• Wednesday, May 22, 2024
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Meet Chioma, social entrepreneur saving Igbo language from extinction

Meet Chioma, social entrepreneur saving Igbo language from extinction

Chioma Ekeoma, the founder of Adaoma Igbo Language Services (ADILS), an e-learning platform, is on a mission to restore and promote the use of the Igbo language on the lips of its natives and interested persons globally.

Founded in 2021, the e-learning platform has taught the language to students (children and adults) across the US, UK, Canada, Australia, Germany, UAE, Ivory Coast, Dublin, and Nigeria, helping them to understand the Igbo language and communicate in it.

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“We have collaborated with diverse brands worldwide, driven by a shared urgency to prevent the speculated extinction of the Igbo language by the end of the 21st century, as warned by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO),” Chioma says.

The platform has partnered with associations such as NdiIgbo in Nova Scotia, Canada, Anambra State Association, Dublin, and Yonevas Open University – Nigeria among others, to reach a comprehensive number of students in a shorter time, increasing the impact of ADILS worldwide.

The e-learning platform’s curriculum blends notes, audio, videos, songs, and conversational classes embellished with games and puzzles. It also offers translation, transcription, voice-overs, Igbo ads, and course creation, helping students achieve fluency as fast as possible.

Both formative and summative assessment strategies, such as quizzes, peer review, presentations, feedback, and self-evaluation, are deployed to ensure progress in learning.

Chioma’s journey to fund her business, ADILS, reflects a classic grass-to-grace narrative. She embarked on various entrepreneurial ventures while working as a medical laboratory scientist. Initially, she crafted and sold laboratory coats during her internship, saving the proceeds.

Over time, she diversified into making and selling household cleaning products, peanuts, and online foodstuffs. These endeavours provided her with modest savings, which she later invested in a data subscription to kickstart ADILS.

Leveraging her social network, including past customers, colleagues, and friends, she facilitated word-of-mouth marketing to expand her reach, showcasing the power of connections in business growth.

“As I earned more money, I invested in courses, training, books, etc., to improve. With time, I was able to refine my teaching methods, introduce teaching aids and games that my students could not get enough of, and generally improve my service delivery,” Chioma says.

“I built my website https://adaomaigbo.com/, invested in a good lightening and recording system, went for training, bought courses, set up a premium subscription for needed educational apps, installed solar energy to ensure uninterrupted power supply (since it’s an online business), etc. all in a bid to create a top-notch user experience for my learners.”

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This experience has attracted a lot of teachers to the founder as she guides them. “I am still open to taking more teachers by the hand and showing them how to navigate the online space to successfully kickstart their businesses, even as beginners, to make more impact in society and have extra income for themselves,” Chioma says.

Speaking on challenges faced at the start of the business, Chioma says, “The major challenge was in convincing prospects that online classes were as effective and efficient as offline classes.”

“Great thanks to a few families that believed in me and signed up their kids for the Igbo lessons.”

Regarding the development of ADILS’s curriculum, the founder says, “I have refined my curriculum over the years and constantly introduced multimedia to make learning easy and fun.”

“My curriculum is updated based on the challenges and strengths of my students. For example, one hurdle a couple of my students outside Africa face is that there’s no one to practice their Igbo language skills with except their parents, whose schedules might be tight.”

“With that in mind, I made provisions for fun solo practice, ensuring the interest remains high and students (especially minors) do not feel learning the language is a waste of time. As their interest grows, I repeatedly see that Igbo language class is taken first before heading for basketball practice.”

ADILS has also partnered with a UK-based language company to create an online Igbo language course and will still partner with schools to develop detailed courses that provide over-the-shoulder guidance to people who choose the self-study route.

Chioma says, “More instructors were brought on board to serve our fast-growing number of students, and we will produce more Igbo-infused products like animated movies for kids, flashcards, and a strong community.”

“A handful of schools in China are teaching kids the Igbo language. We could explore this option and provide an online self-paced course for the kids in Nigeria.”

On her short- and long-term goals, Chioma says, “Right now, my teachers and I do a lot of hours of live teaching. So, the goal is to build a reputable brand first, then have a platform /course that will address students’ needs based on the four language skills and their current fluency level.

“I will accommodate a hybrid learning system so students can self-study and also converge for group live classes at determined periods (not as frequent as now). I also plan on employing more capable tutors, so it’s not only me doing the live sessions.

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“Again, there are plans to incorporate AI into the business and source for experts to automate business processes, such as lead generation, marketing, scheduling, etc; this will help clear my table, support more students, make more impacts, and increase the business scalability.”

Speaking on her advice for aspiring language educational or cultural preservation entrepreneurs, Chioma says, “If you have passion for it, just start; don’t wait to figure everything out and how it’ll work. Invest in a lot of self-development.”

“As much as you want to preserve our cultural heritage, it would help if you had modern tools and strategies to be visible and impact knowledge. Take the first step, and other things will align with time.”