping some balls at times. I am driven by a passion to save as many young people as possible from emotional, sexual and physical abuse, all that I was exposed to. So, I found myself supporting, mentoring training, coaching and sponsoring a lot.

I pick up young people (male and female), and give them new lives. But I found out that beneath my professional outlook, the rough edges do rare its ugly head at times. I am a victim of my background which has made me to be extremely weary of certain interactions and defensive in approach.

I have lived all my formative life fending for myself and proving myself. But I am grateful to the Almighty as I saw Him all through my difficult moments. He preserved me. I am also a firm believer in spirituality and read lots of spiritual books.

So, I am eternally grateful and striving daily to seek the right spiritual recognition to help me overcome all my shortcomings and enable my earthly environment. That is the true purpose of living. I live a purpose-driven life that is hard to get distracted. I try to focus intensely on what matters. I like sharing deep truths and using them to encourage myself, for example, I remind myself that the only bird who dares to peck an eagle is the crow. It sits on its back and bites into the eagle’s neck. However, the eagle does not respond nor fight with the crow. It spends no time or energy on the crow. It just opens its wings and starts to soar higher into the heavens. The higher its flight, the less air for the crow, and then the crow falls down. When a person moves towards his goal, he does not have time to argue, to prove something to anyone.

So, I rush forward, so that every unnecessary thing will fall away by itself, emulating the eagle.

The deep truth I just shared would be my advice for anyone who wants to break their limits. You must not let your past define your future. You must look for a trusted individual to share your hurts and pains. Get help, therapy or find an avenue to convert your pains to positive energies.

The need to have a sustainable learning culture in Nigeria

It is extremely important as sustainability allows us to plan, review effectively and build successfully on past efforts. The main bane of our society is the lack of a sustainable learning culture. Our education system is anything but sustainable hence not fit for our societal purpose. It seems like we have not learnt anything and we keep reinventing wheels that already worked. We need to take a deliberate approach to the education we give our children, understand the value of quality education and establish multiagency working whereby the health, education, trade, industry and so on, would work hand in hand to ensure we achieve desirable outcomes in education and learning.

Hopes and aspirations

I hope to witness a change in the education landscape in my dear country. I look forward to be part of the change agents in education. We already are blessed with intellectual capacities but we lack the right opportunities, enabling those capabilities to thrive.

I also would like to create wealth and as such, I currently run a number of businesses. I have a cosmetic line called Profile Aesthetics. I manufacture all my skin products including makeup. Some Nollywood stars currently patronise my products. I also run a restaurant and a guest house, all in a bid to create employment and train these young people in my sphere of influence as I get so many of them begging handouts. So, I chose not to just give un-ending handouts, I get the young folks engaged and some of them have been so successful and now have better lives.

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