Though she grew up in a rural community in the Eastern part of Nigeria, its difficult to imagine her as a Nigerian just by hearing her speak. Oleander Yuba, speaks the English language with such grace, such delicious eloquence, its like music to the ears.
Now she wants to help Nigerians speak the English language well. This led to the formation of the start-up, the Literacy Sphere, a training institution that caters to children and adults on subjects like diction, public speaking, and social polish (etiquette), as well as Phonics and Calligraphy.
“Seeing that the most important skill one needs to acquire is communication skills, we are committed to ensuring that our clients attain confidence and poise in their various spheres of influence, through excellent communication skills, both verbal and nonverbal,” she said.
Her outfit offers specialized training for schools, career professionals, corporate organisations, and individuals from all works of life.
Yuba acquired a Bachelor of Technology from the Federal University of Technology but her interest in teaching was piqued during her national youth service.
She went on to acquire a professional diploma in Education, and honed her teaching skills from various institutions both locally and internationally, including from the TEFL Academy, Dublin Ireland, which qualifies her to teach English in all countries of the world.
She is a member of the Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria, as well as the Association of Diction Coaches of Nigeria.
During the lockdown on account of COVID-19, she launched out into the digital space, birthing the Literacy Sphere.
“This is because people were in dire need of our services, but had been restricted by the lockdown. In fact, there was a greater need for our services during the lockdown, since people had to host and attend meetings more frequently, albeit virtually,” she said.
Yuba says helping people see the need for her services, and to understand that the training can be provided virtually, and still yield the same results as a physical one, has been a challenge.
“What I simply do is to refer them to my social media pages which is rich in testimonials of satisfied clients, both in printed and video form,” she said.
A growing number of adults are benefiting from her services, in March about 65 adults and children enrolled. The cost of training ranges from N10,000 to N150,000, and for children, different options are ranging from N10,000 to N25,000. There is also a subscription-based Elocution and Social Polish Club for children, which costs N5000 only per month.
Yuba said attaining eloquence and finesse improves ones public image which could positively impact the advancement of their careers. It improves confidence, self-esteem and could be leveraged to get out of poverty.
“Both for the teacher and the child, the importance of good diction cannot be overemphasized,” she said.
However, some see those who articulate well as affectations., “What I tell people is this: “English is not our language, but if you choose to speak it, then you must speak it properly”.
“English, like every other language has its unique sounds and nuances. And in order to speak English correctly, and be understood by anyone anywhere in the world, you must make an effort to pronounce English words correctly. When you do, of course, there’s no way you would sound like you do when you speak your native language.
Yuba rues the absence of phonics teachers in government-owned nursery and primary schools to help children learn to read at a very young age using the sounds of the letters.
“You would notice that a good number of children in private schools are able to read and write fluently by the age of 5, while their counterparts in government-owned schools still struggle with reading even up the age 8.”
“This is because teachers in government schools use an obsolete method of teaching reading, which is largely based on rote learning. This hurts me deeply, and I would love to contribute in any way I can to provide a solution to this problem,” Yuba said.